Our pears are looking good and, given the early start to the season, they should ripen well. The apple crop is more variable, producing a light to moderate yield. The heavy harvest last year caused some of the cultivars to be biennial and others were affected by a lack of winter chill.
Generally it is the late flowering apples which are most affected by a mild winter. ‘Winter Queening’ was still flowering in June and the cider apple ‘Brown Snout’ did not flower this year and came into leaf very late; it also did this in 2011. We are thinning those apples which have set a good crop – this is to achieve regular amounts of good fruit of a good size. Removing small, misshapen and blemished fruit is the key. Often the central or ‘king’ fruit of a cluster is removed because it is misshapen and dominates the other fruits. Generally, you need to thin dessert apples and pears to one or two fruits per cluster, four to six inches (10 to 15cm) apart, and cooking apples to single fruits, six to ten inches (15 to 25cm) apart.
Soft fruits are early this year and cropping well and the trail of blackberries and hybrid berries on the trials field at Wisley is looking and tasting very good. Of the early cultivars, ‘Karaka Black’ and ‘Obsidian’ are tasting excellent and are growing well from plants of moderate vigour. Early blackberries are very useful because they crop before the wild plants later in the summer.
These favourable conditions for plants have also been good for bees, with plenty of nectar and warm conditions to fly in. This has meant more swarms of bees, and the last two Fridays I have found myself up a ladder collecting swarms from hives and also from feral colonies. There are a number of feral colonies around Wisley in buildings and hollow trees - we do not know how many.