April’s tales from the Orchard

If you’re a fruit lover, this has to be the most beautiful thing about spring… the first apple blossom

Apple 'Crimson Beauty' blooming in spring sunshineThe very first apple blossom opened on Monday and, for me, spring is truly here. Spring seemed to start early this year - and then temperatures dropped and it was on hold. It’s really quite interesting how things vary; the first apple to flower this year was ‘Crimson Beauty’, yet last year it started to flower almost two weeks earlier on 1 April.

Pear 'Jeribasma' in bloomOf the other tree fruit, many plums and pears are in full bloom. One of the first pears to flower is ‘Jeribasma’, an old Serbian cultivar with particularly large beautiful flowers. A warning, though - with flowering comes the risk of frost damage, and this is often when there are clear sunny days and clear nights (like we’re getting this week in the south).

If you have small trees and wall- or fence-trained trees it’s a good idea to cover them with fleece on nights when frost is forecast. And if you can, protect vine buds as they are now starting to grow. My worries about frost continue for at least another month as we have had damage to our vines in May, and that’s far from helpful when you want a good harvest (have you ever tried our Wisley wine?)

Hives of activity

I made the first inspection of my bee hives last week. Thankfully all five have survived the winter but two are weak.

Jim's bees enjoy the spring sunshineNow the days are warm they should build up and be busy pollinating our fruit trees, although they often prefer the field of oilseed rape flowering nearby. Walking in the pear orchard today I was pleased to see many bees at work. The weather remains dry which is great for pollination and reduces the risk of apple scab developing.

This week I will be grafting some apples and pears, which completes our propagation until budding in July. I will be propagating some old cultivars from Cumbria and from Hampshire as well as some from trees in the orchard which have died or are diseased (it happens to us all).

In the next few weeks we should get some idea of this year’s crop. And in the meantime we can expect a full field of apple blossom – it’s the most beautiful thing about spring!

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.