In a previous video we saw a freshly-planted tree. This tree was tied out last year, and you can see the amount of regrowth that has taken place. The tree has set a lot of fruit, and so Dan has provided support by using strings tied to the top of the stakes and looped around the branches. It is a temporary arrangement that stabilizes the tree. Once the framework is fixed, and the branches hold their position naturally, at the end of the season it is a good idea to remove the strings to ensure that they don’t get enveloped by the growing branches. This tree gives a good idea of the shape that we need: drooping branches, strongly-developed framework branches, well furnished with new wood. With an apple tree it’s important to support branches to prevent breakage.
The wildflower meadow that you can see in the photos was initiated in 2000. We sowed grass and a perennial wild flower mix. Soil should not be fertilized, and it should be of poor vigour. Otherwise, grasses will grow too strongly.
Wildflower meadow, detail
Mow in mid-late August; leave the grass there for a few days to allow flower seeds to drop. Then remove the hay.
Repeat every year, sowing new varieties as desired.
It is a good idea to keep a diary of your meadow, recording what you have sown and what has grown. Often what is planted or sown doesn’t appear the next season, but only after a couple of years. Sometimes it appears, but in a different place with respect to where it was sown. The balance of grasses and flowers varies from year to year, affected by climate and presumably by various other factors.
By way of example, the following lists illustrate the development of our wildflower meadow in Suffolk.
Click on the thumbnail below to watch the video of this wildflower meadow:
Planted in June 2001: grass seed and wildflower seed mix.
Wildflower species planted:
Sown July 2002:
Birds nest orchid
Observed in 2002:
Lots of grasses
Tiny field vetch
Birds foot trefoil
Geranium (small flowers)
Plantain (two species)
Wildflower meadow, many different grasses
Planted in 2003/2004:
Observed in 2003:
Toadflax (gone 2009)
Observed in 2004:
Lots of cowslips (planted and from seed)
Planted in 2005:
Observed in 2005:
Lots of cowslips
Lots of dandelions
Observed in 2007:
Lots of cowslips
Lots of bugle
Observed in 2008:
Lots of cowslips
One good ragged robin
White bee orchid (not in wildflower meadow itself, but on a bank about 20 yards away)
A large clump of yellow rattle (not where sown in 2005)
Two clumps yellow bedstraw
One white bedstraw
Sown in 2008:
White bee orchid between birch and prunus serrula
More bee orchid seeds and yellow rattle
Observed in 2009:
Hundreds of cowslips.
Grass less vigorous
Lots of yellow rattle
The white bee orchid flowered again
Two bee orchids in the meadow
Four yellow bedstraw, one white
Observed in 2010:
As in 2009, but no bee orchids on the bank, and one on the field
More dog daisies and bedstraw (one white)
One Pyramid orchid
Planted in 2010:
Observed in 2011:
Long drought in spring, meadow poor. No orchids at all. Nothing of the things planted last year. Yellow rattle not good. Many geraniums.
Observed in 2012:
Much better, lots of rain in spring/early summer. FLowers all very good including rattle but no orchids. One weedy ragged robin, 4 bee orchids. Grass very lush. Geraniums look good. Lots of broomrape.
1. It is very important for the health and welfare of bees to grow the right type of flowering plants favoured by bees for pollen and honey gathering, throughout the summer months. I t doesn’t need to be complicated. At this time of the year Angelica and red clover are definite favourites. Bumble bees are always on the look out for disused mice tracks in the soil. That’s where it likes to build its nest for the queen.
2. Red currants, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are now beginning to ripen. Late-picked gooseberries are sweeter than the ones picked in June.
3. Support heavily cropping branches of plums, apples and pears. However, overcropping will greatly reduce next year’s crop. To reduce the threat of the silver leaf fungus entering via broken branches of too heavy-cropping plum trees , drastically reduce the number of fruits now and space the fruits 6 inches apart, leaving the best sized fruits.
4. Space the apples six inches apart, after the middle of July.
5. Check weeds around trees and bushes. Tie in the newly-forming shoots of loganberries, blackberries and tayberries.
6. Tie in the replacement shoots of peaches. Check the fruit cage for holes in the netting. Birds are good at finding the holes and eating your cherries, redcurrants, blueberries and raspberries.
7. Check tree ties. Too many trees are severely damaged due to ingrowing ties.
8. Place the pheromone traps to reduce the damage caused by caterpillars of the codling moth and plum sawfly now.
9. All fruits need a steady supply of moisture. Check the soil. If too dry, apply water at 10 day intervals.
10. If apple and pear shoots are growing too strongly, remove the growing tips of the new growth. Carry out summer pruning where trees are becoming too dense and light is excluded.
Pitmaston Pine Apple. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Wright/flickr.com
This is a well flavoured smallish apple particularly suited to the wetter parts of the UK. It has a high level of resistance to scab which often disfigures many varieties in areas of high rainfall. It is a small russety apple in need of good pollination. It is fairly upright and forms useful spurs. It also ripens in September and will keep in cool conditions for a couple of months. Mice love it as well!
This season the long, wet and cold period we all experienced before the current hot spell, has had a major influence on this year’s crop prospects. Some trees have set reasonably well while other trees only show a light crop. Apart from the weather, it has shown again that trees which had a grass and weed free area, of one square metre around the trunks of the trees, have been able to set a much better crop on most varieties of fruit. Just think back to the sequence of events, weatherwise, to date: many of us experienced the driest winter on record. Then it started to rain and it didn’t want to stop. The wind stayed in the North and it was very cold at the same time. As a result during the blossoming of the trees, there was very little insect activity in the orchard. The bumble bees were the only ones around. Pollination was largely achieved by wind-blown pollen. It is this sort of situation where orchard design, variety choice and micro climate will have a major impact on crop prospects.
Summarising, pollination, variety choice and soil management and to a lesser extent the choice of rootstock, can still achieve a good crop of fruit, in spite of very unfavourable weather conditions during the blossom period. Therefore it pays to get the best advice applicable to your particular orchard site. Blossom periods are never alike. Some years the early varieties do best, other years the late flowering varieties excel. Therefore the best assurance of regular cropping of the orchard as a whole can be achieved by planting different types of fruit, as well as different and compatible varieties.
If only I had known that, I would have done so and so. This is how the saying goes. Well, there are three headlines which few people have any doubt about:
Cash will get shorter, food costs will continue to rise, as will the cost of petrol and diesel. Fortunately, for many people there are options to consider, to do something about the family’s cost of food. What’s more it is a pleasant, healthy and exciting undertaking; GROW YOUR OWN! Many of us will think that’s not for me, I don’t know anything about this.
In my experience Nature is very forgiving. As long as the will is there and an effort is made, the food in the form of fresh tasty produce will be appear from your garden, allotment or patio, sooner than you think. People in the UK are in a very fortunate position. A multitude of garden centres, friends and neighbours are only too pleased to help you to get started to make much better use of your garden, allotment or any piece of ground to start growing your own food. And at a low cost.
Sound second hand tools are available from car boot sales and charity shops. Second hand book shops can supply you with additional information on how to grow your fruit and vegetables. Just plant and sow at the right time of the year, go to your plot at least once a week and you will be amazed how nature provides to all who are trying.
To make a real success of it, think in the following basic terms. Make sure you feed your soil on an annual basis byadding organic matter. This can be farmyard manure or green manure from the council or your own compost from your compost bin. The other basic requirement is to be ready to supply moisture to your fruit and vegetables when periods of drought occur. For this you do not need lots and large volumes of water. Just make sure you only put the water where it is needed. Close to the plants and trees by using drip irrigation and in many instances backed up with a water preserving mulch such as pieces of old carpet, layers of newspaper or cardboard, wet hay or straw or such like.
As far as tree fruit is concerned, go for the smaller tree, if space is at a premium. If you want the trees to begin to crop the year after planting, go for the type of fruit you can grow anywhere in the UK. That is, apples on a semi dwarf rootstock. Make sure to ask for advice which varieties crop well and on a regular basis. If you have plenty of room then plant apples on rootstock MM106. Pears, plums and cherries all take longer to come into production. Only consider peaches and apricots if you have a south facing wall with a good additional water supply. As I said Nature is very forgiving and it will give you plenty of time during the growing season to steer things in the right direction. By that I mean keeping the weeds down in order for your fruit and vegetables to do well.
Now if you follow this approach, you will have the best and healthiest food. Far better and cheaper than your supermarket. What’s more, it is fun and relaxing to work with plants and trees. It will give you plenty of room to do things, the way you want to do them, at your own pace and in your own time.