The apple trees in the orchard are feeling the strain from the weight of fruit on their branches, I guess it’s time to stock the larder cupboard.
Armed with my ladder and apple crates, I’ve started to pick apples to use for cooking. And I had company. The hens enjoyed the sunshine and wandered off under the safety of the trees, the rescue girls stuck to me like glue as usual. However, they were great ‘quality control inspectors’, jumping in and out of the apple crates, pecking apples. They just have to be involved in everything I do, from harvesting fruit to sweeping leaves.
We have plenty of fruit from our orchard to make warm crumbles, delicious pies and tarts, thanks to a wonderful summer. Did your fruit trees produce plenty of fruit this year?
I planted Tulameen and Joan J raspberry canes at the weekend, 3 canes of each variety which will be plenty for my daughter and I, the only raspberry fans of the family. If you’ve never planted raspberry canes before it really is very easy. The following guide shows how I planted the summer fruiting (Tulameen) canes – hand model my very bored better half!
Bash a post into the soil (I used 8 ft long pieces of timber) against the centre edge, at each end of the bed. Using large-head screws or nails, place one at regular sections all the way up both posts, say about a foot apart and even on both posts. Don’t screw/hammer completely into the post, you need to leave a gap to attach wire.
Attach garden wire by wrapping around a screw head, stretch the wire across till it reaches the other post and wrap the wire to secure. Repeat this until you have enough wire secured all the way up the posts.
Plant the canes in the centre of the bed, just in front of the first wire. Space the canes about 60 cm apart, firm in and tie the canes onto the wire. Water them in well. A long narrow bed is ideal for planting raspberry canes, I planted just 3 canes into my 6 ft long x 3.5 ft wide raspberry bed, if you want to plant more canes use a longer bed.
The autumn canes are in another bed nearby, I’ve grown Joan J before and love the flavour. No special treatment needed for autumn canes, just pop them in a well prepared bed – supports aren’t generally needed because they don’t grow very tall. Cut down all growth on autumn varieties in February or March, they will fruit on the wood produced that year. Summer canes grow tall and need support, they fruit on the wood produced the previous year. New summer canes that are produced this year will bear next year’s fruits and should to be tied onto a wire support system. Cut down fruiting canes once you’ve finished harvesting, this should make pruning summer canes easier!
Last summer I purchased my very first blackcurrant bush, a variety called Big Ben. As the name suggests the berries are huge! Big Ben is a good blackcurrant for eating fresh from the bush and it’s resistant to powdery mildew and leaf spot. It was fruiting at the time of purchase, producing lots of strigs but I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going to be planted so I decided to leave the bush in the pot for the remainder of summer, keeping it well watered during dry spells.
Eventually I planted it out in late autumn, roughly 2 inches deeper than it was in the pot to encourage the bush to send up lots of fresh shoots for the following year. Once planted I cut all growth back to a few inches above soil level, it felt a bit harsh but this should encourage a stronger root system, sturdy new growth and bumper crops. Apart from an annual mulch I can leave the blackcurrant to get on with it for the next 2 years, then prune to encourage new growth by removing 1 in 3 old stems to ground level, removing damaged or crossing stems and light trimming to keep the centre fairly open during winter while it’s dormant.
There is just about enough time to prune your older bushes if you have not done so already. Enjoy those juicy berries this summer!
I’m so excited! Our new William’s Bon Chrétien pear tree has baby pears, aren’t they amazing? You can really see the shape formation already. I adore pears and cannot wait to sample our very own home-grown ones which should be ready to pick by September, ripening a week or so later. It’s self fertile but pollination by another pear will maximise yield, the neighbouring garden to the rear of ours has a mixed orchard on half an acre so hopefully this will help.
I have two Gooseberry bushes, Invicta and Careless. Both have flowered profusely this spring and are now laden with small forming fruits which I will lightly thin towards the end of the month to allow for larger fruits mid summer.
Yesterday I noticed some of the fruits on the Careless bush are showing signs of mildew, it did well last season but I know this variety can be susceptible to mildew. Pah! My veg bible advises cutting out congested branches to improve air circulation and removing any infected branches straight away. Oh, and to plant resistant cultivars. Whoops.
However, Invicta (mildew resistant) is going great guns so far so I should be OK for Gooseberries this year.
This weekend we added 2 new trees to our mini orchard. We now have 3 different varieties of apple – Scrumptious, Bramley’s Seedling and Cox Orange Pippin, a Marjorie’s Seedling plum and a Williams’ Bon Chretien pear. Our Scrumptious and Cox produced good-sized fruit last season but the plum skipped fruiting altogether. However, it is now smothered in blossom so fingers crossed for plums this year.
All our trees are on a semi vigorous rootstock because we have the space, so I have been learning how to prune fruit trees paying attention to the way in which each of our chosen trees produce their fruit. For example, the Bramley’s Seedling is partial tip bearer, which means that most of the fruit is borne on the ends of the branches. For this reason it is wise not to throw caution to the wind while pruning, otherwise you may end up with no fruit for quite some time.
There are many advantages to living on the doorstep of a wooded area. For instance, the abundance of wildlife. During the spring pheasants venture from the woods to look for potential mates, often ending up in our garden eyeing up our hens before deciding they are of course not suitable after all. Muntjac deer are beautiful to watch, especially on frosty quiet mornings. There is something very majestic about it.
Of course, sharing a boundary with an unspoilt area of natural beauty is far more appealing than beer swigging party crazy neighbours. Well, it is for me! The peace and quiet, nature, wildflowers and native trees are all beyond our back door. Woodlands tend to offer much more than what I’ve described, they also provide food. Blackberries and lots of them!
Our own cultivated variety ‘Merton Thornless’ is still a young specimen, fruit this year will be thin on the ground, the few berries it has produced will ripen late summer. The wild blackberries that we’re picking are plump, juicy and taste wonderfully sweet with full flavour, evoking childhood memories of foraging for blackberries to take home so that mum could make a pie. Yummy.
Do you prefer the taste of wild blackberries or cultivated varieties? Which cultivated varieties do you grow?
The gooseberries are finished fruiting now and the final pickings did not even make the kitchen. Well, there was not enough fruit to make anything from them anyway, so popping them into our mouths was the obvious solution of course. Leaving them any longer was just an open invite for the birds.
We have 2 young bushes, Careless and Invicta, both very immature at present but they still produced enough fruit for a tasting session. I plan to make something yummy from them when they are more productive, any recipe ideas?
Our strawberries are ripening now but its a mad dash to get to them before the birds do! We are growing Elan and Loran varieties. I must get round to building some sort of fruit cage, I’m not a fan of netting for one reason or another. How do you cover yours?
Our young apple Scrumptious tree produced more young fruit than we expected it to. This variety of apple are quite large and with the tree being very young, we felt the tree would benefit from being a little less top heavy.
To be honest, we assume the tree felt the same way as removing some of the young fruit was not hard to do at all. We left each fruiting branch with either 1, 2 or 3 young apples, depending on how strong the branch was. Got to say, very impressed with this young tree so far. Hope the taste of the fruit lives up to its name.
We have been looking around for more apple trees to join our young Cox’s Orange Pippin. After some research we decided on Discovery, still debating on a few others.
Discovery was proving difficult to get on the rootstock that we wanted, so we had a chat with the fruit buyer at our local garden centre. He pointed out a tree that we had not heard of before. Scrumptious, a modern early variety. Its parentage includes Discovery, the fruit it produces are red which ticks the box for fruit colour that we wished for. As its name suggests, the fruit is said to excel on flavour. A self fertile tree with good disease resistance as well as frost resistant blossom. We were told to expect some fruit this year from this young tree so we shall see how it does.