Fruit Tree Rootstock Guide & Planting Advice

Fruit Tree Rootstocks - Approximate Height Guide
Please note that heights are approx and for guidance only. The ultimate size of the tree will be influenced by the vigour of the actual variety. A weak growing variety grafted onto the most vigorous stock will not make a very large tree. I have tried to show this by overlapping some of the rootstocks in the table below the tree pictures. The tree shape, location and soil condition are also influencing factors.


  Very Dwarf Dwarf Semi Dwarf Medium Vigorous


M.27 M.27 or M.26 M.26 or MM.106 MM.106 M.25


    Quince'A' Quince'A' Pyrus communis


  Pixy*** St.Julien'A'* St.Julien'A' St.Julien'A'**


    Colt Colt  

2yr Forms - M.27 and M.26 are always Bush form. MM.106, Quince'A', St.Julien'A' and Colt can be both Bush or Half Standard.         M.25 and Pyrus are more usually grown on to make Full Standards (with 180cm/6ft+ clear stem)

Any overlaps in each category depend on the vigour of the actual grafted variety - * With weaker varieties / **With vigorous varieties / ***Pixy is not compatible with peach or apricot only plums, damsons and gages.


ORNAMENTAL TREES - Approximate Height Guide


How to plant your trees...

When your trees arrive...  Place them in a shady place out of sunlight and frost. A garden shed or a garage is ideal. If unable to plant for more than a week, unwrap them, water the roots thoroughly and dig the bundles in to one or two large holes. They will be safe here throughout the Winter. Make sure you dribble some fine soil into any air pockets around the roots to deter mice. Keep an eye open for mouse or vole holes around the trees and lift and examine the roots if in doubt, its much easier to replace the bundles once the 'heeling in' hole has been dug the first time and better to be safe than sorry.

  To Plant... Dig a generous sized hole and fork over the hard soil at the bottom of the hole thoroughly to help prevent waterlogging. Most trees are easy to establish but dislike waterlogged soils. Cherry and Sorbus are the least tolerant of this. Site a tree stake if necessary. Because your trees are bare-rooted it is possible to position your stake vertically in the planting hole. This gives better support than the more recent method of positioning the stake a distance from the tree and driving it in at 45 degrees. This method evolved to accommodate container plants where the roots are hidden by the potted compost and damage to the roots would result from a closer, vertically driven stake. If rabbits and hares are prevalent you must use spiral tree guards to prevent damage.  Photo right - shows my trees with their well formed root systems. This is the key to quick establishment after transplanting 

Add a handful of general fertilizer and a shovel of planting compost and mix these with the excavated soil. Replace the excavated soil mixture and take special care to see that the 'grafting point' (union), or 'kink' is above ground level with two or three inches to spare. If the union is buried the special rootstock will lose its control over both cropping and vigour of the tree. This is particularly important with fruit trees.

Water your new tree thoroughly (one bucket of water) and repeat weekly during the first growing season during dry spells if you're able to. If any 'suckers' appear remove them from below the grafting point. Suckers are far less of a problem with the new range of rootstocks we use today.


Planting on my nursery -  In the 'early days' I planted each rootstock* by hand, nowadays I use a custom made planting machine. It does a super job, is much easier and quicker, and ensures uniform planting depth and light loamy infill for superior root development which in turn ensures quick establishment of your new trees. Photo right shows part of my nursery in July, these 1 yr (Maiden) trees are already between 3ft and 6ft (90-180cm) depending on the variety *The rootstocks are lined out in rows in March for propagating in summer by 'budding' or 'grafting in the following spring. It takes four years of production to produce a one year tree of the highest quality.

Apple Tree and Fruit Tree Reference Books   I recommend 'The English Apple' by Rosanne Sanders. 'The Book of Apples' by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards. 'Practical Encyclopedia of Garden Pests and Diseases' by Andrew Mikolajski.


How do trees grow ?  Initially by the conversion of the suns radiant energy into chemical energy in a process we may remember from biology classes called Photosynthesis. With this chemical energy the tree makes Carbohydrates (sugars and starches) using Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. The Carbon comes from atmospheric carbon dioxide, the Hydrogen comes from the water present in the soil and of course the Oxygen from the air we breathe. The Carbohydrates are moved around the tree and in this process they revert partly to Carbon Dioxide and partly to water. This process generates energy which enables the tree to use mineral substances, particularly Nitrates and Phosphates, from the soil. There are further processes which make and use Proteins and other Carbon based substances which allow your tree to grow and function. Carbon Dioxide is present as 300 parts to 1 million of atmospheric volume. Every ONE unit of Carbon Dioxide absorbed by your tree results in FOUR units of Oxygen being released into the air.

and finally...
Take time to enjoy your planting. It shouldn't be a rushed job that 'has to be done' begrudgingly. Wait until the soil conditions are right or as near right as they can be, choose a nice day, well no rain at least! - You're doing something that will last a lifetime and beyond....


An extract from my grandmother's letters - Mabel Alice Jasper née Terry of Langley Heath Farm     b.1898.
(This piece recalling childhood memories of springtime amid once beautiful woodland at her former home)

"Some years later I was being driven by my eldest son along the roads skirting my old home. He had forgotten to tell me about the wood called 'Fox Covey' having been felled, leaving only a few trees, by the grandsons of the old squire whose inheritance at his death bought the burden of heavy taxes. Coming suddenly upon this spectacle filled me with such deep emotion I held my breath. From as long as I can remember, and then in my three sons' childhood, the 'Fox Covey' held such magic that only a child could understand, whose pleasures in those far off days made up of simple things. We watched eagerly each year for the bluebells which grew profusely under the trees and glowed like a blue light, the sunlight slanting through the branches making it still more enchanting. Then there was the old railway carriage which stood on the edge of the wood, in which we, our cousins and playmates spent many hours, our imagination turning it into a 'fairy coach' which transported us to all kinds of wonderful places. We would take picnic snacks and sitting on the rough seats enjoyed them better than any meal on the Continental Express. The coach slowly disintegrated as the years passed, and when the roof was no more, my favourite lime tree's spreading branches provided shelter from summer showers. That self same tree I watched every spring. It was always the first to appear, and showed its vivid new green against others which were only just beginning to stir from their winter sleep and as yet showing only a faint tinge of pink. As the 'Fox Covey' was on a steep sloping hill, all the varying colours of the fine old trees showed plainly from any part of the farm and by leaning out of my bedroom window each early morning I surveyed the lovely view of green fields and the slow awakening of my beloved trees to yet another spring.