realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: February 2015

We Did It!

An inspiring project, the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail, a community project to plant and care for a trail of native fruit trees around Hanwell Meadows in West London, for autumn foraging and for wildlife. Forty trees successfully planted!

Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail

Fourty patches of grass and other vegetation cleared, holes dug, stakes driven in, bonemeal added, watering tube installed, tree planted, watered, tied on, reviewed, numbered, approved and applauded, all in one day.

Our huge thanks to everyone who made history on this cold Saturday February 7th, 2015. 26 volunteers braved the chilly breeze, the occasional drizzle and occasional sunshine.

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Sealing pear stalks

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A reader writes: “Dear Dan, in Italy I saw pears sold like this, with the stalks sealed with wax. Is there a reason for this?”

Pears are best if picked slightly immature. This means that moisture loss can still occur via the stalk, once the pear is separated from the tree. Therefore with certain varieties there is the risk of shrivel of the fruit near the stalk end. Sealing the stalk may help to reduce this problem.

Onward

onwardOnward is a pear that looks a bit like Comice, yellow and sometimes with an orange flush, and juicy soft flesh once it has fully ripened. It crops fairly early, from September to early October. It is not self-fertile, so needs a pollinator.

Photo courtesy of Marmaladefly/flickr.com

Invincible

Invincible is a new pear variety that produces two sets of blossom and so is less prone to frost damage, making it ideal for the north of England, Scotland, or in frost pockets. It also provides a long cropping period, from early September to mid-October. The fruit is initially crisp, but, left out of the fridge, it gradually becomes tender and juicy. It is partially self-fertile, and so it does better with a pollinator.

Herefordshire Russet

Herefordshire_RussetThis is an apple derived from a Cox-Idared cross, and it combines Cox-type flavour with the classic russet skin, rather like Egremont Russet. It crops well. It is a diploid, so almost fully self-fertile, though they will benefit from a pollinator. They are generally disease-resistant, but are prone to aphids. These are best controlled by ensuring a healthy population of lacewing and ladybirds whose larvae will keep them under control.

Photo courtesy of Marmaladefly/flickr.com

Trees as long-range weather forecasters?

DSCN0367-2000At this time of year we are busy lifting trees and despatching them to their purchasers, and so we regularly inspect the roots of hundreds of two to three-year old trees. From the appearance of the roots, we can judge the period of dormancy of the trees, and so, on the website, this season we recommend planting from December to April.

This is later than normal. In fact, the usual dormancy period is from November to March. But the winter of 2013-2014 wasn’t particularly cold, neither were spring and summer 2014. So why is the dormancy period later this year, and how can we tell?

I should start with a bit of background information on how the roots work. The feeding roots – tiny and delicate capillary roots invisible to the naked eye – operate from April to September. Then they begin to shut down, and the tree stores resources in the trunk and main root stems. At a certain stage, usually in mid January, white roots begin to emerge from the main root stems. These are not functional as roots, but just serve to establish the initial structure from which the feeding roots will develop. This year, today, 2 February 2015, not one of the trees has begun to develop these white roots. What is the reason for this?

It’s as if the trees know that there is no point in developing their root system yet, because the weather is going to be colder than usual over the next couple of months. How do the trees know this? Perhaps they have a sensitivity to certain meteorological parameters that enable them to time the moment at they begin preparing for the end of dormancy.

And so, on the basis of my observations, I would venture to say that it will be a long, cold winter, or at least longer and colder than usual. And whatever happens, whether right or wrong, I am convinced that the world of plants still holds a lot of mysteries that still awaits scientific explanation.

(In the photo below, we partially lifted a young tree to show the brown roots. We couldn’t find any white roots at all!)

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