Auditing the new orchard

When we planted our small orchard over the winter, we did so with no knowledge of how to do so. Luckily for us, the amazing Monty Don had made a short video on how to plant bare-rooted trees which we watched the morning we decided to make a start. It took us several weekends to get all 31 of our new fruit trees planted, with my hero of a husband braving the fact that the sun set before 4pm in driving, freezing and horizontal rain in order to finish planting on his own by torchlight (at eight months pregnant I was of limited use). Our soil is dreadful, heavy clay with more stones than you’d believe, and so it was really hard work and we back filled some of the holes with new compost and kind of moulded the old dug out earth around the other roots. Β The trees were a significant investment in our new home, both from a financial and temporal point of view and although we knew they wouldn’t start to leaf until the spring, we had both been surreptitiously checking for signs of life in them every time we went into that paddock. Once we realised we were both doing it, we started feeding each others arboreal addiction and checking the trees every day so imagine how thrilled we were when the cherry plum started to bloom.

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Blossom!

Happily, that was just the beginning and now all but one of our trees (our “Broadview” walnut) are sprouting tiny little buds. We really want to be self-sufficient in fruit (apart from bananas and other tropical fruit) and so this is fantastic news and a big step forward for our little homestead. Admittedly the trees will only really start cropping in a couple of years, and once they do the plan is to keep the pigs in the orchard so they can enjoy the windfalls. Before that we’ll be keeping sheep in the orchard so we’ll need to build fencing around all of the trees, but that’s a project for a sunny weekend in the summer. In the interim we’re just going to enjoy every single little leaf as it appears and be very grateful that we haven’t killed them all off!

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The orchard (from the other end of the paddock)

We’ve made a real effort to ensure that our selection included a lot of heritage varieties that aren’t commercially viable so that we could enjoy a range of flavours that you can’t buy in the shops. We’ve also tried to get lots of trees that crop at different times so that we’ll have fruit all year round. Up in the orchard we have planted:

Apples: Sunrise, Lord Lambourne, Ashmead’s Kernel, Annie Elizabeth, D’Arcy Spice and two Yarlington Mill cider apples

Pears: Jargonelle, Beurre Hardy, Winter Nelis, Shinseki Asian Pear

Plums: Opal, Avalon, Coe’s Golden Drop, Old Greengage

Damsons: Shropshire Prune and Farleigh Damson

Cherry plum: Golden Sphere

Cherry: Sunburst and Merton Reward

Quince: Isfahan, Meeches Prolific

Mulberry: King James

Apricot: Bergecot

Cobnut: Cosford and Halls Giant

Walnut: Broadview

Peach: Red Haven, Amsden June

Nectarine: Lord Napier

Fig: Brown Turkey and White Marseilles

We also planted 120 raspberry canes (Glen Clova, Glen Lyon, Glen Moy, Malling Jewel, Cascade Delight, Glen Ample, Glen Fyne, Malling Admiral, Tulameen, Glen Magna, Malling Leo, Tadmor, Allgold, Autumn Bliss, Erika and Polka), two blackberries (Loch Tay and Loch Ness), two Buckingham Tayberries, some blackcurrants (Ben Connan, Ben Lomond, Ben Nevis, Ben Sarek, Big Ben), some redcurrant (Jonkheer Van Sets, Junifer, Red Lake, Redstart, Rovada) and a white currant (White Versailles). Finally, we planted seven gooseberry bushes (Captivator, Hinnomaki green, Hinnomaki Yellow, Hinnomaki red and two Invictas). We have cranberries and blueberries in pots on the terrace but we noticed the other day that we have space for quite a few more berry plants up in the orchard. We’ve planted a relatively wide variety of soft fruits, but do you have any thoughts on what we could use to fill the gaps?

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Look, tiny leaves!

 

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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