Sunday 11 December 2016

Some new apple trees in Turnditch Orchard

We've just planted three new apple trees in the orchard. They are bare root trees. We've put them in the gaps between the existing fruit trees.

D'Arcy Spice -  This is a cooking apple.

Genet Moyle - A cider apple tree, it can also be used for cooking.

Tom Putt - A cider apple tree.

We have been a bit disappointed with the progress of the trees we planted a couple of years ago. The problem is probably the soil in the orchard. In places there's heavy clay soil on top of the floodplain alluvial soil. This arises from dumping on the site by previous owners, possibly with the waste from building sites.  So this time we've taken some extra care with these new trees. 

We bought some bags of top soil from an agricultural supplier. We added approximately 30% of well rotted farm manure and some bone meal into the top soil and then mixed it thoroughly. We dug holes large enough to comfortably accommodate the root of the new trees. In the base of the holes we added a 4 cm layer of sand and aggregate to improve drainage. We covered  the sand with a couple of cms of the soil manure mix. Next, we poured in water to the depth of approximately 5 cms deep. and let it soak away. On the side of the prevailing wind we drove in a treated 7cm tree stake to the base of the hole ready to help support the new trees.

Meanwhile we'd been pre-soaking the apple tree roots for about 30 minutes in a bucket of water. We lifted the tree into the hole and then coated the roots with Mycorrhizal fungi treatment powder. Next we lifted the tree into place in the hole, then we carefully added the soil mix around the roots to plant the tree. Once we had filled the hole we gently pressed down on the soil to firm it in place before added some water to soak the soil around the roots. A tree stake tie was used to secure the tree from wind damage, then finally we added a plastic spiral tree guard to prevent damage by rodents such as rabbits, rats, squirrels. We checked the other trees in the orchard to ensure they all had spiral plastic tree guards.

The Mycorrhizal fungi forms a symbiotic bond with the tree roots and helps the tree to absorb nutrients from the soil. The bone meal also provides nutrients which encourage root growth.

Sunday 4 December 2016

River bank erosion at the Turnditch Orchard

We had a nice bright sunny, but cold, Winter's day in the orchard today. The focus of the work was using willow cuttings to undertake some spiling to reinforce the river bank. The willow cuttings will take root and quickly grow next and subsequent years. The root system will help to stabilize  the soft earth banks of the river as the willow grows larger. I was inspecting the river bank while standing in the river today. I could see that the recent river spate caused by the recent heavy rain is undercutting the river bank. In places there were some small collapses of soil into the river. If you look at the junction of the river and the bank in the picture below it is possible to see the dark under-cut area.

During the year part of the bank was damaged by overweight farm machinery trying to maneuver too close to the edge of the river bank. This caused a deep wheel gouge next to the river fence, damaged the fence, and also pushed some of the bank soil towards the river.  We've planted some willow spiling today which will strengthen the top of the river bank once it has grown for a few years. The deep roots will help bind the soil.

We cut the willow wands from the willow grove we'd planted a couple of years ago in the orchard. We're using a hybrid of Salix Verminalis willow which grow 2 - 3 metres in a year. Once the willow is established we'll cut and layer the branches to form a low hedge at the top of the river bank.
Some of the harvested willow wands
We pollarded the willow at roughly waist height to encourage new growth next year. It also allow the bark to thicken around the base while the tender new branches grow out of the reach of marauding sheep.

While inspecting the trees in the orchard, after completing the spiling, I found a rodent, probably a grey squirrel, had damaged the bark at the base of the Egremont Russet Apple tree. It is so annoying because the damage will stay with the tree for the rest of its life. It just goes to show the tree protectors we'd installed on most of the other trees help prevent such damage. We've already ordered some replacements to cover the trunks of all of the young trees.