Thursday, 7 August 2008

Orchard Update

As I've travelled around the counties of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Cambridgeshire as part of the day-job, the potential for a bumper harvest of apples can be seen almost everywhere. Apple trees are doing really well this year, even though this season follows a similarly good crop last year. At the moment, things are looking good for our plans to make plenty of cider from local apples, though only time will tell if the quality is as high as the size of the crop.

I examined our own trees today and noticed that the cooking apple tree is carrying a larger crop than we had last year. On a less positive note I noticed that many more of the developing apples are affected by Scab, a fungal disease which thrives in the hot and humid conditions we're experiencing this year. From the cidermakers point of view, scab is more of a cosmetic problem, of more concern to commercial growers of dessert and culinary apples where the appearance of the fruit is all important. Unfortunately it also impacts seriously on the keeping qualities of the fruit. We only use a small amount of the fruit from this tree in our ciders, most are destined for pies, crumbles, family and friends. We'll have to be careful to only put into storage the very best quality fruit, otherwise we could lose most of this year's crop to the dreaded Brown Rot.

The dessert apple tree I thinned earlier in the year has held its crop well, and many of the fruits are of a size where we may be able to get them identified at an Apple Day event. The second picture here is a very good example of what happens when you don't thin the fruits sufficiently. I can't believe I managed to miss this huge cluster which will give much smaller apples than the thinned ones.

The rest of the orchard seems to have shrugged off the early infestation of green aphid, and achieved some measure of natural balance between pests and beneficial insects. The only 'fly' in the ointment has been the bronzing/browning of some leaves on a few of the trees, which may have been caused by Fruit Tree Red Spider Mite, of which I can find no sign, or possibly Potash deficiency. I've given all the cider apple trees a sprinkle of potash as a tonic (Dabinett are particularly prone to Potash deficiency), and I'm pleased to say that none of the trees have been seriously affected by this mysterious problem.

As an update on the pear situation, we visited the Bewicke Arms at Hallaton for a meal earlier in the week, and the impressive espalier pear tree growing up the side of the pub had barely a pear on it! Has anyone seen a pear tree with a decent crop this year?

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