Choosing an apple tree for your plot or pot

It’s officially Autumn, and that’s my favourite time of year – apples to eat, and trees to plant. Now is the perfect time to plan an orchard of your very own, but what to look for?
Down in your local garden centre, any time about now (in the UK) you will find lots of fruit trees. These days most of them will be ‘container grown’ – that just means they’ve spent their whole life in a pot. If you order online from a nursery, you may receive ‘bare root’ trees, which means that they have been grown out in a field, pulled up, the roots wrapped up to stop them drying, and put in the post to you. If you’re planning an orchard I’d go for bare root, and if you are looking for a couple of trees for your garden, container grown trees are nice and strong, and you don’t have to put them in the ground the minute you get them.

With apple trees, as with so much in life, it’s all a question of size. I can rattle off various M numbers for rootstocks, and you can look these up (our friends at Orange Pippin have a really useful chart here) But in most garden centres, and buying online, what you have to look for is the word ‘dwarfing’. If a tree is grown on a dwarfing rootstock, it means it will not grow very tall. The rootstock gives the height and vigour of the tree. This means that you can grow a tree in a pot, on a sheltered balcony or patio or wherever you like, as long as the pollinating insects can find it. If you want a tree for your garden, choose one on a ‘semi dwarfing’ rootstock, that will give you a nice sized tree where you can reach all the apples.

There are now self fertile trees (Scrumptious is a very good variety), which means you will only need the one, but most trees need another one reasonably close by so that they can cross pollinate.

Armed with all this knowledge, what should you look for when you choose a tree? Look for one that is nice and upright, and where the union between the tree and the rootstock is clean and even. Some of the leaves may be brown or dried, that’s fine. As long as you can see healthy leaves too, and no injuries, the main concern is the shape. Walk past any that have, for example, one really long branch leaning one way, and one short one the other way. Although these things can be corrected with pruning, start off with the best shape you can get.

Bare root trees will usually be only a year old, and look like one upright twig. Don’t let the rootball dry out before you plant them – get them in the ground as quickly as you can (have the holes dug before the van turns up!) and be prepared for a couple of failures.

Happy planting! And if you have any questions visit our Facebook page and post your questions and photos there. We’d love to see your new trees.

Where to buy trees:
www.blackmoor.co.uk
www.orangepippintrees.co.uk
www.pomonafruits.co.uk
www.walcotnursery.co.uk
www.deaconsnurseryfruits.co.uk
www.applesandorchards.org.uk
www.buckingham-nurseries.co.uk

Cambridge Community Collection – update

The Cambridge Community Collection, an ambitious art project that will involve planting one of every type of apple tree, is going well. But the trees that have already been planted, close to the orchard, need our help to get them through this hot weather. So, we have organised a joint maintenance session for all interested volunteers.
Meet at the orchard at 11am on Sunday 12 July. We intend to spend an hour looking after the trees there, before moving on to those we planted along the Guided Busway. Please wear outdoor, working shoes and bring a waterproof and/or a bottle of water to allow for all types of summer weather.

This photo shows all the lovely new trees that have been grafted at Brogdale, all growing happily away in the best of conditions.
DSC05102Brogdale

Midsummer picnic – do we have secret helpers??

Down in the orchard
Hidden from view
The fairies created
Some glittery clues

Under the hedgerow?
Behind a tree?
Fairies hide treasure
So carefully.

We’ve written some hints
To show you the way
To find out the pebbles
Join in, this Sunday!

And if you are careful
And use all your mind
At the end of the puzzling
Some treasure you’ll findfairy pebblesThe Midsummer Picnic is happening this Sunday, 21st June, from 12:30 – 3pm. There is story telling and an art activity as well as a treasure hunt around the orchard. Look for full details on our Events page.

Midsummer Picnic 21 June 2015

As I write this, the rain is lashing down outside, and the temperature is ‘well below the seasonal average’, which is Met Office speak for ‘too flipping cold.’ However, we are nothing if not optimistic in the Orchard, and so I am looking forward to our Midsummer Picnic. We are holding this on Sunday 21 June, from 12:30pm. There will be story telling, a treasure hunt and art activities (suitable for young children.)
Bring your own picnic and a rug, and come along to enjoy the atmosphere of the orchard on Midsummer’s Day. This event is just £2 per person or £5 for a family group.
We will be on hand to give advice on the care of fruit trees in your own garden, and on all related topics.
I am looking forward to this event so much – bring on Summer!

 

Harston Community Orchard Spring Walk

Today I cycled across from one village to the next (negotiating that Cambridgeshire rarity, a slight incline) to see Harson Community Orchard. The weather was perfect, the people were happy and the cakes were all home made.  There were demonstrations of wood craft from the Green Wood group and Cambridge Wood Works, and the Wildlife Trust was there as well. What more could I want from an orchard open day? Well, I got an excellent tour from one of the volunteers, Andy. He really knew his stuff and his enthusiasm for the orchard shone through. The orchard is a remnant of one that was planted about 60 years ago, and it’s sited next to the Recreation Ground. New trees have been planted, and the whole site is being managed to support wildlife and biodiversity. As you can see from my photos, the older trees have real personalities. I am going to make another expedition there when the blossom is fully open in a couple of weeks. I’ll have to bring my own cake…
harston 1 harston 2 harston 3 harston 4 harston 5 harston 6 harston 7 harston 8

Learn how to graft your own trees

Sunday 19 April 2015 11am – 1pm
Come to the orchard and learn how to graft fruit trees. We will provide all the tools you need. Rootstocks are available to buy at £5 each (cash – exact money only –  or cheque). You can take home your newly grafted tree, ready to plant. We have a range of varieties to graft onto the rootstocks, or you can bring a scion (a thin straight new twig) from an existing apple tree that you have, so that you can increase your trees.

(Please bring/wear clothes suitable for changeable spring conditions and outdoor work)

grafting tools

Grafting pears onto quince

Visiting other orchards is always a delight, even in the winter weather. This time, I was practicing my grafting skills by helping to take grafts from some veteran pear trees. If you have an old tree, grafting is a good way of renewing it, and it isn’t something you need to be scared of. As long as you take your time and take some care, it’s very simple.

You need some very basic kit – we used a good sharp pruning knife each, some grafting tape and/or wax for holding the graft together, and of course some string and labels so that you can remember which twig was which! Have an old chopping board or another smooth heavy surface to work on.
grafting tools

Because we were grafting pears we used quince for the rootstock, and just made a simple slip graft to attach the pear scion. Then it was sealed up tight with tape, making sure there was wood to wood connection all the way along the graft.

pear scions IMG_1029

Finally we potted them up, labelled them – and went back into the warm for a cup of coffee and an apple slice!

potted up

Maintenance Mornings

How are your New Year Resolutions holding up? If you made any that involved getting fitter, getting out into the fresh air more often, helping the community, learning new skills, enjoying nature… You can fulfil them all at the orchard, just by coming along to one of our Monthly Maintenance Mornings. These are run from 11am – 1pm, on the 2nd Sunday and the 4th Thursday of the month from 10am  12 noon. (Yes, that’s a bit complicated  – dates are listed below)
We provide all the tools you’ll need, and instruction, tuition and help. You just need to wear appropriate outdoor clothing. You don’t have to stay for the whole session, and children are welcome to come along too, as long as you can supervise them and keep them away from sharp tools. There’s a variety of tasks to get stuck into throughout the year, not just with the trees but with all the habitats the orchard supports. In the summer you can even learn about bees.

So come along to a session or two and make supporting the orchard the one resolution that will last all through the year.

Maintenance Morning Dates 2015 (Sundays 11am – 1pm, Thursdays 10 – 12)
Sunday 8 February
Thursday 26 February
Sunday 8 March
Thursday 26 March
Sunday 12 April
Thursday 23 April
Sunday 10 May
Thursday 28 May
Sunday 14 June
Thursday 25 June
Sunday 12 July
Thursday 23 July
Sunday 9 August
Thursday 27 August
Sunday 13 September
Thursday 24 September
Sunday 11 October
Thursday 22 October
Sunday 8 November
Thursday 26 November
Sunday 13 December
Thursday 24 December (this one probably won’t happen!)

As ever, subscribe to our emails and check the Facebook page for reminders of these dates and further information as to what we will be doing.

Gardeners all kitted out

Gardeners all kitted out. This is from Quex Park in Kent, in 1883. Basic tools haven’t changed much.

More wassail photos

Jaqueline Douglas has sent us some more photos from this year’s Wassail – thanks very much Jacqueline they are great. Hopefully with all this attention the trees will produce a bumper crop, and at the very least we must have chased away any lurking ‘evil spirits’, harmful bugs and any other nasties from the orchard.
wassail 2015 8 JD wassail 2015 9 JD wassail 2015 10 JD wassail 2015 11 JD wassail 2015 12 JD wassail 2015 13 JD wassail 2015 14 JDAnd here are some more – from Axel. Thanks so much for sharing these lovely images. wassail 2015 17 A wassail 2015 18 A wassail 2015 19 A wassail 2015 20 A wassail 2015 21 A khZ5OKzX-6rmrrxDDOQSgFHBHZfkmYpJUVHtbiQogxTCwtItWkLQ6DUcsjDA6qHouPQePA=w893-h486 wassail 2015 22 A wassail 2015 23 A