How to grow Quinces
Quinces Growing Guide
The quince (Cydonia oblonga) has been grown on British shores since the 13th century if not earlier, but gradually fell out of favour over time as apples and pears nudged this humble fruit aside. This is a huge shame, as the quince is possibly the most obliging fruit tree of all – good-looking, easy to care for, requiring no specialist pruning, and producing fruits with an intoxicating aroma.
In their native Iran the fruits ripen to a soft and juicy texture in the long, hot summers, but here they are more likely to remain hard and sour until, that is, they are cooked. Bake, stew or preserve these eager-to-please fruits and they are completely transformed – becoming softer, and releasing their sweet aroma and heavenly taste. Add them to apple pies, bake them with meats or make a quince cheese for the perfect accompaniment to the cheeseboard. The quince also has a high pectin content, which makes it great for jam enthusiasts.
Growing Quinces month-by-month
Only plant in this coldest month when ground conditions allow. Firm back any recently-planted trees that have been heaved loose by frost.
It won't be long before growth resumes. Complete pruning by cutting away dead, diseased or badly placed branches and top-dress with fertiliser.
Keep the area around trees weed-free as spring arrives and temperatures creep up. Finish planting bare-root specimens early in the month.
As the weather becomes more settled, lock in the moisture that's built up over winter by applying a generous mulch of organic matter.
Water young trees in dry weather, particularly recently planted ones that may struggle in a very dry spell. Enjoy the magnificent blossom!
This is a good month to plant containerised trees, before the real heat of summer kicks in. Watering is important this month as fruits set.
Maintain weed-free conditions around trees in what can be a very hot and dry month. It is important to watch out for quince leaf blight now.
Trees require little attention as summer progresses, other than keeping the soil moist. Top up mulches if necessary to keep moisture locked in.
Resume planting container raised quinces and begin preparing the ground for soon to- arrive bare-root specimens. Pick a sheltered site.
Harvest the quinces this month, as close to the first frost as possible. Keep them in a frost=free place, away from other stored fruits.
Start planting your bare-root quince trees this month. Select a free-draining site that retains moisture during the summer season.
Continue planting bare-root quinces. In northern or colder parts of the country select only very hardy varieties such as 'Lescovaeks'.
Caring for your Quinces plants + problems
As well as the annual winter prune, quinces need a little attention early on in the year. Give them a top-dressing of general-purpose fertilizer each February, just before the tree bursts into leaf. Sprinkle this evenly on the ground under the canopy. A month or two latergive your tree its annual cloak of mulch, setting down a few inches of leafmould, garden compost or similar organic material.
The magnificent quince blossom arrives much later than other fruit trees (usually around May) but even at this time of year frosts are still a threat. If the mercury plummets then cover the blossom as best as you can with a couple of layers of horticultural fleece. If you plant in an area free from frost-pockets you should avoid this problem.
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How to harvest Quinces
Quinces progress from small, furry fruits to good-sized, pear-like whoppers by autumn. A warm growing season will give a fantastic crop, which should be picked as late as possible but always before the first air frost strikes. Pick fruits in late October or early November and store them under cover in a cool, frost-free location. Given the right conditions there is no reason why quinces shouldn’t keep for six weeks, though they often store for longer and will continue to ripen as they wait to be eaten.
Store quinces in trays or boxes, keeping fruits unwrapped and not touching each other. The quince’s characteristic aroma will quickly permeate the air. This heady scent can taint other fruits such as apples and pears, which necessitates them being kept in quarantine, away from other stored crops. Check your stores every week or so and use up any fruits which you suspect may be about to turn bad.