Nursery notes – February 15th


As I write this, dawn is breaking across the marshes, shining silver in glistening reflections from the recent heavy rains. It looks as though we will get some sunshine today –  bright and cheerful for a change and a real harbinger of spring just around the corner we can all look forward to.

The recent weather has held up many jobs on the nursery and I’m sure its the same for you in your gardens. One we all need to catch up with soon is protecting peaches and nectarines with a copper spray to help prevent peach leaf curl, which can distort the young leaves and turn them a red colour. Prevention is always best in gardening and if you do not like to spray then using a lean to cover as a roof to keep the rain off the branches will also help. A cover will also give the blossom some protection against any late frosts, do remember to leave the ends open during the day so that bees can get in to pollinate the blossom. You will also need to hand tickle the flowers as they open every few days with a small brush or rabbits tail to ensure the crop ‘sets’.

 do not get peach leaf curl but they will still benefit from a cover to protect the blossom and offer some extra help with pollination if there are not many bees about.
There are some new varieties of peach coming out which are resistant to peach leaf curl. One we released last year ‘Frost’, is thoroughly tried and tested, and well worth considering if you are looking to buy this season.

Pruning of the pip fruits should be finished or nearly finished and if you have any apples or pears still to do then best to get them done soonest. It is too early to prune any stone fruits such as plums yet,so it will be best to wait another few weeks for these.

Feeding fruit. Top dressing fruit trees now with a mulch and some slow release fertiliser will allow the rain to take this into the soil over the next few weeks. This will boost the trees just when they need it after a long cold winter.

Planting bare root fruit trees and soft fruit such as currants or Raspberries is ideal now as the soil will soon start to warm up, giving the plants an excellent start to the year.We suggest incorporating a mycorrhizal fungi such as ‘Tree Boost’, too, which will set them up well. Check any recently planted trees and their ties to ensure they are still firmly in the ground if you have had any strong winds recently.But take special care if the soil is still waterlogged.

Remember, our advice is free – if you need help just call – mail or tweet !


A quick guide to fruit tree rootstocks

Rootstocks and their effects on tree size.

Apple rootstocks

Nearly all commercial apple trees are grafted or budded onto rootstocks, which determine the size of the eventual tree. Knowing which rootstock is needed, and matching it to the soil and the size you want, enable a tree to be productive and healthy.

Most of the important rootstocks for apples were derived from material collected by East Malling Research Station, UK, in the early 1900s. Researchers collected and characterised the stocks developed by growers during the preceding centuries in Europe. Each one was given a number, preceded by M.

In 1917 The Malling Research Station joined forces with the John Innes Institute at Merton to breed some aphid-resistant rootstocks: the MM101-115 series.

A later development has been the cleaning up of some of these stocks (in conjunction with the Long Ashton research station) to produce virus-free stocks. These are prefixed by the letters EMLA (East Malling – Long Ashton).

In the notes below, M denotes a Malling rootstock, MM denotes a Malling-Merton hybrid.

M27 – Very small indeed, around half the size of M9. Tree needs full support. Fruit size reduced slightly. Moribund in wet soils. Very little pruning is required once the tree is full size (around 5ft/1.5m high; producing perhaps 20 apples a year). It’s OK in pots.

M9 – The best known dwarfing rootstock. It is a cross between a French tree, “Jaune de Metz”, and the “Paradise” apple of ancient Persia. It is known as the “Paradise” stock of Europe. It fruits when very young, is fairly hardy, tolerant of wet but not drought, and compatible with all apple scions. It has to be staked strongly, its roots are slightly brittle, and it is about 8-9ft/2.4-2.7m tall at maturity on an ideal soil.

M26 – A cross of M9 and M16. Used in irrigated orchards on well-drained solis. Fruits early in its life, needs permanent staking, hardy. Susceptible to crown rot and fireblight. M26 is not so good in wet, clay soils where it is rather moribund. Produces burr knots – the beginnings of little aerial roots – which attract pests and which can compromise the tree. These can be sliced off carefully in the garden situation. Planting deeper (so less rootstock is exposed) helps solve the problem commercially. Reaches about 8-10ft/2.4-3m if unpruned. OK in pots.

MM106 – A hydbid of Northern Spy (English dessert apple) and English Broadleaf. Well anchored, fruits early in its life, few suckers, fruit matures late, trees have a long season, OK in pots with less vigorous varieties. Susceptible to crown and root rot. Recommended as a substitute for M26 in wet, cold soil as a little more vigorous. Semidwarf. 9-11ft/2.7-3.3m high. Resistant to woolly aphid.

MM111 – Northern Spy hybrid. About 75% of full size; too large for small gardens. Prone to burr knots. 10-12ft/3-3.6m. Semi-dwarfing or half-standard. Resistant to woolly aphid.

M2 – Very similar in size and vigour to MM111. Not quite so vigorous as M25.

M25 – Full size tree; avoid unless you have a large space in which to grow it. Very vigorous; typically 12-15ft high; can be bigger depending on variety; large, heavy, spreading tree.


Trees grown from pips are usually M111 size or larger and extremely hardy. Some decorative crabs on their own roots are about the size of MM106 but others (especially native English green-fruited crabs) are enormous.

Cherry rootstocks

Colt – Semi vigorous – 13-16ft/4-5m. Fully compatible with all varieties, Considered very productive until the arrival of Gisela; still good for bush and half-standard cherries on thin soils.

Gisela 5. – Dwarf, 40% of height of Colt. Ideal for commercial orchards, gardens and patio pots.The best garden choice for Cherry Trees.

Pear rootstocks

Compatibility – it should be noted that there are many incompatible varieties when grafted onto Quince (especially Quince C). In these instances a suitable interstock should be used such as Beurre Hardy or Doyenne du Comice. The latter will also impart some resistance to Fireblight.

Pyrus communis (Seedling pear) – Very vigorous. More suitable for half standard and especially standard trees.

Quince ‘A’ – Semi Dwarf. The ideal rootstock for bush trees.

Quince ‘C’ – Dwarf and slightly earlier into cropping.

Pyrodwarf – Limited availability as yet  but this one is proving more compatible with Perry pears and others

Rootstocks for Plums, Gages, Damsons & Mirabelles

Brompton – Vigorous, very suitable for standards, does not sucker and fully compatible with all varieties unlike its predecessors such as Myrobalan.

St. Julien ‘A’ – Semi vigorous. This is fully compatible with all plums, damsons, gages, peaches, nectarines and apricots and many ornamental prunus species. Good yield influence. Not suitable for poorly drained soils.

Pixy – Dwarf and ideal for size containment in the garden. On very strong soils it still has commercial use for strong growing, shy cropping varieties such as Marjories, Avalon and Excalibur. Not recommended for Victoria.

50 Best Independent Nurseries / Garden Centres

I have to post this one , sorry if its blowing my own trumpet but hey , we work hard for this.

The Independent‘ lists Reads Nursery in the 50 best independent garden centres and nurseries. We are in there with some great people and we love it. Thank you.


16. Reads Nursery

Small family-run business offering a huge selection of plants and fruit trees most of which they have propagated themselves. Pride themselves on environmentally-friendly methods – recycled boxes for delivery, peat-free compost and predators against pests.

Where: Buy online and collect or arrange delivery from the farm in Bungay, Suffolk (01986 895555;

Moving closer………

Already it is early August and the new Nursery site is leaping ahead or perhaps I should say ‘flattening down’ as we prepare the new container plant standing area ready for our September move date. The JCB has churned, rattled and scraped, removing some enormous concrete lumps leaving us with a now level site. Some sand is next as we create a 1200 sq meter ‘beach’- alongside  the same area of shiny pea shingle, all fine tuned with the laser level and soon to be covered with capillary matting.

All our water will be captured, recycled and filtered through a ring well ,which also collects rainwater from every possible roof surface we can find .Once the containers have had their trickle irrigation for breakfast all the run off drains through and back to the start again. Moves are afoot to generate onsite power too ,though that may be awhile yet !

The phone lines are in and working – so if you fancy a chat on fruit – or some advice – our new number is 01986 895555 but do not ring it until the 5th September -ish !

As always in life some things get rescheduled and shuffled around to suit, but we are getting into shape.

To give you a few clues the shiny silver bit is the new packing shed and the vast flat area in front will be plant standing for trained trees ,fans, espalier and the like. The hideous yellow box will be a temporary office once we have painted it a more appropriate shade.

Propagation areas and more growing space to come ….Our view from the office is sublime ..tranquil Suffolk marshes as the Waveney valley stretches away into the distance.. gosh must get some work done !

Japanese Plums

This is the time of year for Japanese plums, small round dark red ones, larger yellow ones (also round), some are maroon, but the best one to date is this new one ;’Ozark Premier’ wow it is huge,as big as a nectarine. The skin yesterday was red fading up to golden yellow at the neck yet today it was an amber red colour.

Flesh colour -pale straw yellow , firm yet meaty with a buttery texture and juicy to the dribble down the chin point ……..

Reads Nursery on the Move,but not far !

A few alert people have spotted an article in Country Life this week, I was not expecting it just yet so I had not prepared a post or press release, but here is the gist of what is happening – I must say though my wife Debbie and I  very heartened by the comments of support we have received through the twitterfile.

My parents have decided to sell their house, and due to the nature of the surrounding buildings and site layout it is unfortunate but we have to sell our Barn and Wedding business also, plus the land Reads Nursery sits on. This will no doubt affect some of the plants we grow as all our orchards of mother trees are planted in and around the Barn and Nursery, plus- large glasshouses are not easily moved, but we aim to take as much of the nursery with us as we can.We are definitely NOT closing or selling the Nursery, we love growing trees and helping customers to achieve their aims in fruit growing.We have been growing our trees in peat free compost and using biological control for the last 20 years and will continue to do so on our new site. The best trees have a good healthy start in life,they crop earlier,with better flavour and have less disease and pest problems ‘ergo’ a happy customer.

Debbie and I are working on finding a new site for the Nursery which we hope to have running later this year.The range of fruit trees, Magnolia and soft fruit will continue as will the Fig trees and as much else as we can squeeze in .

Thanks to all for your support , any questions or what have you just ask ! -Oh yes  – Savills are the agents if anyone is feeling flush with spare readies!