Quince trees produce a large crop of fruits in autumn that have an aromatic, spicy fragrance to them. Quinces are hard when ripe and are cooked before being eaten. They are often poached, baked, stewed or added to apple pies. Quince paste is a delicacy that goes particularly well with cheese. Quince trees form an attractive umbrella shape and the golden yellow fruits look great when they are ripe in late summer and early autumn. Quinces grow well on many soils and in a wide range of climates. They perform best in areas with warm autumn weather to help ripen fruit. The average mature size for a quince tree is around 3 to 4 metres.
Companions Marigold, borage, chamomile, chives, garlic, comfrey, alyssum, dill, nasturtium
Quantity 1 tree per family. Two trees will ensure good pollination.
Giant of Gascony strongly aromatic large fruits with a spicy tang.
Smyrna produce very large fruits with good flavour. Flesh is golden yellow and very aromatic. Grows larger than other varieties.
Van Deman bright yellow-orange large fruits. Ripens early in late summer. Good for colder areas.
Quince trees are generally planted during the winter months. This is when ‘bare root’ trees (saplings with soil washed off their roots) are available at nurseries. Quince trees are also sold as container grown plants.
Give quince trees an open, sunny spot with good airflow – put them where you’ll be able to enjoy easily walking around them. You’ll find that they will produce fruit if grown in partial shade but avoid planting them in the shadow of buildings and tall trees. If you can, avoid planting them directly in the path of any prevailing strong winds. Blossom in early spring can be damaged by late frosts so try not to plant them in any hollows if you are in a frost-prone area. Trees planted in lawns or grassy orchards will grow better if grass is removed from a circle around their stem – take a stride away from the stem and make this the radius of your circle, remove grass and add a finger-deep layer of mulch.
Quince trees grow in a wide variety of soils but for best results they should be planted in a fertile, well-drained soil. Sandy soil can be improved with the addition of rotted compost and sterilized topsoil and sticky soil also benefits from the addition of rotted organic material but also grit, coarse sand or fine scoria to improve drainage. If your soil is really unsuitable you might consider planting trees in large raised beds or mounds of suitable soil.
Quince trees come as container grown trees and bare root trees that can be ordered from growers in late summer/autumn for mail order delivery in winter.
Container grown quince tree: Before planting dig a hole about 20% larger than the size of the container the plant comes in. Half-fill with well-rotted compost, rotted manure and some coarse sand or fine pumice to help with drainage. Mix together with garden soil at the bottom of the hole. Soak the container-grown tree before gently lifting it from its pot. Check the roots on the root ball and loosen any that appear to have grown around the inside of the pot – this should help them to get away and grow into the garden soil. Stand the root ball in the hole and adjust soil beneath it so that soil level is the same as ground level around it. Back fill with the soil/compost mix and firm with downward hand-pressure as you go. The container soil level should be the same as soil level in the garden. Drive three stakes in at even spacings around the outside of the root ball. Using a suitable tie – rope, cloth, plastic tree tie (but definitely no wire that will damage bark and stems) – secure the stem of the tree at about knee-height above ground. Water well.
Bare root quince tree: Soak the roots of your bare root tree in a bucket of water. Dig a hole - about a full arm length wide and deep. Half-fill the hole with compost and mix with soil at the bottom - if you want to you can add a couple of spades-full of coarse sand or fine pumice to help with drainage. Make a shallow mound in the centre of your hole and sit the bare root tree on the mound with the upward-pointing stem in the middle and the roots radiating around it. If trees have been grafted then ensure that the union (scar at bottom of main stem just above roots) is about a thumb’s length above the soil when the hole is backfilled (you can judge where this will be by placing a bamboo cane across the hole from one side to the other and noticing where this comes against the stem of the tree). To back fill, gently work the mixture of soil and compost around the roots, firming the soil as you go until you have all but filled the hole to ground level. Fill the low depression that is left with water and allow soil to settle around the roots. Then finish filling the hole up to finished ground level. Drive three stakes in at even spacings around the outside of the spread roots. Using a suitable tie – rope, cloth, plastic tree tie (but definitely no wire that will damage bark and stems) – secure the stem of the tree at about knee-height above ground.
Water around the base of your young trees in dry periods, making sure that soil gets enough water for roots to be fully soaked. If you have a number of trees growing and live in a dry area it may be worth setting up a basic irrigation system to take care of this.
Mulch around base of newly-planted trees, especially if you have sandy soil. Cover a circle as wide as the spread of the branches with a finger-deep layer of compost, rotted manure or old straw and replenish mulch when necessary. Make sure the mulching layer doesn’t touch the stem of your tree as this can cause it to rot. This should be done for the first three years after planting, Thereafter you can plant borage, comfrey, dill and fennel beneath your trees to draw nutrients from deep in the soil and to attract beneficial pollinating and predatory insects.
Feed: Trees can be fed with a sprinkling of blood and bone meal around the outer edge of their drip line (widest edge of outer branches) in early spring. Keeping the ground beneath your trees weed-free and well-mulched when its dry should help to reduce the amount of feeding that is required
Pollination: Quinces are self fertile but pollination will always be improved if you grow more than one. Bees do most of the business so encourage them into your gardens with companion flowers like borage and lavender.
Quinces ripen from late summer to mid autumn depending on variety. Quinces are hard fruits, they are ready for picking when skin colour lightens and fruit smell fragrant. Handle fruit carefully when harvesting to prevent bruising. Line your bucket or basket with soft material such as cloth or newspaper.
Storage: Quinces store very well. A frost-free, dark, cool place such as a cellar, garden shed or garage is suitable. Check through your fruit before storing and only select those that are un-blemished and have their stalks in tact. Place fruits in trays and boxes or on slatted shelves. – ideally with no two fruit touching each other. Inspect fruit every week or so for signs of rotting and remove any that are affected. If al goes well they should last right though winter.
Always prune during winter when the tree is dormant.
Remove any dead, diseased or otherwise damaged stems.
Remove any rubbing stems that are crossing each other and opening up wounds.
Remove stems that are growing into and crowding the centre of the tree. The aim is to let in light and to promote good air movement through the tree when it is in full leaf during summer. This helps to prevent fungal disease from taking hold.
Remove any shoots from the base or lower stem of the tree.
Remove any stems that are rocketing vertically from main branches. Cutting out the center stem on young trees generates a more umbrella-shaped tree that makes picking fruit easier as they are lower down. This also promotes good airflow and allows light into the center of the tree to ripen fruit.
Quinces are relatively trouble free if grown in the right conditions.