Plot #79 Orchard Update, Winter and Spring 2020

Plot #79 orchard, spring 2019

Hello there. I’m Darren, one of the plot-holders on plot #59 and – along with Mike and Christine – one of the folks who are looking after the orchard on plot #79 (opposite #59, about half-way down towards the bottom car-park).

I’m going to be posting updates on the progress of the orchard plot two or three times a year from now on, and so to kick off, here’s the current state-of-play for anyone who’s interested.

NOT actually a community orchard – not yet…

Firstly, I’d like to clarify a bit of mis-communication that seems to have crept in. The longer-term intention for plot #79 is to develop a community orchard for all the members of our society to enjoy, and this is something we hope to confirm within a couple of years, with juicing, preserving and maybe even cider making in the pipeline for everyone who’s interested.

In the meantime, whilst the trees in the orchard are still young (and particularly vulnerable to damage) and not yet producing masses of fruit every year, we do ask that you check with one of the people who are doing the work of looking after the plot before you harvest any fruit.

It’s especially important that you know how to pick fruit safely. This may sound a bit daft, but actually there are good and bad ways to pick, and if you pick badly there’s a strong chance you’ll end up removing fruit before they’re ready, or remove next year’s fruit buds along with this year’s apples or pears, which would be a real set-back for the trees and the growers.

So, yes, please do ask. For now, we’ll most likely say “sorry, not yet” and if so, please do respect the work we’re putting in and let us enjoy the fruits of our labours. We really appreciate your patience and understanding, thank you.

Progress Report

The trees have all been in the ground for two years now and for the most part they’re doing quite well, despite the challenges caused by the windy conditions on our site. One or two of them might be suffering from disease problems and may have to be replaced if they don;t show signs of recovery this year. And the plums in particular were hard hit by a plague of aphids in early summer last year, but they seem to have recovered from the defoliation and neem oil spray treatment that we gave them. Fingers crossed we don’t have so many pests to deal with this year.

Harvest-wise, in 2019 we had a small crop from a few of the apple trees, but nothing much from the pears, quince, medlar or any of the plums. The trees should be starting to reach maturity any season now though, so hopefully there will be more fruit to come in 2020.

This Year’s Work

I’ll be pruning the trees that need pruning sometime in the next few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be able to schedule in a pruning talk and workshop for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the art of pruning. I’m a pro gardener at Ordsall Hall in Salford and have been working with fruit trees for a few years now, so I’m reasonably confident that I know my stuff – last year’s talk was well-received, and if you heard that one but would like a refresher, you’re welcome to come along again. Sunday 9th Feb looks likely, but I’ll put a notice up on the notice-board and ask John to send round an email once I know what’s what.

After that it will be a case of keeping an eye out for pest and disease problems, mulching and then weeding the tree circles around the base of each tree, and then keeping on top of the inevitable horsetail. Hopefully, with good weather and a bit of judicious watering and feeding as required, the trees will perform well this year and we’ll see in a good crop come autumn.

Hopefully we’ll also fund time to lift and re-lay the flag path along the long edge of the plot, which we know is horribly uneven. We haven’t forgotten, we just need to find the time to tackle it.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions at all, just come and find me when I’m down on my plot. I’m happy to talk about fruit trees, pruning or anything orchard-ish, any time.