Spray fruit and bushes with a winter wash if pests were a problem last year. This should only be done if it is essential since it kills as many beneficial insects as it does pests.
Fruit trees and bushes can be planted if the soil conditions are suitable. If not, keep any container-grown plants in a frost-free place or heel them in.
Apply a general fertiliser, such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone, to all fruit trees over 4.5 m (15 ft) high, following the manufacturers instructions. Applying now will allow ample time for the fertiliser to be dissolved and carried deep into the root systems. When the trees are growing in grass, use a fertiliser higher in nitrogen to compensate for the nitrogen that will be taken up by the grass.
Inspect ties regularly during the winter and replace any that are tight or broken. Replace broken stakes only if the tree still needs support, as hammering in a new stake may damage the root system.
Apples and Pears
Continue pruning apples and pears except when the temperature is below freezing. If possible shred the prunings and add the shreddings to the garden compost. This is a valuable raw material and the shreddings will help to aerate your compost heap or bin.
Check all apples and pears that you have stored over the winter and throw away any that have rotted before they spoil the sound fruit.
Peaches and nectarines
Feed all large fan-trained trees with a balanced fertiliser, such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone; follow the manufacturers instructions. This will ensure that plenty of new shoots are formed.
Plums and cherries
Plums and other stone fruit should only be pruned during the growing season – not at this time of the year. This reduces the risk of infection by silver leaf fungus.
Cut down newly planted canes of raspberries, blackberries and any hybrids, such a loganberries and tayberries to within 25-30 cm (10-12 in) of the ground. These stumps will produce shoots and, possibly, some fruit in the summer but their main purpose is to sustain the new root systems.
Gooseberries and currants
Prune newly planted bushes of gooseberries and red and white currants by cutting back strong new shoots by half their length to form the main branches. Cut weak and misplaced shoots right out. On cordons, cut back leading shoots (those on the end of branches) by a third.
Cut back newly planted blackcurrant bushes to about 2.5 cm (1 in) after planting to encourage strong new shoots to come from below the ground. Although it is later than recommended for propagating, well-ripened shoots can still be used for taking cuttings.
If an established fruit tree is growing strongly but not fruiting, there are several possible ways to cure the problem. First, stop feeding the tree or switch from a high-nitrogen feed to a high-potash feed. Second, sow grass under the tree to take up some of the moisture, since wet conditions encourage leafy growth. As a last resort, consider root pruning or bark ringing. Both these operations should be undertaken with caution because if carried out incorrectly they could kill the tree.