It’s always a bit of guess when the blossom will be at its best. Last year there was no blossom on 6th May after a cold April. It is snowing as write this on 21st March…but you never know. There will be spring tasks to complete, plus time to enjoy our achievements. There is an open invite for people to come along between 11am and 3pm, so please spread the word.
A reluctant start today, the coldest Friday morning we have had for a while, even feeling colder than in the snow at Lower Fields. The minibus took quite a bit of coaxing before we could set off.
The trees were covered in frost when we arrived, not ideal for pruning, so we started the morning on more active jobs; turning the compost heaps, digging out misplaced raspberry canes from next to the Egremont Russet and continuing with laying the hedge near the seating area.
The hedgelaying team (probably the smallest number you can class as a team) did an excellent job and completed the entire stretch. We will need to take some remedial action on the pallet fence behind which has nails sticking though, but apart from that the work has made a massive improvement - creating habitat whilst keeping the hedge below the 5ft limit. Well done.
We couldn’t really leave without doing any pruning – we had a new tool to try out. We have bought a lopper attachment for the pole, so we can reach into the branches and to higher branches. The rope pulley system reduces the effort needed and the ability to change the angle of the cutting head was very satisfying!
In addition we took compost to the orchard and some twigs and timber as kindling for our wassail for on Sunday. And people took some soft apples away for garden blackbirds; ideal to attract them for RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.
The two main tasks today were hedgelaying of the perimeter hedge near the shelter and veg beds. We made a good start clearing the branches from the front of the hedge, making the stakes and laying some of the pleachers. Once finished the hedge will create a good wildlife habitat whilst remaining within the height restrictions for the allotment.
The other team made a start on pruning the apple trees. We also make a start by removing dead, diseased and damaged branches, but we also made an effort to remove lower branches from the trees, the ones that once loaded with fruit sit on the floor, and also prevent easy picking from other branches. Several trees are too congested throughout, and a selection of branches were cut out to allow easier picking and more air and light circulation.
We were pleased to welcome some of the YMCA NCS group who helped with the pruning and making stakes, and heating the Kelly kettle.
We will continue with these tasks on 27th January 2017.
We got wet today, but we preserved to make sure the Orchard was ready for Apple Day on Sunday. We continued with the autumn task of cutting the long grass and weeding under the trees. We did a little bit of harvesting, but left some to do with visitors on Sunday. The path had a bit more weeding and bark spread on it. Paulina did a great job of marking the two young trees with a decorative willow structure.
We arrived at the orchard today having been told our tenancy had been ended. It wasn't just the belief that this was the result of a clerical error (we had returned letters on time to accept a notice of bad cultivation and signed to say our intention was to improve), but because we know the orchard is a highly productive allotment, growing loads of organic apples, many varieties that you cannot buy in the shops. Whilst we know that we hadn't done enough work this summer, and we need to address that next year if we wish to keep the orchard going, we will continue to cultivate following guidelines from Garden Organic, the national research organisation that provides advice to professional and amateur gardeners.
Today we were busy with the scythes and sickles to start the late summer grass cut. A new bench was installed, using reclaimed timber, and others were fixed with timberlocks. The collection of the gravel for the path was thwarted by padlock technicalities, however this was resolved on Tuesday 27th when Forest of Bradford volunteers dropped it off and helped with further tasks.
Although the ripening of apples is relatively late (blossom was late this year) we are now in full flow. Make sure you are contacting us for all your apple shopping.
In contrast to yesterday, it was wet today, but we completed several key tasks. The summer pruning of the cordons and espaliers was just about completed to restrict their growth. They are looking tidier. The hedges were cut. We used cardboard and straw to mulch round more trees, having been pleased with the results from the work done in June.
There is still plenty of long grass – we watch a Large Skipper butterfly laying eggs, so we will leave the meadow until later in the summer. The alliums we planted earlier in the year were looking good and providing nectar for the insects.
The weather conditions have been great for grasses – we were met, not unexpectedly, be a jungle to clear. By the end of the day we had made quite a difference. The pathways had been cleared as well as vegetation under most of the trees. In addition we used straw to mulch some of the trees and will monitor how effective this is.
We have been trying to increase the nectar sources in the orchard for pollinators for the periods when the trees aren’t in blossom (though Court Pendu Plat was still flowering) and the Orange Hawkweed and Vipers Bugloss were looking great. We intentionally leave some of the grass long as it offers habitat for peat control species, as well as butterflies such as Ringlet.
What a surprise! No blossom.. We’ve said it before but this year really was the least blossomy Blossom Day. Although today was warm and sunny on the whole, it was snowing last week so it’s not surprising the blossom is delayed; let’s hope the weather suits the pollinating bees when the flowers open.
A range of activities took place, including some artistic people making tissue blossom and others eating cake. The practical tasks included the predictable weeding, as well las feeding the trees and replacing the gate post.