I normally think of ladybirds and lacewings in the the same catagory of 'helpful' insects who eat food crop pests such as aphids.
I had not realised that lacewing larvae also occasionally eat adult ladybirds until we witnessed the devouring of this ladybird by two lacewing larvae. We couldn't understand why the ladybird didn't just walk, or fly, away if it felt under threat. It seems like the lacewing's venom must have paralysed the ladybird before it realised what was happening.
The first lacewing was joined by another and between the two it took 3 hours to complete their meal; the entire beast except the wingcases. There are more photos in the gallery.
You may well have read that there has been a nationally poor harvest of apples this year; the supermarkets are even discussing reducing the strict rules regarding size,shape and appearance that govern the selection of apples they sell.
We had been pessimistic about our total crop after a week of frost in May, as well as the cool damp conditions that would not have favoured the pollinating insects. However, it seems like we will reach about half of what we harvested last year, more than predicted, and we are aware that Yorkshire Orchards and Ampleforth Orchard have both had severely reduced crops.
We have continued to record the weights harvested from each tree, and hope that over the years we will build up an interesting picture that reflects the success of different varieties and the affects of climatic conditions. However we know there are a number of variables and figures from two years (we only started weighing in 2011) do not tell the full story yet. For example last year we picked about 44kg of Bramley's seedling, this year we will have about 4 apples. But was that the frost, or does the tree have a biennial bearing habit? Is our harvest of 50% of last year comparatively good (weather affected) or should we have expected more as the trees are bigger, therefore able to produce more fruit? We will watch and learn!
In February we replaced two trees that had canker on their main truncks; both the Charles Ross and Lane's Prince Albert have been replanted. In general, the weather conditions have resulted in prolific growth of the grass and other vegetation, which has required more cutting than usual. We have taken advice from Garden Organic about organic fruit cultivation and leave the majority of the grass long as habitat for the predatory invertebrates that control the pests.
On Monday, the day after Apple Day, I picked almost all the remaining fruit. I was there so the portable toilet could be collected and thought it was a good opportuntiy to make sure the remaining apples were collected. Some of the Blenhiem Orange and Kidd's Orange Red may have prefered another week on the tree but it felt a good compromise. Now the fruit needs sorting and distributing. If there are any orchard volunteers out there who haven't yet asked for apples please let us know as soon as possible.
I will complete the harvesting log and attach it to the website here.
On Saturday we harvested 44kilos of Bramley's Seedling! and there is still a few more kilos on the tree. If I was to plant an orchard now I would not include Bramley as it is so widley available in the shops, however we were beginners when we conceived Bowling Park Community Orchard and it is silly to regret such a great harvest of wonderful looking fruit, really rosy in colour.
We also made the first picking of the Lord Lambourne - 7Kg., and several other types. Some were left to next visit as we couldn't carry anymore.
If we have surplus to requirements (requests from orchard volunteers and Apple Day cooks) I think we will make the remainder of the crop avialable at Apple Day - we just do not have appropriate storage to make good use of the crop throughout the winter.
The fruit harvest is now in full flow. Today we gathered approximately 40kilos, all weighed on our new spring balance but I have left the notes in the shed.Our new long handled picker was helpful, as was the harvesting bag (both bought with a donation made to us by the Coop - thanks Barbara), but we were also helped out by the wind. Quite a few apples had fallen but were unblemished.
Today's varieties were Ribson Pippin (hardly any left on the trees, earlier than normal), Arthur Turner (first time we have a decent crop of these), Peasgood Nonsuch, Grandpa Buxton, Katy (the last of these), James Grieve, Cockpit Improved (a small crop from a cordon), Irish Peach and a few Blenheim Orange (mostly wind blown).
Some of these will be used to cook for Apple Day, others will go straight to orchard volunteers.
We finished the summer pruning this weekend so now the espaliers and cordons are looking back in shape. We have decided that we will need to make some more radical changes to a few of them in the winter (if we were to do it now we would be cutting off to much fruit). The Brownlees Russet (near the central benches) has fluctuated between espalier and fan to try to make best use of the growth - however there has been significant damage were a branch split and we feel that the damaged area should be removed in winter. It still might not be clear whether this tree will be a fan or espalier, but not to worry, all we are trying to do is grow fruit in a resticted way...it doesn't have to be pretty! (though that had been the plan when we started out).
The Tydeman's Late Orange has folded over the wire and needs cutting back and we need to remove some of the top growth of the Court Pendu Plat and check over the others.
Some of the free growing trees were planted too close together so we have carried out a minimal amount of summer pruning in an attempt to restrict their growth, perhaps we should have been more radical? We will need to revisit the trees in winter and hope Martin will give us some guidance at Apple Day.
The trees are a really good example of how different varieties have different growing habits - Arthur Turner is going straight up (we need to get a long armed picker asap) whereas Blenheim Orange is stretching out horizontally.
Three branches have broken on Grandpa Buxton due to weight of fruit. They are not quite ripe yet but it is our first cooker to ripen adn we need to cut out the branches as we harvest.
Overall the harvest is looking promising with a good crop on the Bramley, Arthur Turner, Grandpa Buxton and Egremont Russet. It is disappointing that the Belle de Boskoop has no fruit this year but after the amazing crop last year it is not surprising, same with the Keswick Codlin. Not long before we will be in full harvesting and cooking mode. pip pip.
Whilst in Trench Meadows yesterday evening we saw many blue coloured froghoppers. There were two different shades - an tourquoise green and ones with darker blue wings and a turquoise head. Have a look at the links below - they identify both types as the green froghopper Cicadella viridis
The betony and greater burnet were in full flower a the first few of devil's bit scabious were just coming into flower. There are many hundreds which promise to make a great display in the next few weeks.
Later on Ian Butterfield lead a bat walk. We walked along the canal and river and identified, with the help of the bat detector, pipistrelle, noctule and daubentons.
We have just about completed the winter pruning at Bowling Park Community Orchard now. When we first had some tuition from Peter Blackburn-Maze he talked about remembering what was done to teach tree each year. I couldn't understand how - but realise with a sounder understanding of the pruning principles it is easier to recall what was done last year. However I thought a timely blog entry now may help us remember what we were thinking when we come to do the task next winter.
Pruning is a good time to have a real good look at the trees and it doesn't take long to notice the different growing tendancies of the trees. The Allington Pippin has many lateral branches creating a dense, spiky tree, not dis-similar to a blackthorn, where as Arther Turner is still intent on 'his' vigorous upright growth with barely a side branch to be seen (we have pruned to encourage branching). Last autumn a lot of our fruit was picked by others - not people voluneering to manage the orchard through the rest of the year - so in that sense it is a benefit to have fruit produced where you need a ladder to pick it.I still have a lot to learn about this pruning business but actually realised that I felt a little more confident at times this winter, however I am still making some less than text book decisions I am sure. We still have some young trees that require formative pruning, whilst others are older and we concentrated on removing crossing, damaged and diseased branches and reducing the inward growing laterals. I need to keep an eye on these as I don't know what the effect will be. I also want to explore further the idea of some summer pruning to restrict the growth of parts of the larger trees. The Kidd's Orange Red is suffering with a canker on the main trunk where it branches. There is some strong growth from below the infection so we decided to remove one of the branches at the infected point and used a knife to clean up as best we could. We wonder if we need to remove the other branch emerging at this point too - but there is still healthy bark serving it and we do not know how much infection the tree will cope with as it grows older (it was planted 7 years ago). So we will watch and learn. Peasgood Nonsuch has some canker as well - I was not brave enough to attempt a bridge graft last year...maybe sometime. In the meantime we are trying to encouage more growth towards Anne and Bob's plot as it is leaning significantly towards our path. We continued with the plan Martin instigated last year and removed another small branch from the heavy side. One of the cuts from last year as produced 3 strong shoots - we guess these shouldn't be left but as we weren't quite sure what to do we left them for now.Egremont Russet, Blenheim Orange and Discovery didn't have much done, whilst the Ribston Pippin had some lower shoots removed - the one's that drag in the grass. Fortune has suffered from shading on the south side so I removed some of the hedge and will do more when we are at the orchard with the bees volunteers. Belle de Boskoop is growing very well - but we wondered if one of the branches is becoming a bit too dominate as a central leader and will need checking - something to think about in the future. Winston had a significant break which we were reluctant to remove completlely due to the effect this would have on the tree as a whole - so removed what we could and cleaned it up. Lord Lambourne also had a broken branch. This had been taped but I hadn't realised - just thought it was left over from a sign at Apple Day so removed the tape. We cut the loose branced and left a small, clean wound that we hope will heal. That's all I can really remember now - expect we really must make a descision about the keswick Codling Arch or not arch so we can prune accordingly. A couple of branches of the larger tree have been broken - i think because they are in the way of the path so have been damaged accidently. All in all the orchard is looking good. It will be seven yars since our opening ceremony on March 26th (I think) - isn't there a saying 'show me the boy of 7 and will show you the man'. I think thatfeels very fitting - the orchrad feels like it isa real place now, well established and we can look to the future. pip pip.