Selection of land for fruit trees

Depth of soil is essential. As far as possible, select soils with a porous well drained subsoil. Avoid land with a very high water table, and also any sites which may be frost pockets. Level or slightly sloping land is best. Land 100 m above sea level may have higher wind speeds and generally less good fruit growing capabilities.

Soil

Fruit may be grown on many types of soil, but a deep well drained medium loam with a pH of 6.5 is regarded as best. Plums and blackcurrants will thrive on heavy soils, dessert apples and strawberries on medium loam. Gooseberries do best on rich soils that are not deficient in potash such as light sandy soils.

Manuring

Nitrogenous fertilisers produce an increased growth of wood, which often results in a lighter fruit yield with bush and stone fruit, although blackcurrants have a high nitrogen requirement. They also have an unfavourable influence on storage qualities of apples and pears, and often on the colour and flavour of fruits, especially apples. Nitrogen-deficient fruits are often smaller and highly coloured.

Potash fertilisers produce good results on those soils likely to be deficient in this element, e.g. light sands, and this applies especially with apples, gooseberries and redcurrants. Potash-deficient trees develop marginal leaf scorch towards the end of July, and in severe cases the size of the leaves is considerably reduced. Dying back of shoots and sometimes whole branches occurs.

Phosphates appear to benefit fruit trees generally and probably assist early maturity. Research workers have found it difficult to prove cases of phosphorous deficiency.

Lime does not seem to have any beneficial effect on fruit trees. Where an excess of lime occurs as on calcareous soils, chlorosis’ may occur to the detriment of the trees concerned.

Iron deficiency shows in the leaves as a uniform pale colour; the classical effect is ivory white.

Manganese deficiency has interveinal chlorosis, I.e. green veins and this symptom affects the young leaves. (Magnesium deficiency, which has superficially similar yellowing of the leaf tips and between the veins, affects the older leaves first.)

It is not desirable to establish fruit plantations on thin chalk soils, pears being particularly susceptible to chlorosis, which is caused by the calcium in the soil locking-up the iron in the soil, thus making it unavailable to plants. Bush fruits can also show this chlorosis. Although soils which are high in lime can produce fairly good fruit crops by the use of heavy dressings of organic manure, and specially prepared iron compounds are available, e.g. Sequestrene, the iron chelates – nevertheless soils known to have a very high pH should not be used. The ideal pH is between 6.2 and 6.5. Soils with a pH reaction below about 6.2 should be limed before planting.

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