Beech Hedge – last week in April 2017
We chose a Beech hedge as it should grow up quickly around the veggie plot and give protection from the wind. It’s a good screening plant and thickens up well. We put in 3 plants per metre and used the slit planting method. This was suitable as the plants weren’t too big (60 – 80cm). With this method you lay down some weed control matting. Then make a slit in the fabric. Using a spade you make a slit the width of the blade, coat the dampened roots of the plant with Mycorrhizal Fungi and using a side to side swishing motion slot the roots of the plant into the opening. Fill up the slit with extra soil if necessary and firm in, to the level that the plant was originally growing. Water well and ensure they do not dry out in the first year. Our plants were bought from Ashridge Nurseries where we bought the fruit trees from for the orchard
Springdale Orchard is born
Planting an orchard is a dream we’ve always had.
We decided early in 2015 that we would use field 1 and plant some fruit trees straight away.
The ground is gently sloping and faces the sun all day. It is well drained but the soil is quite heavy in the field.
A large number of questions loomed due to our lack of knowledge. The planning however is all part of the fun.
Which trees should we choose and why?
Where should we purchase them from?
How old should the trees be?
How should they be planted and what should the spacing be?
Do they need staking, protecting?
When should they be planted?
Should we pay someone to plant them?
Answers to some questions prompted more questions as we discovered and learned more about planting an orchard. For example pollination questions and the need to choose ‘compatible’ apple trees.
Most apple trees need another compatible apple tree (which must be of a different variety) nearby in order for the blossom to set fruit and produce apples.
The key to proper fruit tree pollination is timing. For example: any early-season variety will pollinate another early-season variety.
So if you’re only planting 2 trees, it’s best to plant trees that will bloom at the same time.
Which trees should we choose?
Not knowing many varieties of apples, we decided to email a few nurseries to see what they suggested for a small orchard of around 30 trees, giving them our location and land aspect. Some favourites we definitely wanted were Cox, Russet and Bramley Apples; Pershore and Victoria Plums; some Pear trees and a damson variety.
So we want some apples to eat straight away, some to use for cooking; pears to eat; plums and damsons to eat and to use for jam making.
Replies to these emails were very useful and gave us a lot of information for our site. We were also able to research the different varieties to find out what the fruit was like.
We chose our selection based on what we found out from this research and the nurseries’ information. This includes our above criteria and also fruit that crops throughout the year, not all at the same time. (There is a detailed diagram of our final tree selection and their positions below)
We chose the nursery who could supply the majority of our selection in one delivery. Also the nursery who had best answered our enquiry.
The above lists show the fruit trees we bought and which are now planted at Springdale.
The table below shows how the trees are laid out in Field 1
|Sunset Apple||Golden Delicious Apple||Malus Katy
|Sturmer Pippin Apple||A|
|Golden Hornet Crab Apple||Barnock Beauty Apple||B|
|Red Falstaff Apple||Bramley Cooking Apple||Bardsley Apple||Scrumptious Apple||Bountiful Apple||Blenheim Orange Apple||C|
|Concorde Pear||Conference Pear||William Bon Chretien Pear||Pershore Purple Plum||Pershore Purple Plum||Cox Orange Pippin Apple||D|
|Moonglow Pear||Catillac French Pear||Marjorie’s Seedling Plum||Rivers Early Prolific Plum||Old Greengage Plum||E|
|Shropshire Prune Damson||Langley Bullace Damson||Victoria Plum||F|
Tree Layout in table form
As fruit tree labels break and blow away from time to time its useful to make a note of tree positions, which are shown in the table above.
What about Rootstock?
What does ‘rootstock’ mean and which to choose?
The rootstock determines how big each tree will grow to. If you grow a fruit tree from a pip, the tree may grow to 5-6m high or taller. So it will not be easy to reach the fruit. If you opt for a dwarf rootstock, you can limit it’s growth to as small as 1.5m. Rootstocks are chosen and grafted on from a related species. This will restrict the growth to the size of the original roots and keep the tree to a manageable size.
With this in mind we chose MM106 rootstock for our apple trees which means our trees will grow to between 3m and 4.5m.
For the pear trees we chose rootstock Quince A
And for plums and damsons the nursery had rootstock St. Julien available.
All the trees should then grow to roughly the same size, which means we can have regular spacing between all the trees and the fruit will not be too high for picking.
You can find lists of rootstocks and their descriptions on most fruit tree sellers’ websites and then choose according to your available land and space.
Bare Root Fruit Trees being planted
Allow plenty of room for the trees to grow in future years, by checking your rootstocks for height and spread.
Mark out your land with canes to ensure there is the correct spacing for trees.
A bare root fruit tree will arrive in a dormant state. It should be planted as soon as possible after receiving it, but not if the ground is frozen.
Dig a large sized hole at least a third wider than the roots. Hammer in a stake before inserting the tree into the hole to avoid damaging the roots.
Dig plenty of well-rotted manure or compost into the hole.
Make sure the tree is at the same level that it was planted in the nursery,
Fill the hole with soil around the roots and gently firm the soil in with the sole of your boot. This process removes air-pockets from around the roots.
Secure the tree to the stake with a tree tie.
If you have rabbits or deer in the area, you MUST protect the trees immediately. The trees will need protecting from the first night they are in the ground. Rabbits and hares are the most serious problem, as they will eat the bark and this can be fatal for the tree. The best protection is a plastic spiral tree guard. These can be easily removed after a few years when the bark is older and tougher.
Field 1 and Field 2
The story so far:
Up in the fields, just called 1 and 2 for now, is the beginning of our project.
It is an exciting prospect.
The fields are behind the property, just over 2 acres in total, 3 if you include the garden around the house. The land faces South/South East and faces the sun all day.
It is laid to grass at present and was previously paddock.
In the past it has been farmed as a market garden.
The grass was quite short, although wet and boggy in places after the very wet winter in 2014.
The fields dried up well during the summer months but the vegetation then began to grow rapidly over the summer.
This made it impossible to walk in, as much of the vegetation had reached waist height. The photos below are interesting because we can compare the differences in appearance in Spring, Summer and Winter.
In Wales, you are not allowed to have hedges cut before 1st September. This allows birds and other wildlife to feed and nest and breed in the hedgerows. They also provide shelter and little corridors for wildlife to travel along
All hedges around both our fields were very thick, long, and very overgrown as they had not been cut for about 18 months.
Eventually, after conversations with neighbours, we discovered someone who had a tractor and hedge attachment, and who had cut the hedge for the previous owner.
We booked him up to come and cut it all for us, including the lane side which was blocking the view of neighbours up the hill as the hedges had grown so long.
Nothing more was done in the fields until the farmer arrived to do this in December. The following photos are not the best quality as they were taken in fading light but are all part of the process of managing the fields and hedges.
So by Christmas 2014 the fields and bordering hedges were in a manageable state.
Now to put our mark on the land ….
Starting from scratch will be hard work. We’ve got a long way to go and lots to learn. But I’m sure the feeling of satisfaction as we develop our land will be hard to beat. Not to mention the health benefits of exercise and fresh air.
Field 1 from a different angle in 2014