How to care for fruit trees in early winter

Lia Leendertz
Cherry tree in spring - Moment RF

Fruit trees have been working hard all summer and autumn, generously filling our crumbles and freezers, and they have now sunk into dormancy. They don’t ask for much, but there are a few things we can do to see them in good stead for next year’s labours, seeing off pests and giving them a few treats so they are raring to go in spring. 

Pick off any fruits that still linger, as these can harbour fungus spores that you want well away from next spring’s fresh new growth. Greasy barriers will foil winter moths, which clamber up tree trunks in winter and wait to cause trouble in spring. Attach grease bands (also known as glue bands) to apple, plum, pear and cherry trees (from greengardener.co.uk).

A grease band forms a barrier against winter moth Credit: RM Floral/Alamy

While you are there, give the tree base some attention. Clear fallen leaves, as they may be harbouring pests that like to overwinter near to their favourite springtime treat. Then pull out weeds from around the trunk, and fork the soil surface gently. Birds will winkle out lingering pests, and frosts will do more of the same. 

The final part of this winter treatment comes a little later, after the birds and months of cold have done their work, and winter rains have soaked the roots. Only then will it be time to sprinkle on slow-release fertiliser and cover the ground with a thick mulch of compost that will seal in moisture, keep down weeds and slowly improve the soil structure. 

And then you will have set up your tree perfectly for another bountiful year.

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2018 by Lia Leendertz (Unbound, £9.99). To buy a copy for £7.99 plus p&p, call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk