Moving Fruit Trees

One item that sometimes puzzles amateurs is the question of the age at which a fruit tree may be safely moved. There is no rule about this, as so much depends on the history of the tree. In nurseries, trees for sale are frequently moved and induced to form fibrous roots near the main stem. Such trees can be moved without serious damage to the root system. Trees that have grown in the amateur’s own garden for many years are more likely to be damaged fatally in the course of removal, for they have probably made a wide spreading root system. The fine root hairs are the parts of the root that actually feed the plant, and if these are torn, the plant must suffer temporarily.


It is scarcely possible (without the special machinery which landscape contractors use to remove large trees) to move a well-established tree and to keep soil intact over the fibrous roots. Generally the thick roots have to be cut through in order to move an old tree at all. Then it is more or less a gamble as to whether the tree will be able to make more fibrous roots near the main stem with sufficient rapidity to recover from the shock.

For the sake of easy reference, and to help small garden owners, who may consult this post only for the sake of one or two trees, the essentials of cultivation, pruning and feeding various fruits are given here, the fruits being arranged in alphabetical order. Some of the facts will have to be repeated, as they apply to most fruits. But this procedure seems to make for simplicity.

Apple. Apples can be grown as bushes or standards, 10 or 12 ft. apart, according to the intention of the grower. If it is intended to establish a small orchard, and not to prune more than is necessary, 12 ft. should be allowed. In the small garden 10 ft. is ample, but the nurseryman should be asked to supply trees on dwarfing stock.

Apples can also be used as espaliers, horizontally trained to walls and planted 15 ft. apart, or as cordons planted only a yard apart.

Winter pruning of bush and standard apples is most important when once a proper skeleton of radiating branches has been formed. It consists of cutting back the small new side growths of the previous summer to leave two or three leaf buds. A leaf bud is distinguished from a flower bud by the fact that it is more pointed. At the same time, leading growths are shortened a little.

On an established fruiting apple there should also be at the base of the previous summer’s growth a number of dormant flower buds, on the short spurs left after the last season’s pruning. Summer pruning, when practised, is designed to encourage the tree to form such flower buds on the spurs. Summer pruning is done about August Bank Holiday, but the exact date for pruning is a matter for experienced judgement When you summer prune, you pinch out the growing tip from the side growths, and leave four or five good leaves only. If you prune too early in the season, the tree will merely branch out again into unwanted feathery growth, but if you prune at the right moment it will begin to form fruiting buds or spurs as desired. Some apples are shy of spur formation, and fruit best if left to grow as naturally as possible. A good rule to remember is shorten the leaders or main branches in winter, prevent crowded growth, and try to keep the apple to a skeleton of cordons radiating from the main trunk so that the sunlight reaches each one.

Winter pruning can be carried out when convenient, but not later than February and not when there are very severe frosts about.

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