Fruit tree update

Baby plums and apples are now forming on the trees in the orchard. The older Victoriaplum in particular has quite a few;

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Victorias do tend to overbear, and if we left all these on they would press together and rot before they got ripe. In the extreme the weight of fruit can break branches off. So I’ve reduced this bunch to just one fruit.

On the Marjories Gage, nature is doing its own thining:

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The undeveloped plums will fall off in the ‘June drop’

Meanwhile, one of the apples has some unwelcome visitors:

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These curled up leaves are hiding aphids. They could be squashed or washed off with soapy water, but its probably best to leave them to encourage their natural preditors

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Moving Arthur

We’d become a bit concerned that the trees in the orchard area might be overcrowded when they matured, and decided to move one into the main garden. Our choice fell on ‘Arthur Turner’ a cooking variety that was in the middle of a row of four. (Apparently it won an RHS prize for its blossom)  The trees have now been in place for three years, so its more of a disturbance for them than when we originally planted them, but they should still re-establish. This weekend was almost the last time we could do this while the trees were dormant.

Here’s Arthur before the move:

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First we prepared the hole for Arthur’s new home, digging out an area with roughly the diameter of the branch-spread down to two spade depths and adding four wheelbarrowloads of compost to enrich the soil.

Next we removed the turf around the tree, and dug a trench down, carefully digging in until we came to the roots. We dug down and under, to free it, and rocked it onto a tarpauline. We then dragged it to the new planting position.

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We replanted Arthur, taking care to plant to the same depth that it had been before, and then backfilled the hole, treading it down well to exclude any air pockets. Finally we put in a new stake, to keep the roots still while they reestablish, and backfilled the hole where it had been. Now to wait with fingers crossed!

Wassailing

More than forty people joined us for our third annual wassailing in the orchard area, with Sue’s apple cake, some cider made from fruit from the tree on the allotment boundary with Waterworks Road and other refreshments ably overseen by Amanda

The Petersfield Community Choir joined us again to sing a number of traditional wassailing songs.

Emily and Keith then gave a practical demonstration of pruning our apple trees, cutting out damaged wood and crossing branches, and trying to encourage an ideal goblet shape.

So here’s to our next growing season.

Wassailing the orchard 17 January

Today is the old date of twelfth night, the traditional date for wassailing orchards and tending to the trees. Following on from our  event last year, we invited the Petersfield Community Choir  to  come and sing to the trees in our orchard area.

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This was followed by Emily and friends from the Grace and Flavour garden in Horsley helping us prune the apple trees

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We shared apple pies and apple cake, washed down with mulled cider and apple juice.

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What’s been growing in September

Spinach under mesh
Spinach under mesh
Winter squash on the manure heap
Winter squash on the manure heap

Growing squashes on the remains of our manure heap not only gave us pumpkins, but suppressed nettles and other weeds that would otherwise have grown there.

James Grieve apples in the orchard
James Grieve apples in the orchard
Preparing a new bed for rhubarb
Preparing a new bed for rhubarb

Dug a spade-depth down to incorporate plenty of compost

 

Pruning apples

David described how to prune apples in winter and then we pruned the trees planted last spring

David considers where to prune on a Bramley
David considers where to prune on a Bramley

Winter pruning is to form the shape of the tree. First cut out any clearly dead or diseased wood, to stop disease spreading. Then cut new growth to form an open bowl shape, so that air can circulate. Select an outward-facing bud, and cut immediately above it – if you leave too much it will die.

Bruce cuts out a central stem
Bruce cuts out a central stem

If you can make your cut with secateurs there should be no need for wound paint: only use it if you have to use a pruning saw or loppers. Distinguish the larger, bumpy buds, which are fruiting buds and will produce flowers in due course, from the smaller vegetative buds.

Louise prunes to an outward bud under David's directions
Louise prunes to an outward bud under David’s directions

We also have a quince. David told us he used to prune his quince tree like an apple, and got very little fruit. On a trip to Germany, he saw heavily laden quinces, and learnt that they never pruned them. Last year he left his alone and got a bumper crop.