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!