In the Orchard
One area that growers have talked about is low crop weights. M25
seems to cause some people problems. Research has shown that this
rootstock, if allowed to flower and fruit within 5 years of
planting, will have a smaller root system and reduced cropping. It
also has a tendency to have branches too upright and tight to the
leader growth. If this is your problem try to festoon branches. Tie
a short length of cycle inner tube around branch and attach a
length of thin rope to the tube and a building block at the other
end to rest on the soil and tease branch slightly outwards.
Pyrodwarf for pears is another rootstock that seems to cause
problems. Dwarf 'it is not' and it easily gets out of control; if
it gets wet feet the crop is terrible and it soon dies.
The Search for Old Trees
We continue our search for old trees and new chance seedlings
growing in hedgerows. I would be grateful for any graft wood
you can send me so that I can check if they are old lost varieties
or new ones worth looking at.
Did you know...Christmas Pippin was a chance seedling growing on
the side of the M6 motorway!
Field Voles... Mice... Rats!
We are all at risk of serious damage to our trees from Field
Voles. These small mouse-like rodents with short tails attack
plants and trees both below and above soil level. They are likely
to attack in large numbers and very quickly strip bark from shoots
to such an extent that the tree can die. They may also attack roots
and again cause the death of your trees and plants.
Check your trees on a regular basis as these rodents are now
endemic in Britain. Field Voles, Mice and Rats can be kept at
bay by putting drops of diesel on dried teabags and placing these
at the base of your trees. Red Diesel is much cheaper than normal
Diesel. You can also paint diesel around the base of sheds to a
height of about six inches to stop Rats nesting under the shed;
this also works for mice.
Time to Mulch
Winter is the time, if you have not already done so, to put a
mulch of well rotted compost or animal manure around your trees but
not in contact with the bark. I stress 'well rotted' because if the
material has not heated enough it may still contain living fungal
spores, one that quickly jumps to mind is Fire Fang Fungi. This
will move to tree roots and damage growth and fruiting potential.
When it first attacks it looks like fine pure white cotton. Never
apply lime at the same time as fertilizers and mulches. This
combination can produces gases that will cause severe burn damage.
If you put bark around the base of trees to suppress weed growth
remember to sprinkle a small amount of sulphate of ammonia on top.
This is needed because as the bark breaks down it will pull
nitrogen out of the soil thus again reducing growth and crop. I
have seen some people put thick layers of newspaper and magazines
at the base of trees. Avoid this because carbon builds up and this
can be very toxic.
The 3 'A's - Awake, Alert, Action
Walk your orchard on a regular basis and look with care to see
any signs of problems. If you do not take prompt action to deal
with them, insects like aphids, if left alone, are able to increase
the speed of reproduction by producing wingless offspring in half
the time of winged ones. A simple spray of very dilute soft soap
will clear the problem in 24 hours. Do not use washing up liquids
because they contain chemicals that may cause burning of leaves,
flowers and fruit.
When did you last check the pH (Potential of Hydrogen) of the
soil in your orchard? When did you last apply a well balanced
fertilizer that contained all feed elements? When did you
last clean all pruning tools with methylated spirit? When did you
last sharpen all pruning tools? Paying attention to these items
will really help to increase your crop and the quality of the