Green Man Publishing

Quince

Cydonia oblonga

Introduction

The fruit of the Quince looks like a large, yellow, fuzzy, slightly misshapen pear. It is not usually eaten raw as it is somewhat dry and astringent, but is usually cooked in preserves or added to apple pie.

Ease of growing: In the right conditions this easy to grow and independent little tree doesn’t take much looking after. In my garden it is almost completely ignored, yet it still produces fruit reliably every year.

Nutrients: Quince fruits are rich in vitamin C and pectin.

About Quince:
Yield:
20 lb dwarf
50lb standard
Hours of winter chill: 100 – 450
Size: 12 – 20 ft tall x 12 – 15 ft wide
Zone: 5 – 9
Blooming period: Late spring
Fruiting period: September – October
Life expectancy: 40 years
Bearing age: 2 – 3 years
Yield: 30 – 100lb
Spacing: 10 – 15 ft apart

Climate: The Quince isn’t very fussy as to climate and does well almost everywhere (except deserts). It flowers quite late and so isn’t usually affected by late frosts. It is hardy to -20°F.

Soil

pH 5.5 – 8.0

Site

The quince prefers well-drained fertile soil and full sun, but it will tolerate light shade too. If your soil isn’t very well drained you might consider planting on a hillside, or on a mound.

Planting

When: In mild climates Quince trees these can be planted at any time from late fall to early spring. In colder climates they are usually planted in spring. As with most other plants a small tree transplants better than a large tree and will do better in the long run.

When you get your plants home it is a good idea to get them in the ground as soon as possible, but if this isn’t possible you should heel them in, which means placing them in a trench (this trench has one vertical side and one at 45 degrees, the trees being laid in at 45 degrees and soil is firmed over them to fill the trench). If you buy plants mail order you should unwrap them immediately and soak the roots in water overnight before planting or heeling in.

Plants in containers can be planted at any time of year (though spring is best), but are more expensive and don’t usually do as well (make sure they aren’t left over bare root stock that has been potted up).

How: Dig the planting hole 2‑3 times as wide as the root ball, to give the roots plenty of loose soil to grow into. You want the hole to be the same depth as the root ball (or roots if bare root), so it can be set into the ground at the same depth it was growing in the nursery. This is most easily measured by laying a stick across the hole to get the right height. The graft union should be 3-6” above the soil.

In poorly drained soils you may have to plant on a mound, to keep the collar of the tree from staying wet for long periods (too much water could cause it to rot).

Start planting by throwing a couple of shovels of soil (possibly mixed with some organic matter if the soil is poor – to help it hold moisture) into the bottom of the hole. Make this into a slight mound and then spread the roots out evenly over it. You then put some soil in the hole to anchor the tree in place and firm it down. Then re-fill the hole with the rest of the soil (make sure the tree remains vertical). You may also want to add some rock phosphate to the soil as you go.

When you have finished planting the tree should be on a slight mound, so as the soil settles it becomes flat. If it starts out flat it may end up as a slight depression where water can collect (which can be a problem on poorly drained soils).

You then water the tree thoroughly, not only to supply water to the plant, but also to settle the soil and establish contact between roots and soil.

The final step is to spread out a mulch to conserve water, and keep down weed competition (keep this six inches away from the trunk).

It is also a very good idea to put a permanent label on the tree saying the variety and rootstock (and write it down in your garden journal).

Support: Newly planted trees were once routinely supplied with a stake to support them, but it is now thought that trees become stronger more rapidly if not staked. Staking is only usually necessary on very windy sites (especially for dwarf trees which grow on weak rootstocks).

Protection: If gophers live in your area you will have to plant your trees in gopher wire baskets (I make my own to whatever size I need). If other rodents are a problem (they may chew on the bark, stunting or even killing the tree) you may have to use various kinds of metal or plastic mouse guards. These should go several inches into the ground and should have gravel around them to deter digging.

Maintenance: Quince trees don’t need a lot of attention, but are more productive if given some basic care.

Fertilizing: They aren’t very hungry trees and don’t usually need additional fertilizer. In fact too much nitrogen can stimulate vigorous succulent growth that is susceptible to fire blight.

Watering: The trees are quite drought tolerant, but will be more productive if given regular water.

Pollination: Quince is self-fertile so you only need to plant one variety.

Pruning: Quince is usually trained to an open center, It is terminal (tip)? bearing, which means they produce fruit at the end of new growth and can be grown with minimal pruning.

Mature trees don’t require much regular pruning, beyond removing dead or damaged branches and suckers. Excessive pruning may encourage vigorous succulent growth that is susceptible to fire blight.

Thinning: They rarely produce so much fruit that they require thinning.

Propagation: Quince is usually grafted or budded. . It may also sometimes be grown from cuttings?

The roots are sometimes used for growing pears and other related fruits,

Mulch: Use a mulch of compost to keep the ground moist, suppress weeds and add nutrients.

Pests: Quince is susceptible to the same pests as the apple (notably codling moth), though they are less frequently affected. In warm humid climates they are susceptible to fire blight.

Harvest:

When: Fruit are ripe when their color changes from green to yellow and they develop their characteristic fragrance.

How: How? The fruit bruises easily so handle carefully.

Storage: The fruit will usually stay in good condition for a month or more. Canned, frozen?

Landscape uses: With its big, beautiful spring flowers, attractive shape and interesting yellow fruit, the quince is one of the more ornamental fruit trees. It also espaliers well and is very attractive when grown in this way.

Varieties: There aren’t a lot of varieties.

Pineapple: This Burbank variety is supposed to cook down like an apple.

Food uses:

Quince would be more popular if people realized how good it was, which means having good ways to use it. They are hard and pretty much inedible raw, but good cooked.

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