Tuesday 9 October 2018

Great year for quince at the orchard.

We picked the quince fruit yesterday at the orchard.  They are still as hard as rocks, but the pips are mature when you cut the fruit open and they pick easily from the tree. This is the first year we've had a good crop on this young tree, which we planted 5 years ago. The tree name is Serbian Gold which is one that can survive north of the Watford Gap.

They need to be cooked to soften the fruit, and they have a wonderful perfume which scents out any room where you store them. We're making quince jelly this year, ready for Christmas. It's excellent on toast or as an accompaniment to meats and cheese.

Quince from our Serbian Gold

We found one of the fruit on the ground beneath the tree with teeth marks in the surface. Someone must have had quite a surprise when they tried to bite into it thinking it was an apple.  

Within a few days we've converted half the crop in to delicious quince jelly (no, there's no gelatine in there, just natural pectin). It is beautifully clear and fragrant with a delicate pink colour. I guess some people might get a jar of this in their Xmas hamper. 

Quince jelly made from Turnditch Orchard fruit.

Sunday 26 August 2018

First Harvest in the Orchard

Yesterday we took our first harvest from the orchard. We picked a basket full of Cobra apples. These apples have a wonderful sweet flavour and the fruit is nice and crisp. The young tree was laden with fruit this year. We've left a similar amount of fruit on the tree for later picking.

The quince tree is looking good with quite a few fruit on its branches, though they are rock hard at present. At present they are nowhere near maturity. We also have a good crop of Conference pears which should be ready in a couple of weeks. There's a good crop on the Egremont Russet apple tree, but they won't be ready until 6 weeks has passed.

It was a nice reward for all the hard work over the past four or five years. Last winter we applied some general purpose fertiliser and also some magnesium supplement to the base of the fruit trees. This seems to have paid dividends in the vigour of the trees this year. We've also watered the tree about twice a week this summer. It's been a long dry summer. 

This suggests the soil in the field needs some additional feeding over winter to restore the many previous years of neglect by previous owners of the field.

On the river bank, the Bullace tree is laden with purple fruit so we'll be picking those towards the end of September. This will delight my gin swilling friends/family down in London.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

Summer Hedge trimming 2018 Turnditch Orchard

I noticed our street side hedge was encroaching on to the roadside  footpath. It was time for a trim.
Last year I bought a Makita EN4950H petrol power pole hedge cutter. It has a relatively quiet 4-stroke petrol engine and is not too heavy.   It only took about 30 minutes to trim the 150 metres of hedge up to a height of  two metres, and about as long to sweep up all the cuttings.

Great summer weather and the water tank.

Wow, we are having some glorious 2018 summer weather here in Derbyshire! It is sunny and 28 C most days. The downside for the orchard is there has been little rain and the soil is beginning to dry out. For the first time since the original planting, the fruit trees have a good crop of young fruit this year. To prevent the trees from suffering from drought stress we are watering them every 3 days. Hopefully this will prevent fruit drop from stress. Depending on the size of the tree we are delivering between 40 - 60 litres to the roots of each tree at each watering.  We are going to increase the amount of carpet laid around the roots to help water retention and to keep the weeds away.

The orchard does not have a mains water supply, but we do have a river at one end. The process has been to chuck in a bucket attached to a rope and haul out a bucket of water and tip it into a builder's trough. The volunteers doing the watering take water from the trough.

As the riparian land owner we are permitted to take up to 20 cubic metres (20,000 litres) of water every day without a licence, but we are only using a tiny fraction of that amount. Hauling water this way is hard work, so we've invested in a portable petrol powered water pump

This can pump up to 900 litres a minute, so we soon learned to run it at only the lowest throttle setting once the water flow has been established in the pipes. It now delivers water to a builder's trough in the centre of the orchard where we can distribute it to the trees.

We've also installed a 1000 litre water tank (IBC) which we'll keep topped up from the river and use that to water the trees when the pump is not available. 

We keep the pump off-site for obvious reasons. The water in the tank is chemically treated to prevent algae growth.

We are also keeping the section of new hedge watered to keep that growing. We have lost a few of the saplings but over all it is growing well. In a few years we can have it turned into a proper hedge to replace the wire stock fence.

There was a minor irritation on the orchard today. Yesterday when I visited, the cherry tree was laden with fruit, but it was not quite ready for picking. Today, I found almost all of the fruit has gone. I suspect we were raided by pigeons! 

Saturday 9 June 2018

Injury Time Over

Finally, I've been able to get back to work on the orchard. An ankle injury last winter, not on the orchard, prevented me from doing heavy work on rough ground for the past few months. Given the history of previous owners allowing dumping on the land, the ground is quite bumpy and it is easy to twist an ankle while mowing the grass. 

So this week, I've been able to spend a couple of days mowing the waist high grass without causing any repeat pain to my ankle. The trees are doing well this year, particularly the cherry tree which is laden with green fruits. Let's hope it doesn't get raided by pigeons/blackbirds.