Hello and welcome to our weekly update.
We have been busy last week, after the hot and humid weather, the end of the week was slightly fresher with some overnight rain on Wednesday.
There are lots of jobs at this time of year, and we started with 'thinning' the apple crop. Some varieties are not naturally large and need a bit of help, so we go through by hand and 'thin' the apples. Basically we take off the smaller, marked, or incorrectly pollinated fruit, that would otherwise go for juice. This does two things, the first is that is reduces the amount of stress that the tree suffers by carrying too much fruit. This enables the balance between wood growth and fruit growth. If you have too many apples, then the tree produces less new wood in the season. Too few apples and the tree will have more growth and cost more to prune in the coming winter. The second is to prevent bi-annual bearing, that is you only get a crop every other year. By thinning the crop you spread the fruit over the two seasons. Not every variety will go bi-annual, but some are very sensitive too it (Elstar and Crispin) and so it's better to thin the crop.
There are different ways to thin, there are chemicals that you can apply which make the smaller fruit drop off. Recently there have been advances in orchard machinery, that mechanically thin the blossom, so no more fruitlets are pollinated.
We still use the older method of hand thinning, this costs more per hectare, but does have the advantage of being very selective. When you hand thin you can remove fruit that has hail or bird damage, which the other methods cannot do, as they are removing the blossom.
If you look at the two pictures below, you will see a branch of Lord Lambourne, before and after being thinned. It may look a bit drastic, but the fruit will have much better size, colour and mineral levels, simply because the tree isn't as stressed and can put it's energy into the fruit.
We have also been busy applying fertiliser for the upcoming season, this ensures the trees have the correct nutrients for the fruit. This is one of the most important jobs in the year, too much or too little of all the elements and minerals needed for healthy fruit creation can make the apples soft and not store correctly, or be watery and bland. We have a quite heavy clay soil here, so the nutrients are there, but the trees sometimes struggle to unlock what is in the soil. We apply a liquid seaweed extract with every spray round, to provide a foliar feed which is taken up by the tree's much quicker than fertiliser applied to the soil.
The Cherry season is upon us as well, we have picked a few of the very early cherries and will moving onto the main season crop in about 7 - 10 days depending on the weather!
See you all next week!