The Perfect Harvest To make the best apple or pear (or indeed any other fruit) ciders, you need to start with the best ingredients.
Growing your own fruit helps ensure you know what's going into your product.
Fruit ciders and homebrewing is very popular right now. At GT Online, as well as having the packaging, we want to help you make the most of your efforts.
Looking after your crop is essential. Here are a few pointers to keep your crop in tip-top condition:
Pruning your fruit trees
Fruiting plants will decline steadily if not cared for - they must be pruned and tended regularly. Neglect can cause (among other things):
• Suckers - Vigorous vertical growth, which will yield no fruit, but 'suck' the energy and goodness from the crop
• Illness - Old branches are much more vulnerable to disease
• Retirement - Many fruiting plants will only 'produce' on branches of a certain age - once they are no longer producing, these branches are stealing the light and energy of those who do
When to prune
When to prune depends on the variety and location of your crop.
• Most fruiting trees should be pruned annually to ensure a good fruiting cycle
• Trees or bushes grown in an orchard; and therefore free-standing, should be pruned when they're dormant - somewhere between the leaf fall and the budding stage - I.e Winter (generallyNovember-March)
• Secateurs (also known as pruning shears or clippers) - No.1 tool for maintenance
• Pruning Saw - For branches 1-5 inches thick
• Loppers - Ideal for branches a couple of inches thick. Like secateurs, but with thicker blades and longer handles
• Ladder - Overreaching is as dangerous as climbing too high. Ensure your ladder is fit for purpose and invest in a good 'Tri-pod' or 'Pruning' ladder - Your safety is paramount
As with most jobs, it's essential to look after your tools;
• A broken rung on your ladder could cause a broken leg for you
• Keep your secateurs sharp! - Blunt tools could cause tears in the branches; As with your own limbs, wounds on a tree will attract disease
• Another way to spread disease is cleanliness or lack thereof - If one tree is diseased and you use those loppers / that saw on the rest of your trees, without cleaning them, you could infect the whole crop. Carry a rag to wipe off sap from blades between uses and wipe the blades with alcohol if you suspect they may have touched a diseased branch, before moving onto another plant
How to prune
For the first three years, until your plant is ready to begin fruiting, the aim of pruning is to promote growth and develop shape. Check the care instructions when purchasing a new plant.
The focus of pruning should be:
• Removing any dead, dying or diseased branches
• Creating space - Cut out any branches that are crossing over each other to ensure light can get through
• For the same reason remove any branches that are growing into the centre of the tree
• Maintaining a certain height (which will make harvest easier) - Once the tree reaches the desired height, cut back the new growth at the tip of each branch by around two-thirds
Remember to leave young side-shoots, (where practical), unpruned to allow them to produce fruit buds in their second year.
If you've let the crop run wild, you should consider taming it. This could take a couple of seasons. Cutting out all the dead or diseased wood, as well as a few main branches (for that all-important light) will help rejuvenate them.
Thinning overcrowded spurs also helps stimulate new productive shoots.
Once you have your harvest, and whip up a batch of your own personal fruit cider, GT Online has the packaging you need to preserve and showcase it.