Our beloved, if somewhat immature orchard, has had its share of teething issues. Only about half the trees had pollinated fruit (although frankly given that they all survived our utterly naive planting at all meant we really didn’t care). But of more concern since then has been the things that have gone wrong. Our peach and nectarine trees succumbed to peach leaf curl which means, as far as I understand it from the internet, that we now need to build them both a sort of small house thing to stop them getting too wet when it rains and having the same problem next year. Trees going a bit mouldy because their leaves get too wet in England sounds a bit like Darwinism at work to me but hey, the nectarine is one of my favourite fruits so I’m prepared to indulge these pampered princesses.
More recently I had made one of the weirder discoveries since we moved to our smallholding. I had noticed, over the course of the previous month or so, that several of our apple trees were swarming with ants. I thought nothing of it. But we have two cider trees next to each other, both of them Yarlington Mills and one of them started to look very sorry for itself. A closer look revealed that we’re not the only ones trying to build a small self sustainable homestead on this land. The ants were (wait for it) actually farming aphids! Farming them!
It was absolutely fascinating in a distasteful, shopping channel sort of way. They had tonnes of aphids lined up and bustled up and down the leaves presumably keeping them in place until they could eat the milky sap they excrete. The enormous crowd of aphids may have benefitted the ants but it was most certainly not good for the tree so I’ve ordered some ladybirds by mail and plan to release them as I did in London to try to compete with the ants for the aphid supply. hopefully once the ladybirds muscle in on their territory and eat all the aphids, the ants will call it a day and head home. It’ll be like West Side Story with more multi-jointed appendages. In short, ick. All is to exactly sunny up there, especially as the leaves are all starting to turn a bit and look a bit manky, presumably in advance of the autumn fall. However, having sacrificed our fruit crop in this, their first year of planting, we have great hopes for our fruit trees and little orchard next year. I just didn’t realise quite so much could go wrong with trees!