While growing fruit is relatively trouble-free, there are some common problems you may face when planting and growing the fruit. Every problem has a solution, however, so you needn’t abandon your efforts completely.
Common problems include:
- Poor drainage
- Late frost
More fruit bushes and trees are lost due to poor drainage than any other reason. This is where the roots of the tree are saturated with water because the soil is waterlogged. Poor drainage is often an inherent problem in our soil, and usually happens if you have a heavy, clay soil. Certain factors can increase the incidence of poor drainage, however. If the piece of land hasn’t been cultivated for a long time it can take along time for water to drain from it. If the land has been repeatedly cultivated using a rotavator, this can create an impenetrable ‘pan’, which prevents water from draining anywhere.
The best way to test to see if your soil has poor drainage is to dig a hole 50cm deep and wide, fill it with water, and wait to see how long it takes for it to drain away. If it takes longer than three hours then you have poor drainage.
You can overcome drainage problems, however, by thoroughly digging the area and incorporating rich, organic matter. This helps open up the soil and helps water drain away quicker.
You could also try planting your tree or bush on a raised area, and use the soil around the stem to form a mound so any rain can drain away.
Many fruit bushes and trees flower in the early spring. This can be as early as April, when there is still the danger of a frost. If frost occurs, the flowers on your bush or tree could die, and you won’t have any fruit for that year.
You can avoid this by planting your bush or tree in a sheltered spot where a frost attack will be less severe, and avoid a south-facing aspect, so the flowers will develop slightly later. You could also cover your tree with fleece during the coldest months, or when there is the risk of a late frost. You will need to allow pollinators access to the flowers to fertilise them, however.
Pests will always be a problem, whatever you grow, but it shouldn’t put you off growing fruit. Simple planting techniques can ward them off your crop and encouraging natural predators can make a difference to the pest population.
Common pests include:
- Birds – cover fruits with netting or use a bird-scaring device
- Aphids – plant flowers that attract ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies who will eat them
- Apple sawfly, winter moth, codling moth – keep infested areas clean and remove and burn affected leaves and fruit
- Raspberry beetles, big bud mite – hoe around the base of plants in the winter to dig up any pupae in the soil and remove and burn infested areas
- Red spider mite – regularly mist the crop with water to deter them
- Slugs – attract hedgehogs and frogs, who will eat them
Diseases can also attack your fruit bushes and trees, leading to poor harvests and even death of the plant. Again, maintain regular hygiene by removing fallen leaves and fruit, and snipping off infected parts of the plant. Some trees, such as apricots, take a long time to recover after being pruned. This means the wound left takes a long time to heal, and is therefore more susceptible to being infected by canker silver leaf virus. Always prune your trees on a dry day, and prune delicate trees such as apricots in the summer.
Common diseases of fruit bushes and trees include:
- Apple canker
- Apple scab
- Bacterial canker
- Brown rot
- Grey mould
- Peach leaf curl
- Pear rust
- Powdery mildews
- Silver leaf
- Strawberry black eye
Having said that, these problems are quite rare and you shouldn’t let it put you off growing fruit. If you ensure your bush or tree is given the right environment to grow in, and maintain good levels of hygiene, you should have years of fruit harvests with little, or no problems.