Horticulture Hacks: Quince Trees
March 11, 2020
Nurtured in Norfolk’s gardening expert Martyn Davey answers all your questions and gives his top horticulture hacks.
If you would like any horticulture query answered please do e-mail our head grower at firstname.lastname@example.org to add your thoughts to our horticulture hacks.
Could you give me some advice on an unusual fruit tree, I have apples and pears in my garden but I have an idea that I would like to grow a quince, I have not actually eaten one or seen one growing but I would like to use them to cook with and feel that the quince would work well with the other fruits I grow now. Any advice would be gratefully received.
H. Walton, Norwich
Quinces are large, yellow and aromatic fruit which will ripen to perfection when grown in a sunny position. They are perfect for turning into jelly, jams or membrillo, a hard preserve eaten with cheese by the Spanish. It is a worthwhile addition to the fruit garden because it is easy to look after and not prone to many of the more common fruit problems.
Keep plants well-watered during hot, dry summers. Spread a 7.5cm thick mulch around plants in spring and feed with 100g per sq m of Growmore or other general fertiliser.
As with apple tree pruning in winter remove dead, diseased or damaged stems, along with thinning out any congested or unproductive stems. Aim to maintain a system of well-spaced branches on a clear stem, removing wayward stems as they’re produced.
Quinces can be bought as grafted plants, either onto a ‘Quince A’ (semi-dwarfing) or ‘Quince C’ (dwarfing) rootstock. They come in many shapes and sizes, from large spreading trees that would make an attractive specimen to half standards that are suitable for smaller gardens or even in pots. Free-standing trees attain a height and spread of 3.75–5m, depending on the rootstock, position and soil type.
Quinces need a long growing season to ripen well and so are best trained as a fan against a south or west-facing wall in more exposed or northerly gardens. They flower early, so avoid frost pockets. Gardeners in warmer climates or in sheltered, urban or coastal sites can grow their quinces as free-standing trees provided they position them in a sunny location.
They are happy in most soils, but particularly those that are relatively moist throughout the summer, yet well-drained to avoid waterlogging in winter. Light or shallow chalky soils should have plenty of organic matter added prior to planting and be well mulched afterwards.
Quince leaf blight: A fungal disease that is a problem in wet seasons, causing severe leaf spotting and premature leaf fall, whilst fruit may also be spotted and distorted. Prevent the disease overwintering by raking up and disposing of affected leaves as they fall and by pruning out any dead shoots in winter. Feed and water plants well to ensure they grow more foliage.
Brown rot: Brown rot is a fungal disease causing a brown, spreading rot in fruit, sometimes with white pustules of fungi on the surface. It is usually worse in wet summers. Remove all rotten fruit as soon as you see it and destroy, this will prevent the spread of the rot.
Codling moth: The caterpillar of the codling moth can burrow into quince in summer, resulting in fruit that is ridden with tunnels and excrement. Traps containing pheromone can be hung in the branches of trees in May to lure and trap male moths, reducing the females’ success of mating. A biological control can be sprayed on quinces and soil around trees in the autumn to kill caterpillars leaving the fruit.
Fruit are ready to harvest in October or November when they have turned from a light yellow to a golden colour and are extremely aromatic. Only pick undamaged quinces, storing them in a cool, dry and dark place on shallow trays. Ensure they are not touching. Allow fruit to mature for six weeks before using – they will keep for up to three months.
Varieties that grow well include:
‘Meech’s Prolific’: Bright golden yellow fruits with good flavour.
‘Lusitanica’: Very tasty fruit, but not as hardy as others.
‘Vranja’ AGM: Large, pale green to golden, pear-shaped fruit.
‘Champion’: Pear-shaped fruit that ripens earlier than others.
Jobs for this week
- Protect new young shoots from slugs and snails try beer traps as a good alternative to pellets.
- Time to prune roses especially climbing that need to be pruned to a framework of older branches.
- When the weather is fine and dry give your lawn the first cut of the year, just a high cut to start the process of reducing the height of the grass from the winter growth.
Martyn Davey – Head Grower
Charity event: A Norfolk Gardeners Question Time on Friday 20th March at St Nicholas Church North Walsham, refreshments and plant sales as well as Martyn Davey chairing a panel of gardening experts to answer your questions from 7:15pm tickets and information from Moya on 07870832297 or email email@example.com.