Before you do soil prep…

Autumn is an excellent time for soil improvement and preparation before we plant fruit trees in winter.

Apples close to harvest time in autumn
Apples close to harvest time in autumn

There’s usually enough of a gap between when the harvest of summer fruit has finished (though you may still have apples and pears on the tree), and when planting happens in winter, to allow for planting an autumn green manure crop, for example.

However, before you even start thinking about soil prep, there’s a few other steps you need to do.

  1. Review how your fruit trees performed this summer

Did you get enough fruit to meet your goals? If not, why not — was it because of disease, lack of pollination, or just not enough trees? If you don’t know, we recommend keeping a fruit tree diary to help track of how your trees are performing. (You can download our Fruit Tree Diary template, plus instructions for using it, as part of the Learn to Diagnose Your Fruit Trees short course).

We like to preserve enough fruit to see us through winter
We like to preserve enough fruit to see us through winter

2. Decide whether you need to plant more trees 

After completing step 1 you should know whether you’re going to need more trees to help you grow the perfect amount of fruit to suit you and your family. There’s no point planting trees unless you actually need the fruit.

3. Decide which varieties will help you achieve your goals

  • You may have discovered that you need to choose a variety to fill a gap in production and provide a more continuous supply of fruit throughout the season (balancing out the periods of glut and scarcity).
  • If pollination is an issue, you may be looking for a variety that can act as a pollinator to improve yields from an existing tree.
  • Or you may be adding a type or variety of fruit that you normally have to buy.

4. Now choose the right location in your garden

Having chosen the varieties you’ll be buying, now think about the best location in your garden for those varieties.

For example, apricots and almonds need the most frost-protected spots, but they also need to be able to dry quickly in periods of rain in spring. Pears are relatively frost tolerant and reasonably tolerant of waterlogged soil.

NOW that you know what you’ll be planting and where, you can think about getting started with your soil prep! More on that in another blog…

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