Recently I have been chip budding plums, which should result in trees to plant out in November 2015. I was relieved to complete this while the weather was warm and mild and the rootstocks were growing well. Otherwise everything else in the orchard is more immediate…
Already, the first apples and pears have passed and we are now approaching the time of second early apples. Some of the best known of these are ‘Laxton’s Fortune’, ‘Worcester Pearmain’ and ‘Ellison’s Orange’, which has a distinctive aniseed taste. In early September ‘Saint Edmund’s Pippin’ (left) will be ready which is the first of the russets.
Along with these apples to pick and eat will be the first apples and pears for identification. We have a number of fruit identification days at the four RHS gardens as well as at the London Harvest Show. The first days are the hardest as I start to recall the cultivars I last looked at last year but please do bring some along and remember to bring at least three fruits of each, choosing good typical specimens complete with stalks.
The spring and summer have been good for the fruit with sunshine, warmth and some showers to stop the ground drying out. It is still a worry, though, until all the fruit is picked. Hail is always a threat - it can dent the fruit - but it is usually very localised, and strong winds can also be a problem. August is also the time to summer-prune restricted forms of apples and pears such as cordon espalier and fan-trained trees.
Prune them once the growth has stopped and a terminal bud as formed at the end of each shoot and shorten back each shoot to one leaf from the basal cluster which is about 2½cm (1in) in length. We have pruned the pears here at Wisley (such as the ones shown left), but the apples have not stopped growing yet!
As well as trying the early apples and pears I am also eating honey which I extracted from the hives this week. It is delicious - not too sweet and slightly astringent and is also a sign that summer is ending. Autumn is a busy time and the culmination of the fruit year. Don’t you just love it?