Guide to fruit tree rootstocks
It is about this time of year that the signs go up in nurseries and garden centres around the country, announcing the arrival of the main apple harvest.
And thousands of people boldly go forth to find..... apple trees for sale (if you recognise the parallels with Star Trek here, it will be a source of enormous relief to know that there is an Enterprise apple. Just don't ask what it tastes like...)
One of our intentions has been to help educate gardeners people in buying fruit trees wisely. There are four basic components to successful cropping of almost anything
- Buying well
- Planting Well
- Tending well
- Good luck
This article is really all about buying fruit trees. UK grown fruit trees are among the best in the world and there is no reason why you should not find high quality stock easily.
Don't ever buy anything weak and weedy. If it is sickly when you get it from a grower who is supposed to be an expert, who has access to the right soil, perfect irrigation and chemicals the average amateur can only dream about, then it will probably stay sickly. Pick it out carefully if you buy at a garden centre and send it straight back if you bought it from an online nursery if you do not like the look of it.
Get your rootstocks right.
There are already posts up on this site about rootstocks, but it pays to understand at least the principal. The rootstock is the engine that drives your fruit tree. A weak rootstock makes it grow slowly and small. A vigorous one make sit grow fast and large.
The picture below will give you the general idea or you can see it full size on our rootstock sales page):
Make sure you have a pollinator nearby
Fruit tree pollination is a subject for several books, but for the average amateur gardener it is not hard to get it right. Just hang on to the following thoughts. Trees that do not flower at the same time cannot pollinate one another and with very few exceptions apples, pears and cherries FRUIT MUCH BETTER if they are pollinated by another variety. You can read a lot more about (and choose compatible varieties) in our guide to fruit pollination pages.
Buy Bare rooted fruit Trees
Well, we would say that, wouldn't we (although, our potted fruit trees are more expensive...). It is also true. If you can, organise your schedule so you plant in the winter months, and buy bare root fruit trees from an established, reputable grower. If you can't plant in the winter, then you have no choice but to buy pot grown. Bare root fruit trees should be bigger and healthier than pot grown - the root system in particular. They have had all the advantages while they were being raised; space to grow, unlimited root runs, steadier moisture levels.
Good luck - buy well, plant well and sit back and watch your garden grow.