Optimum Conditions for Growing Apples
We are often asked what it takes to produce a good crop of fruit and we often ask ourselves the very same question. Having come up with various responses over the years, we have now concluded that the answer largely divides naturally in half. The first half is to do with conditions that can be controlled ie selection of site, choice of rootstock, interstem and variety, care with planting, staking and protection and then skill in husbandry, pruning, mowing, fertilisation and picking. The second half concerns other variables connected with cropping, climate, flowering and set, conditions that are not easy to control. For a decent crop one hopes for good fruit bud to be set the previous summer, unstressed trees, hard winter ensuring dormancy and spring vigour, strong flowers, good pollination and enough fruit set for a medium crop.
Should you wish to choose conditions for a poor crop then 2011/2012 will turn out to be a text book example. We have experienced the following:
- Heavy 2011 crop but drought conditions producing small low juice fruit.
- Trees stressed as struggling for moisture
- Poor conditions to produce fruit bud
- Mild winter so minimum dormancy
- Little vigour in spring
- Weak flowering
- Sunny March
- Frosts in April and May
- Exceptionally wet May with poor pollination
- Damp and mild promoting growth of fungi
- Heavy grass growth providing competition for nutrients
- Thick leaf canopy cutting down light to existing fruit and making spray droplet penetration difficult
Cue lots of depressed fruit growers all consoling themselves with a pint of Tumpy at the Three Counties Show.
More Show Success
You may remember that last year the Discovery apple juice won Best in Show at the Bath and West and was awarded the prestigious Vigo Trophy. Well this year the trophy was retained as the Spartan juice was judged Champion Apple Juice. Recognition indeed.
We also had some excellent results at the Three Counties in the middle of the month. Annie and I were there on the Friday, when the awards were made and I looked after the stand while she went off to the prize giving. She returned with a third for the Carpenters Croft Sparkling Cider, a first for Priggles Perry and the award for the Best Herefordshire Cider and Perry Producer. We had to rearrange the display to show off all our certificates and rosettes, plus a rather fine three handled tankard which we are still trying to figure out how to use.
Herefordshire Walking Festival
The Herefordshire Walking Festival is now well established and gives an excellent opportunity to explore the lesser known corners of the county. We usually lead a walk but also try and attend a couple of others, especially if they are in our neck of the woods. The Dragon Orchard walk this year was "The Wonder of Pigs and Apples" and the idea was to visit The Noggin, where Sarah and Will Grant keep British Lop pigs. After a tour of the current herd of some 130 pigs and piglets happily residing in varying amounts of mud, we enjoyed a tasty hog roast accompanied with cider and juice. On our return journey we explored the delights of The Wonder landslide and toasted said event with some previously secreted Chapel Pleck, before returning home for tastings, cake and tea. We were delighted that the walk was fully booked, the weather was dry and nobody slipped over on the still soggy ground.
The walks that we attended around Fownhope took us along paths less travelled. We heard about the life of Tom Spring, the undefeated bare knuckle champion fighter of All England in the 1820s. He lived in the village and his fighting prowess brought him Royal Patronage, fame and fortune.
Our second walk was called 'Tasty Tarrington' where we visited Swan House, an award winning bed and breakfast, and had Waller's breakfast sausages served with apple juice made by Once Upon A Tree. We also met Richard Bradstock and his herd of pedigree Herefords at Freetown Farm. Their prize bull will meet The Queen when she visits Hereford on July 11th. The walk then crossed the River Frome (known to locals as the Frummy) which when the leaders had reviewed the walk two days earlier had been running bank high due to all the rain. We then reached Yarkhill Church and by chance met a man who was lime washing the interior of the tower. He told us with great enthusiasm that 8 new bells were to be hung soon to commemorate the life of Fabian Steadman. Fabian who was born in 1640 was the son of the Yarkhill vicar and one of the founding fathers of English Change Ringing and many of the peals that are still rung today were devised by him. We were invited to the top of the tower, past the old bells and out onto the roof which gave stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The church sits close to the remains of a medieval, fortified manor house and as the river Frome was in flood the moat of this former house was visible. A very fortuitous and timely encounter.