The soft fruit season is drawing to a close now. Keep picking the remaining fruits as they become ready. If the weather is changeable, try to gather them when its dry. Wet fruits are always more likely to attract diseases.
Autumn raspberries and perpetual strawberries should now be in fruiting in abundance. They can be kept going longer by covering the strawberries with cloches or tunnels, and the raspberries with polythene sheeting at night, and during cold or wet days.
Any remaining summer raspberries, blackberries or hybrid cane fruits that have finished fruiting, but still haven't been pruned and trained, should be pruned now without delay.
Plums, peaches, figs, will need picking frequently and regularly so that they are not spoilt by the cooling weather. The greatest danger for all tree fruits is autumn gales, that can easily knock the fruit to the ground, so always pick as many as you can if a gale is forecast.
September is the beginning of the season for picking apples and pears that are to be stored. Early ripening varieties are best picked selectively so that they are allowed to ripen on the tree. Later varieties, destined for storing, can be picked all at once. Dessert pears are slightly harder to judge than apples, but they are definitely better if picked when still hard and then ripened indoors. Cooking pears are usually picked and cooked when still hard.
When apples and pears are ready for picking, the former should part quite easily from the tree, although pears usually hang on a bit more firmly than apples.
Only completely healthy fruits should be set aside for storing, any showing damage or fungal marks should be put to one side and used first. See the chart for some examples of average picking dates for apples and pears, and the length of time they can be expected to store.
A good storage place must be dark and have a constant and relatively low temperature around 10°C (50°F). One of the best places is a cellar, but failing that use a good brick outbuilding or garage. Try to avoid small wooden sheds since the temperature changes are great and frequent. Alternatively you could always use a cool, north facing spare bedroom. The best way to store apples is to wrap each fruit individually in newspaper and pack them in boxes. 'Conference' is one of the finest dessert pears. Like other pears it should be stored unwrapped until ripe.
Always remove tins of paint and other strong smelling substances or vegetables, such as onions, from the vicinity of the apples to avoid taint. Exhaust fumes in a garage are not recommended either. Pears keep much better and can be inspected easily if they are laid out in a single layer on shelves, or in boxes.
Finish pruning and training fan-trained peaches and nectarines, as described in August. Meanwhile, plum pruning can be carried on from last month. Trained apple and pear trees which were pruned earlier in the summer, but which had immature shoots left unpruned, can be tackled again to catch those that were previously ignored. Prune them as described in July.
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The following fruits can be harvested in September:
Blackberries & hybrids
Peaches & nectarines