Thursday 2 May, 2013
In early spring 2012 we planted about 60 apple trees as the first part of our orchard. The orchard is also home to our laying flocks of hens - about 80 hens in all, split into two flocks - the idea being that we get double use from the land, the hens fertilise the ground, take care of a lot of pests, and will eventually benefit from the cover the trees provide.
One of the challenges we faced was how to protect the young trees as they grow. To give young apple trees the best possible start you need to keep an area of at least 1m in diameter clear of grass - otherwise the grass competes with the shallow roots for nutrition, and if left unchecked will stunt and in extreme cases kill the tree.
Friday 30 March, 2012
We had set ourselves a target of planting all the fruit trees by the end of March. This morning, all that remained of the 70 trees we bought were four pear, to be trained up the west wall of the West Range and four "spare" apple trees.
John had cut wooden battens to take the wires a few days ago and I had applied wood preservative; John put them up yesterday and this morning, Dan planted the four trees. Tomorrow, I'm going to prune them and tie them in. We're going to espalier train them rather than fan train.
Wednesday 14 December, 2011
Just had a call to say our apple, pear, gage and plum trees are ready for dispatch. I feel a backache coming on
Tuesday 22 November, 2011
Dan's finally ordered the first batch of apple trees for the orchard - 69 of them. They are a mixture of dessert and cookers, about 12 varieties, I think. They are all early fruiters, since they will be at the far end of the orchard. The next block will be mid season and the third block, late fruiters.
Rabbit guards and tree ties also ordered - stakes will come from Coventry Fencing, since they are the best price we've found.
All we need to know now is when they are coming so that we can set aside time to plant them.
Monday 31 October, 2011
Dan and John started the orchard fencing "proper" yesterday. They put in half the posts and put up a quarter of the deer netting. Dan will do an article on this, with photos, video and a detailed account of the work. It's a big project for us and a significant and long-term investment. Although lots of pre-planning had been done, there was quite a lot of modifications being made yesterday. I just kept out of the way .
Saturday 22 October, 2011
Finally, Dan and John are starting the fencing in the orchard. We've had a few false starts and lots of planning but I think we're really underway. After a minor "whoops" this morning when we thought the timber company had delivered the wrong posts, they're off.
We've set aside a one acre paddock and plan to plant 100 apple trees. The acre will be divided into thirds and each third will accommodate a flock of 40 hens. Each hen pen will be divided into three smaller pens and the hens will spend 20 weeks on each in rotation, thus each pen gets a 40 week break during which it will be limed and reseeded, and possibly grazed by sheep depending on the season and whether we can adequately protect the trees.
Tuesday 5 July, 2011
Dan and I met with local orchard expert, Andrew Lear, today www.appletreeman.co.uk to discuss our plans for an orchard. We've already done a fair bit of research and have drafted a business plan. What we needed from Andrew was confirmation than an orchard would grow here, and advice on practical issues like choice of varieties, planting plan and so on.
Andrew, thankfully, is confident that fruit trees will do well here, although we have to choose the correct varieties. The main orchard will be apple trees, but he did suggest that we put in some plum at the edge of the vegetable garden, under which the table chickens can roam. Andrew's eyes also lit up when he saw the back wall of the West range, red sandstone, sheltered, facing west - and he has suggested that we train pear trees on that wall. It was dead space anyway, so that seems a sound idea to us.
Saturday 18 June, 2011
Since it was raining today and Dan's tweaked his back, it seemed a good use of time to sit down and look again at the plans for the orchard. We do try to spend time on planning, so that we make best use of the resources that we have available. We also like to do our research and take expert advice. All this does not, of course, guarantee that everything goes without a hitch but we do try to make our mistakes on paper.
Sunday 30 January, 2011
Dan was booked to go on a "planning and planting an orchard" course on Saturday, but due to the minidigger opportunity, I went instead.
It was organised by Forth Valley Orchard Project and delivered by Andrew Lear www.appletreeman.co.uk. I've met Andrew before and he's not only very knowledgeable and a good presenter, but a very nice man. The planning and planting didn't worry me too much, but the pruning did. But no longer - I now feel quite confident to prune newly planted trees.