The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs defines an orchard as having a minimum of five well-spaced trees.

Blossoms, fruits, and leaves of the apple treeBlossoms, fruits, and leaves of the apple tree

The varieties in the table below fruit from September onwards, making them ideal for school and community orchards, and all are relatively easy to grow.


Apples (Malus domestica) Bountiful
Pollination group 3:Charles Ross (Cox’s Orang Pippin  × Peasgood Nonesuch). Has some resistance to apple scab. Large, round, colourful and showy. Does well in chalky soils. Picking time mid September. Here’s a Cox’s:
Cox's Orange PippinCox’s Orange Pippin

Pollination group 3

Falstaff (Dessert Apple). This new heavy cropping variety. Self fertile with disease resistance and frost tolerance. Fruits are bright red with crisp juicy well flavoured flesh. Picking time late September.

Fiesta (Dessert Apple) – Cox is one of the parents and all of the aroma and nuttiness are present. Heavy cropping variety. Fruits are brightly coloured with a yellow background. Size is medium to large and the shape is rather flat to round. Picking time early October.

Greensleeves (James Grieve x Golden Delicious.) Raised by Dr Alston at East Malling Research Station, Maidstone, Kent in 1966 from  Received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. A green to yellow mid season apple that is very prolific, very hardy, reliable and easy to manage and comes into cropping very early. Medium size fruits. Picking time mid September.

Katy (James Grieve x Worcester Pearmain) Raised at Balsgard Fruit Breeding Institute in Sweden in 1947 from . A very attractive early dessert variety. A good choice for northern gardens. Bright red, crisp and juicy, rather sharp if picked too early. Heavy and regular cropper. Fruit size can be small if not thinned. Picking time early September.

Saturn (Dessert Apple). A new scab and mildew resistant variety. Blushed red on green to yellow skin, crisp and juicy fruits. Very heavy crops of good quality fruit. Good organic choice. Picking time late September.

Spartan (Dessert Apple). The smooth skinned dark red fruit is white fleshed, crisp and very juicy. The hardy tree yields well and spurs freely. Requires thinning if size is important. Picking time early October.

Discovery (Dessert Apple). Raised by Mr Dummer, Langham, Essex around 1949. Said to be from Worcester Pearmain crossed with Beauty of Bath. Attractive, well rounded, second early apple. Produces spurs freely and somewhat inclined to tip bearing. Bright red, crisp, juicy with a sharp fresh flavour. Has good disease resistance and frost tolerance. The compact growth habit makes this a good garden variety. Picking time early August.

James Grieve (Dessert/Cooking Apple). Raised by James Grieve in Edinburgh, Scotland. First recorded in 1893. Received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1897. Now a well known well flavoured, juicy second early. An excellent choice, especially for a difficult site. Crops heavily and regularly. The soft texture fruit is both juicy and tangy. Does well in northern gardens. Picking time late August to early September.

Pollination group 2:

Early Windsor (Dessert Apple). This new early season variety is suitable for planting in all parts of the UK. Fruits are yellow with red flush, crisp and juicy with excellent flavour. Heavy crops of medium size fruits. Picking time late August.

Egremont Russet (Dessert Apple). Probably originated in England. First recorded in 1872. Good quality mid season russet that is still the most important commercial russet variety grown in England. A very good garden variety but the fruits are prone to bitter pit. Feed with calcium in spring and through out the growing season. Fruit size is medium with a crisp, nutty flavour. Compact growth habit. The blossom has good frost tolerance. Picking time late September.

Adams’s Pearmain


Red Devil

—————- end of September-onwards fruiting apples —————



Pollination group C:Concorde (Dessert Pear) – A new Pear from East Malling Research Station. A perfect garden variety as the growth is quite compact. Concorde is also self fertile. It is a reliable and heavy cropper. Ideal for the small garden. Has Conference and Doyenne du Comice as parents. Very good flavour with melting juicy flesh. Picking time late October. Beth
Shipova Onward
Eight varieties of pears, from left to right, Williams' Bon Chrétien (sold in the US as Bartlett), two Red Bartlett varieties, d'Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, and SeckelEight varieties of pears, from left to right, Williams’ Bon Chrétien (sold in the US as Bartlett), two Red Bartlett varieties, d’Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, and Seckel


Apples and pears produce more fruit if they are pollinated by a member of a different pollination group. Most sites in built-up areas provide pollination from nearby gardens. A wide range of fruit varieties in the orchard itself will still help with pollination.

A pear Tree in FlowerA pear Tree in Flower

Crab apple trees are a very good source of pollen, which helps to ensure good fruit production, so It is always worth introducing some into the mix.  Although crab apples are usually not edible straight from the tree, they can be easily turned into a fantastic jelly, providing another crop from the orchard. 


The Tree Council suggest selecting MM106, MM111, M25  apple rootstocks and Quince A or larger for pears.

MM106 (semi-dwarfing) – Suitable for: half standards
Start fruiting: After three or four years. Ultimate height3-4m (10-13ft) x 4m (13ft)
Growing conditions: Tolerant of a range of soils including grassed orchards and poor soils. The most widely used rootstock; unsuitable for small spaces.
Staking: 5 years; longer in exposed locations
Spacing: 3.6 (12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between the rows

MM111 (vigorous) – Suitable for: standards and half standards
Start fruiting: After four or five years. Ultimate height: 4-4.5 (13-15ft) x 4.5 (15ft) less on light soils
Growing conditions: Suitable for most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils
Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old, but those planted as 2-3 year old trees need staking for the first 3 years
Spacing: 4.5m (15ft) apart with 6m (20ft) between rows

M25 (very vigorous) – Suitable for: Standards
Start fruiting: After five or six years. Ultimate height: +4.5 (15ft) x 6m (20ft)
Growing conditions: Most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils. They are too vigorous for most gardens except where the soil is poor
Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old but those planted as two- or three-year-old trees need staking for the first 3 years
Spacing: 6m (20ft)

Quince A (semi-vigorous) – Suitable for: Half-standard
Start fruiting: After four years. Ultimate height: 3-4.5m (10-15ft)
Growing conditions: Most medium to heavy fertile soils
Staking: Retain for five years
Spacing: 3-4.5m (10-15ft)


A fruit tree will not deliver a crop until it is between three and six years old (see below).


Fruit trees must be planted with the correct spacing to accommodate the ultimate size of the tree and allow sunlight to reach the fruit. .


Advice should be taken on any spraying requirements. In some instances, it may not be appropriate for spraying to take place, in which case canker resistant varieties should be specified.

Fruit Pruning:

People are often concerned about pruning fruit trees as it can appear to be a difficult task, requiring specialist skills. Fortunately, fruit trees are fairly resilient and can usually survive even poor pruning attempts.
However, during the first few years, leaving a tree without any pruning can cause problems. Pruning is needed to:

  • establish a shape that is suitable for the space available
  • remove unwanted bits of the tree such as overlong branches, crossing or unproductive branches, or dead and diseased wood

Establishing shape:

In an orchard, the aim should be to produce a tree with a clean stem, and a balanced shape to the canopy. This balanced framework is important to be able to support the fruit when it develops.

The initial pruning of a young fruit tree is perhaps the most important as it establishes the shape of the tree.  To achieve a balanced shape, during the first three years, all the lower branches (feathers)  are cleaned off up to 1.5 metres, whilst allowing the main leader to grow on. Once the leader has reached a height of over 2 metres, it is pruned back to the 2 metre point. This will encourage growth from the side branches in the top half-metre, giving the tree a spreading shape and ensuring that the fruit should be within reach of most pickers.

This initial pruning is best done in June/July or the winter months.

Winter pruning:

During winter, pruning can be undertaken to remove limbs growing in the wrong place and should concentrate on removing crossing or rubbing branches and taking out any dead or diseased branches.


All young, newly planted trees can die if they don’t receive some basic aftercare during their first five years.

One of the greatest threats to young trees is being outcompeted by weeds. Every March, the focus of maintenance should be to ensure that the young trees are not surrounded by weeds and grass. This can be achieved most effectively by mulching (see below).

Over the last few years, spring has also been a very dry season, and careful attention should be paid to the water requirements of the young trees (see below).

Finally, during the spring of the first two years after planting, pinch out any flowers that develop to prevent fruit growth. Growing fruit in the first few years after planting diverts energy away from developing new shoots and roots. During this early stage in the trees’ life, getting established is crucial. So although you may want apples immediately, a little patience will pay dividends in the longer term.

Harvest times:

Fruit trees need formative pruning in the early spring after they are planted, before they come into leaf. Formative pruning is important as it will determine the ultimate shape of the tree and aid in its establishment in its first year. Seek professional help or do further research until confident.


Grasses and other fast-growing, herbaceous perennials compete with young fruit trees for moisture, nutrients, space and light.  it is important to keep the base of the tree should be kept largely free of weeds for at least five years to help the fruit trees to establish. Mulching is the most efficient method of keeping weeds under control.

Mulch should be applied immediately after planting, and one application of mulch is usually adequate for a number of years. However the trees will benefit from being re-mulched in years 2 or 3 and this is best applied early in the year when the ground is moist – but after all weeds have been cleared.

  • Mulch should be spread to a depth of 50 – 100mm (2 – 4 inches) and could be:
  • wood chips – although not fresh ones because there is a danger of nitrogen loss from the soil as they degrade.
  • composted bark
  • well-rotted lawn clippings – or grass clippings from the previous cut
  • leaf litter

Cover an area around the tree of at least 1 square metre.

Plastic mulch mats can also be fitted around trees in the event that mulch cannot be obtained. It is important that these plastic mats are secured firmly to the ground and after 5 years they should be removed to avoid littering.


If the area has been mulched correctly, there should be few weeds to deal with. If weeds do occur, hand weeding can be the simplest method, but it can be time-consuming. Pull out grasses, woody plants and herbaceous perennials so that they are uprooted. They should not be cut back or mown, as this encourages growth. Once the area has been weeded, cover with another layer of mulch.


Except in long dry spells, it is rarely necessary to water a newly planted fruit tree, provided attention is paid to mulching and weeding. If a long dry spell occurs, then water infrequently and heavily, as this allows water to penetrate deeper into the soil. This ensures that the fruit tree roots don’t grow close to the surface (where they will dry out and potentially lead to the tree’s death).

Check guards and shelters

Check tree guards to ensure they are effective (no bark is missing or twigs bitten or broken off) and not rubbing or cutting into the tree.
If a guard is inadequate or the risk has changed, consider different protection, e.g. a taller tube to protect against deer, or fencing to keep off cows and other animals.
Replant any failures.
Repair/replace damaged guards.
If a guard is damaging the tree, adjust, modify or replace it.
Remove the guard when there is no longer a risk of damage and clear away any material that has built up inside.

Schools are offered a guide to planting an orchard as a whole-school project from ‘Leaning Through Landscapes‘.

Here is a selection of apples from the various pollination groups as an indication of the varieties available:

1 Crimson Gravenstein
2 Ambassy, Beauty of Bath, Christmas Pearmain, Devonshire Quarrenden, Early Windsor, Egremont Russet, George Cave, George Neal, Irish Peach, Lord Lambourne, Rev. W. Wilks, St Edmund’s Pippin
3 Arthur Turner, Blenheim Orange*, Bountiful, Bramley’s Seedling*, Brownlees Russet
Charles Ross, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Discovery, Falstaff, Fiesta / Red Pippin, Greensleeves
Grenadier, Isle of Wight Pippin, James Grieve, Katy, Kidd’s Orange Red, Lane’s Prince Albert, Meridian, Orleans Reinette, Peasgood’s Nonsuch, Pinova, Pitmaston Pine Apple, Queen Cox Self Fertile, Rosemary Russet, Saturn, Spartan, Sunset, Tentation, Tydeman’s Early, Winter Gem, Worcester Pearmain
4 American Mother, Annie Elizabeth, Ashmead’s Kernel, Braeburn, Chivers Delight, Claygate Pearmain, Cornish Aromatic, Cornish Gillyflower, D’Arcy Spice, Ellison’s Orange, Gala/Royal Gala, Golden Delicious, Golden Noble, Howgate Wonder, Lord Derby, Norfolk Royal, Pixie, Royal Gala/Gala, Tydeman’s Late Orange, Winston
5 Costard, Newton Wonder
6 Court Pendu Plat
7 Crawley Beauty

Here is a selection of pears from the various pollination groups as an indication of the varieties available:

Pollination Group B: Beth , Beurre Hardy, Conference

Pollination Group C: Concorde, Doyenne du Comice, Dwarf Garden Pearl, Williams’ Bon Chretien

Fruit Trees and their Rootstocks

Approximate Size of a tree after 10 years.
4m x
3m x
2m x x
1m x
Patio Tubs
Confined Spaces
Fan/Espalier Minarette
Half Standard
Half Standard
Apples M27 M9 M26 MM106 MM111/M25
Pears QC QA