Autumn Care Advice for Deciduous Fruit Trees

Autumn Care Advice for Deciduous Fruit Trees

William Sibley

The fruits are all picked, and most are eaten. Leaf colour is changing daily, and the fall is starting. Our trees have done us proud over the last six months and now it's time to put them to bed, make sure they over winter happily and rebuild all the depleted energy, ready for next Spring.  By following the advice below, you can make sure that when winter arrives, your trees will be ready to take on whatever nature throws at them - and look their best when spring comes around again.

How to prepare your deciduous trees for Autumn and conserve energy until Spring

Leaf fall is mostly triggered by the decreasing day length, with a bit of falling temperatures added in. The tree stops making chlorophyll and a chemical gate shuts across each leaf stalk in a process known as abscission. As the chlorophyll making reduces and eventually stops, so the sugars and carbohydrates drain back into the stem of the tree and form the reserve of energy to kick things off again in the spring.

There is very little that we can do to prevent the tree from wasting its reserves of energy, other than praying for a long cold winter that ends exactly on the 1st of April when Spring arrives in all her warming beauty. Those ideal conditions for fruit growing give us the best chance of the bumper crops. If possible, it would help to move the pots to a colder position in the garden out of the warming sun (with potted fruit). On those warm, sunny winter days, the sun’s rays hitting the pots can raise the soil temperature significantly, which will activate root growth and deplete the tree’s energy reserves. Just what we don’t want!

How to protect your deciduous trees from rain and frost

Waterlogged soil is the biggest killer of fruit trees and so doing everything that is possible to prevent that is essential. Forking over the ground around the trees if they are planted in the soil or making sure that the drainage holes in pots are open and working will help. For both pot and open ground trees, ensure that the tree is tight in the ground and not “rocking” to and fro. This rocking movement can form an over sized hole around the base of the tree and rain will run down the trunk of the tree and settle in the root system. The best way to prevent this from happening is to stake the tree as firmly as possible and ensure that the tree ties are properly secured.

It is very rare in the UK for temperatures to be low enough to cause root damage, but it may happen in the far north (or in exceptional weather events such as the Beast from the East). Wrapping pots in bubble plastic and applying a thick mulch on the surface of the pot should help prevent any major root damage but remember to remove the mulch as soon as the cold risk has gone.

Deciduous trees - Autumn maintenance 

Any pruning that needs to be done on apple, pear, medlar and quince should take place during the winter months but leave the stone fruit and cherry pruning until their leaf is showing in the spring.

Watering and feeding advice for your deciduous trees

Although the winter seems long and drawn out to us, our trees tell us differently and by the end of February discernible development of the tree’s buds will be seen. Fatter and with more colour, a combination of extending day length and ever warming temperatures are driving their development forward. That means it’s time to start feeding the trees again and give their roots access to the nutrients they require.

Stone fruits will be first to show any colour in the bud which hints that blossom time is ahead, followed by pear, quince, medlar, and finally apple. As the blossoms appear, and then the leaves, it is time to check on the soil moisture and start watering if the soil feels bone dry at root depth.

Another fruitful year is beginning within a cycle that never ends.

A little effort goes a long way in taking care of our trees - plus, it's the perfect excuse to get outside during these cooler months and enjoy the beauty of nature! For all your autumn care questions concerning deciduous trees, don't forget that our trees come with lifetime care advice - so send us an email if you have any further questions.