Mid-Year Update, 2022 Edition

So, here we are. Just over the mid-point of the year1I know, I know, where’s it gone, eh? and I thought this might be a good moment for a quick update on how my various orchard-related projects are going. Mainly to summarise for my own benefit, but if you’re vaguely interested in anything I’ve been up to recently, then please do read on.

Generally speaking, I think things are going okay. I started a new, full-time (as opposed to my old, part-time) job around three months ago. I’m working at RHS Garden Bridgewater, which is absolutely amazing, but between the time and energy demands of that, plus our gardens at home, the allotment and all the domestic stuff that still needs doing, I’m rather short on free time for research and writing. Hence no Norfolk Biffin article part two yet, and only intermittent updates here on the site. That should hopefully change in the late autumn and winter months, when there’s less to do outside and more time for reading and typing.

The Plot #79 Orchard is in… decent shape. The weeds are shocking and desperately need blitzing (again) but the trees are as healthy as they have been for the past few years. All of the apples and pears were fruit-thinned last weekend, so I’m looking forward to a decent harvest. The three stepover trees on our main plot are all setting good-looking fruit after their winter pruning and, after some more judicious thinning, there’s every sign that they’ll also be cropping well this year.

My attempt at a grafted family tree seems to be meeting with mixed success. One of the six grafts is leafing up nicely, two have definitely failed and the other three seemed to be doing well, but a recent spell of hot, dry weather might have stopped the other three in their tracks. If too many of them fail I’ll just trim the rootstock down again and have another go next year.

The hot weather also put a stop to my seedling apple trees experiment. I had potted them all up into individual pots, but unlucky timing meant they then got drier that was good for them and the majority keeled over. One might have survived, but the rest… gone. So it goes. I can always try this one again as well.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned the twenty trees that I grafted earlier in the year? I collected scions of ten russet-type varieties and grafted two of each of them onto M27 rootstock. The stock was quite thick, so I ended up attempting all sorts of off-set whip-and-tongue and/or side-grafting methods to get the scions to match well, and results seem to have been a bit mixed. Fourteen of the twenty seem to have taken well and of the remaining six, two or three may be late starters so there’s still hope. That’s a slightly lower success rate than I’m used to, but there should be enough new trees for me to set up a new, twelve tree cordon fence on our main allotment plot, and have two or three more to re-boot my air-pot mini orchard. I’ll see what I’ve got next spring and make decisions on that basis.

Orchard visit-wise, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Welsh Mountain Cider’s Prospect Orchard the other week and, although I haven’t written anything up yet, I was impressed by the wealth of mature fruit trees at the National Trust’s Erdigg estate and it was nice to re-visit the trees at National Trust Dudmaston as well. One or two more orchard visits are on the cards for the near future, and feature posts may well follow, time allowing. It would be nice to get to see some more orchards in the autumn this year, but I’ll have to wait and see how things go with work.

That’s it, I’m done for now. If you have any questions or comments about any of the above, please do post them below.


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    I know, I know, where’s it gone, eh?


  1. Thanks Darren for this article. You aren’t alone with the ups and downs of propagation. I ended the spring with a healthy crop of new pears, apples and a few plums but now the intensity of heat has “boiled” many of them in the pots. I may have been a bit random at my watering but still think that the lack of rain has done the worst damage. I try to be economic with water and water just around the trunk, however, leaves also benefit from a dampening and my method does not touch the leaves.

    1. Hi Bob – Yes, the record UK temperatures earlier this week won’t have helped at all. I haven’t been to check on the trees yet (currently Saturday, hoping to get down there tomorrow) but I’m expecting a lot of fruit-drop and leaf loss as well. It has rained for a few hours since then though, so hopefully that will have helped.

      One thing to bear in mind when irrigating is that a fruit tree’s root system is likely to be quite widely dispersed – apples in particular tend to send their roots outwards at shallow angles rather than down deep into the soil – so watering around the base of the tree might mean the water isn’t quite reaching the fine roots that need it. But then it can be tricky to water a wide area around a tree to a decent level of infiltration without using a heck of a lot of water…

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