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Quinces are ornamental flowering trees which live for a long time, grow to a medium-size and produce fruit and best of all, there not prone to some of the other fruit trees problems you often get with other fruit trees.
The fruit should not be eaten in its raw form, but it is great for making jellies and jams which is what draws many gardeners to this fantastic fruit tree.
Grows well in most soils
The good news is, quinces trees will tolerate most soil types, as long as it is fertile and moisture-retentive so they like moist but well-draining soil.
Plant in a sunny position and avoid frost pockets
While hardy enough for most of the Uk, they require a sunny spot that is somewhat sheltered. Like apricot trees which also flower early, the flowers can be severely damaged by frost so its best to avoid any positions in the garden that act like frost pockets and the sun is a requirement for the fruit to ripen as they do take a while as they turn from yellow to a golden colour. Without the right sunlight, you won’t get any fruit and if they get caught out by the frost, you won’t get any flowers so choosing the right position to start with is essential.
Choose a south-west or south aspect postion if you live the North
If you’re lucky enough to live in southern England the weather is often much milder with coastal towns, you can grow them in the open. However, if you live in Northern England like us, you will need to find a sheltered area with a south-west or south aspect, such as against a wall which gives them that extra protection they need.
When to plant quince trees
Buy bare root or potted
If you have a new tree, you want to ideal plant between November and March of which you can usually get them bare root which means they come without the pot when they are dormant. You can plant them at the times of the year but they will be potted and often more expensive and keeping them well watered will be a top priority.
For the first 3-4 years, you also need to stake the tree as you would any tree. The good news is that quinces are self-fertile so you won’t have to do much other than crop it after year around 5.
Feeding and Watering
Feed in February
It is important to give your quince the right amount of food to enable it to thrive. Apply fertiliser such as growmore in February and sulphate of ammonia in March.
Mulch in spring
At the beginning of spring, add mulch and well-rotted manure around the base to keep the tree at optimum moisture levels. At all times, be sure to keep the trunk area clear of debris clearing up any fallen leaves especially in autumn. This also helps prevent quince leaf blight that hibernates overwinter on the fallen leaves becomes attaching the tree in spring. This is a disease which can be an issue which we discuss in more detail a little further down.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not water-logged
In spring, summer, and during any dry spells, be sure to water the tree regularly to keep the soil moist. This is especially true if you are growing a dwarf rootstock variety in a pot such as a ‘Quince A’ (semi-dwarfing) or ‘Quince C’ (dwarfing) rootstock.
Harvesting fruit from quince
Harvest at the end of October or the beginning of November
Unlike most fruit trees, you want to leave the fruit on the tree as long as possible to help deepen the flavour. As long as you don’t have any risk of frost, you can leave the fruit on the tree without degrading it. They are often ripe at the end of October or the beginning of November when they achieve a golden colour its time to remove the fruit so you can start to enjoy the benefits.
Place fruit for 6-8 weeks before using to make jelly and jams
When you finally harvest, place only undamaged fruit in a cool, dark place, lined along a shallow tray. The fruit should not touch as they can start to rot. They should sit, apart, for 6-8 weeks after harvesting before making them into jelly and tasty jams.
A word of warning, it is best to keep them away from any other fruit as they are very aromatic and can leach into other fruits. You can keep them for another 2-3 months.
Pruning and training
Quinces fruit along the tips of the shoots made during the year prior. So, you can prune and train in the dormant season between the end of autumn and beginning of spring.
The branch framework you create should mirror that of an apple tree. For new trees, you need only train the framework but as it gets older and more established, you can remove the low lying branches or crowding branches.
For mature trees, you can prune every winter to improve air circulation and light penetration but do not remove more than one-third of the plant in one season.
Propagation by budding, graphing and cuttings
You can propagate your quince tree using budding, grafting from the original tree, or with hardwood cuttings taken late in the season.
There are plenty of edible quinces from which to choose below are some of our favourite ones.
- Quince ‘Portugal’ (syn: ‘Lusitanica’) is known for having the best-flavoured fruit. The fruit is pear-shaped, grows between 13 and 18cm long.
- Quince ‘Vranja Nenadovic’ has aromatic, golden pear-shaped fruit that also reaches between 13 and 18 cm and has been awarded by the RHS.
- Quince ‘Meech’s Prolific’ brings golden-yellow fruit with large flowers and is another good option.
Pests and Problems
Winter moth caterpillars
The same pests you would have issues with for apple trees or pear trees, like winter moth caterpillars, also attack quinces, but they don’t often cause serious problems.
On occasions, powdery mildew can be a problem but can be treated with a fungicide.
Quince leaf blight
The biggest problem you may face is with quince leaf blight and is probably the only serious disease you should be concerned about. if you eat the quince then which most people do there is no fungicide you can use but if you grow it as an ornamental tree you can spray the tree with a fungicide such as Provanto Fungus Fighter Plus RTU 1L.
The none chemical control is more about trying to prevent it by removing effected leaves and collecting and disposing of all leaves that have fallen off the tree and provide the best growing conditions to promote more growth.