A feature-length Horror Story about the consequences of not thinning heavy crops on fruit trees.
Featuring (in no particular order):
Young Trees with Excessive Top-Growth
Poor Crotch Angles*
A Bit of Rain
A Shamefully Neglectful Orchardist
Since my last spot of bother in the orchard, I've been working myway through the trees, replacing some of the older rotten stakes with newer longer ones, weeding, tidying, and even doing a bit of Summer pruning. All seemed well. Some of the trees are carrying heavy crops, but thanks to the modest rainfall we've had this year, the fruits are generally small, and the branches seem to be coping with the weight well enough...
Then it rained... and the wind got up! Blissfully unaware of the rapidly swelling fruit, I felt secure in the knowledge that the new, taller, sturdier tree stakes would keep the slender trees fine and upstanding. Which they did, but what I hadn't accounted for was the increased weight from rapidly swelling apples pushing several branches to the point of breaking. As you can see from the photo above, one heavily laden Tremlett's Bitter couldn't take the strain, and has lost a branch in the most undignified of ways.
Quelle Disaster! This branch is obviously now beyond repair. I'll leave it hanging until harvest time since there's possibly enough bark intact to continue ripening the apples, but how I wish I'd thinned the apples in the first place, or propped up the branch with these (Karens) natty little crooks. Lesson learnt.
*The 'Crotch Angle' is the angle between the main trunk of the tree and a branch. Too acute an angle creates a weakness at the union, and leads to an increased likelihood of breakage under the strain of a heavy crop.