A Year in the Fruit Garden

Discover how to keep your fruit healthy year-round with this planting and maintenance guide.
Red Plums are Popular for Eating Fresh or Cooked

Red Plums are Popular for Eating Fresh or Cooked

Plums are the defining fruit of the summer season. There are many popular varieties suitable for cooking and eating fresh from the tree. A few can be used for both.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Most fruiting trees and plants are perennials, so there is no need to sow or plant them every year. Because they are in the ground for many years, routine care is vital if good crops are to be produced. Fruit left to its own devices often produces poor yields and can be prone to problems.


1. Preparation

  • Early spring is your last chance to spray trees with a winter wash to deter pests, such as aphids.
  • Mulch around the base of all fruit trees and bushes using well-rotted manure or compost.
  • Top-dress container-grown plants, and feed fruit trees and bushes with an appropriate fertilizer.
  • Water and feed plants regularly as temperatures rise and the plants come into vigorous growth.

2. Sowing Seed

  • Sow melon seeds under cover in mid- to late spring in a heated greenhouse; sow in midsummer if your greenhouse is unheated.

3. Planting Out

  • Plant strawberry runners when the soil has warmed up, and cover with cloches or fabric until after the last frost. To help build up the plants, don’t let them fruit in their first year. Pick the flowers off in mid-spring.
  • Plant bare root trees and bushes in early and mid-spring, as long as the soil is not frozen. This will be your last opportunity. (Container-grown types can be planted at any time of year.)
  • Finish planting raspberry canes in mid-spring.

4. Routine Care

  • Keep trees and plants well weeded, being careful not to damage their roots.
  • Prune fan-trained peaches and nectarines.
  • If frost protection is not already in place, cover any tender plants with horticultural fabric to protect the blooms. Plum and cherry trees may also need protection.
  • Hand-pollinate vines or trees that are growing under glass, which may not be accessible to insect pollinators.
  • In mid-spring, prune and tie in fig trees.
  • In late spring, train your grapevines, pinching off the vine shoots to leave two laterals.
  • Prune out dead and damaged growth from plum trees, and remove any unwanted shoots on trained trees.
  • Tie blackberries, loganberries and tayberries into their supports if necessary.
  • Once flowers appear, cover soft fruits with netting to protect the developing fruits from birds.
  • Apply a mulch of straw around the base of strawberry plants to suppress weeds, keep the fruit clean and deter pests such as slugs.
  • Check regularly for signs of pests and diseases, especially sawfly caterpillars, which may target gooseberry and currant bushes. Deal with them as they appear (see individual fruit guides or controlling pests and diseases for further general information).

5. Harvesting

  • Harvest any early gooseberries that have been grown under cover. Keep strawberries clean on a bed of straw.


1. Routine Care

  • In early summer, peg down or remove the runners from fruiting strawberry plants.
  • Thin out fruits of apple, pear, plum, peach, apricot and nectarine trees and grapevines.
  • Net cherry trees to deter birds.
  • Make sure plants are well watered—especially those in containers—and mulch to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Feed plants with high-potash fertilizer as the fruits develop.
  • Remove any dead and diseased shoots and plants, and destroy them rather than composting.
  • Check for signs of pests and diseases, and take immediate action should any appear.
  • Continue to tie in trained plants, such as blackberries and other hybrid berries.
  • Prune currant bushes and gooseberries.
  • In late summer, prune fruited stems of apples and pears. Prune damsons and plums after fruiting.
  • Deadhead herbs after flowering.

2. Harvesting

  • Harvest tree fruits as they appear, and prune nectarines, apricots and peaches once they have fruited.
  • Pick ripe currants and gooseberries as they appear.
  • Blueberries, strawberries, summer-fruiting raspberries and currants should be ready for picking by midsummer.

3. Other Tasks

  • Once strawberries have fruited, remove old straw and leaves. Cut out fruited raspberry canes.

Fall and Winter

1. Routine Care

  • In fall, weed thoroughly around all plants, and cut off and remove any damaged or diseased shoots.
  • Finish any summer pruning of tree fruits, and tie in any wayward shoots on trained plants.
  • Make sure stakes are secure and firmly in the ground, and check that tree ties are in place.
  • Move any tender plants indoors, such as citrus.
  • Cut out old canes of blackberries and hybrid berries after they have fruited.
  • In winter, remove any netting from plants to prevent damage if snow falls.
  • Apply winter washes to trees and bushes as needed. Apply a top-dressing of sulphate of potash to all plants.
  • Cover peaches, apricots and nectarines to protect their blooms from peach leaf curl and early spring frost, and wrap up containers to protect against frost damage.
  • Prune apples and pears if frost is not forecast.
  • Prune fall raspberries, gooseberries and currants.
  • Cover strawberries with cloches or fabric.
  • Move container-grown plants under cover to encourage an earlier crop.
  • Take precautions against pests and diseases.

2. Harvesting

  • Pick fall raspberries until the first frost, and harvest any remaining everbearing strawberries.
  • Harvest the last ripening fruits, and store any excess.

3. Other Tasks

  • In fall, order any new bare root trees or bushes, and prepare the soil for them.
  • In winter, plant bare root plants as soon as they arrive if the soil isn’t frozen.
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