Two of the best features of our little terrace house in Cambridge were an ornamental cherry and a red crabapple. We planted both in the few years that we were living there and were delighted with the spring blossom. Excepting a couple of jars of crabapple jelly, we left the fruit for the birds and were just happy to have some trees.
When we moved into this garden we were suddenly the owners of over 25 fruit trees including apple, pear, cherry, plum, quince and another crabapple. Unable to part with our red crabapple, we brought that with us to add to the collection.
Having only ever looked after a young crabapple, I really had no idea what to do with the fruit trees. The previous owners had a cage around some of the pears and apples and then a structure for netting for most of the plums and cordon apples and pears.
We left the cage on all of last year but had a terrible time with woolly aphid. We also left the netting on the cordon trees and the plums, hoping to deter bullfinches, until they started to blossom. However, we did quite a bit of damage getting the nets off and they looked really unsightly. We had some plums on the these trees but the most plums we had were from the tree that was not netted. My theory is that we did more harm than good with the nets on the plums.
This year we've done away with netting the fruit trees. My tactic has to instead introduce a lot of birdfeeders into the garden, hoping to attract birds that will then also eat the woolly aphids. And empirical evidence says it works. I've not had a single case of woolly aphid this year on any of the trees including those that were not netted last year but had woolly aphid anyway.
I did put tree grease around some of the fruit trees but I did this rather late and did not have enough for all of them. Time will tell whether the bullfinches have eaten all the buds from the plums.
What I did not have a problem with last year, and that I am a bit worried about this year, is birds eating the soft fruit. However, the european hornet made a daily meal out of my green gagues so I have my fingers crossed that the birds will deter the hornet and that I will be able to get up early enough to get some fruit before the birds. I'm imagining a utopia where each organism only takes what it needs and that we all get along splendidly, lazily eating ripe fruit in the summer sun. The reality may be a different story.