Growing Plum Trees
Introduction to Plum Trees
Plum Trees can are one of the easiest and most popular of the stone fruits that we grow in our gardens. These free-growing Plum Trees and Gage Trees need very little pruning, and most Plums are self-fertile meaning you only need one tree in your garden.
Planting Plum Trees
Choose a site which is well-drained and in a position which benefits from good sunlight. Avoid planting in a part of the garden that is a frost pocket - opened flowers and fruitlets are susceptible to frost damage. Also, avoid planting in an exposed or windy position as pears hate winds, especially cold easterly ones. If growing in a windy site ensure there is a good wind-break nearby.
Avoid planting near larger or overhanging trees. To reduce the possibility of carrying over any dormant disease, do not plant where an old fruit tree has recently been removed. If your garden or allotment is visited by rabbits, then adequate protection must be given to the tree trunks using wire netting or plastic tree guards.
Planting Bare-rooted Plum Trees
Planting time: November to March
Preparing the soil: The soil should be thoroughly dug and, at the same time, incorporate some bulky compost or Organic Extra Manure, and a feed of Fish, Blood & Bone or Light & Easy garden compost. Make sure any deep rooted perennial weeds are removed with a fork, or shallow-rooted weeds which you can remove with a hoe.
If your soil is sandy or chalky, incorporate lots of manure into the soil to increase its fertility and improve its texture.
Planting method: Dig a planting hole 15cm (6in) wider than the root system once it has been spread out, and to a depth whereby the soil mark from the nursery on the stem of the young tree will be just covered. This should mean that the graft union (the knobbly part at the base of the stem) is about is 12-15cm (5-6in) above soil level when you have finished planting.
Fork into the sides of the hole which will encourage the roots to penetrate the surrounding soil and establish well.
If you want to add a tree-stake for stabilising the tree in a windy site, bang it into the hole before the tree is planted, so you don’t damage roots by tapping in the stake after the young tree has been planted.
After placing the tree in the hole, spread out the roots and add layers of soil, firming down with your foot. Repeat until you’ve filled the hole with soil. The tree should be firm enough in the soil that it does not up-root when you pull the main stem and it shows resistance.
Water the area generously after planting and add a layer of warming and moisture-locking mulch around the tree, making sure that the mulch does not come into direct contact with the main stem.
If you have added a stake, tie to the tree by means of a tree tie ensuring that it’s firmly attached but allows a small degree of movement.
Planting Containerised Plum Trees
Instructions (see bare-rooted, but note the following).
Planting time: All year round (though avoid high-summer and deep winter)
Planting method: Remove any weeds that may be growing on top of the container, and tease out some of the roots that are circling around the root ball. This will encourage the roots to penetrate the surrounding soil and establish well.
Feeding Plum Trees
Incorporating bulky compost and/ or manure into the soil before planting will increase nutrient levels in the soil and give the young plum tree a good start.
Plum trees will produce flowers and fruit any time up to five years. Until they flower, feed with a general purpose fertiliser that you can add to water. Once the tree starts to flower, change this to a feed high in potash, like tomato food, which encourages good flowering and fruiting.
Watering Plum Trees
In the first year of planting, water generously. A good rule of thumb is to water to the point of creating a small pool around the stem. Let this absorb into the ground and repeat. Water morning and evening in times of drought, and one or the other during wet periods.
It’s good to add a mulch after planting which conserves water in the soil.
Training Plum Trees
2-3 year old tree
Prune in early spring: Prune all main stems to half their length.
4+ year old tree
Prune in late-June: Prune stems that are dead, damaged or diseased. Also prune stems that are overcrowding the centre of the plant- focus on taking out the inward-growing stems. Also take out the suckers (the vertical stems growing from the ground next to the main trunk).
Harvesting and Storing Plums
Pick plums with stalk attached, when they are ripe and eat as soon as possible so you can benefit from maximum flavour. If you want to store plums for use later on in the season, pick when they are slightly unripe.
You can freeze plums- just cut in half and remove the stone.
Best Varieties of Plums
Pests and Diseases of Plums