Showing posts with label tree following. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tree following. Show all posts

14 Jun 2014

Tree Following, June

As part of Lucy's Tree Following group, I've chosen to observe the fruit trees growing in the veg patch garden; here's where we are in mid-June.

So what shall we have first: the good news or the bad? Let's get the not-so-positive stuff out of the way.

Looks like these will be the only 'pears' I get this year - 

two tiny quince.
It's definitely not shaping up to be the fruit bonanza that all the early blossom promised.  My hopes for some plums this year, if not pears, have been dashed.  Last month, the plum tree had lots of tiny fruits, about 5mm long, but also lots of aphids causing the leaves to curl.  This month, no fruitlets. Just crispy, browned leaves.  So that's that for another year. I am slightly disappointed but have that gardener's mentality that these things  happen, nothing I can do about it for now and there's plenty more to enjoy in the garden.

Being me, I have tried to look into possible causes of the problem and have read that plums need to be pruned in the summer, after fruiting, in order to encourage fruiting wood for next year. I didn't prune them last year. They are also better off in a south or west facing location, mine are east facing which won't help.  If I remember right, the trees are grown on a semi-dwarfing rootstock so shouldn't get taller than 15 ft. Given the size of them now, I'm not convinced that's strictly correct. In any case they could do with having the crowns opened up so, in July, after I've finished college, the loppers are coming out.

The pear trees also have no fruit and need pruning but that will have to wait until they're dormant in the winter months. Good advice from the RHS here. The RHS also state that pears fruit better when grown with a different but compatible cultivar. We have two Conference pears so I might think about taking one out and replacing it.  Pear trees should fruit within four years; the trees here are coming up to seven years old.  I really want them to fruit because the trees are otherwise healthy with good, solid trunks. Taking one out really has to be a final option.

So no pears, no plums.  But the apples are looking good.  There are two Braeburn apple trees, growing too close together and leaning towards each other.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I wish I'd known how important it is to stake young trees for the first 3 years (minimum) of their lives.  On the bright side, in decades to come, maybe these two will graft together and people will marvel at a single tree with two legs!

There seems to be a good number of apples left, quite a few have dropped off onto the soil - the so-called 'June drop' in May?  In the past two years there were few enough fruits that I could - and did - count them. (I like to know what's happening when my back is turned!) 19 apples last year. (I got to eat two of those, and delicious they were too.) This year I reckon it will be around 40 to 50 over both trees if they all ripen. They're growing fast as well.  Here's what they looked like at the beginning (7th) and end (25th) of May.

And here's yesterday's photo, taken on Friday the 13th as dusk fell under a full Honey moon:

Last year's orange and cream nasturtiums crossed so I've got lots of gorgeous salmon pink nasturtiums sprouting up in the veg patch. These are the long trailing type so I'm encouraging a few to start growing up the apple trees as companion plants, rather in the way that these are growing up the alliums.

So that just leaves the cherry trees. Rather worryingly I noticed a few weeks ago that lots of the fruit was turning brown and dropping off. And I do mean lots - this is not even a tenth of the lost fruit.

This also happened last year but they went on to produce not only a bumper crop but a second autumn blossoming.  Yes, I know. Weird.  It seems there's plenty of fruit left on the tree but, looking back at last year's photos, I don't think there's as much.

Goodness, this is a dreadful photo! I'll try and take another one to replace it. :)
Cherry tree corner is another area that needs tidying and summer pruning.  (Cherry trees - and other stone fruit - should always be pruned, where needed, in the summer after fruiting to avoid silver leaf fungus getting a hold.) There is an excellent, easy to follow article here. (Will open in new tab/window.)

This tree needs to have the lower branches taken right back (or possibly taken off altogether) as they're arching way out from the tree and are too spindly. I've been adding plants to the area around the tree over the past couple of years; the clematis was last year's addition and I'm pleased with the way that it's spiralled up the support and is now growing around the tree. Until last week it was hidden by the suckers growing from the rootstock base of the tree.  I removed those as I was pretty sure they weren't doing the tree any favours with the bonus that we can now see the clematis properly. They like to have their roots kept cool and moist and that job is being done by strawberries and Jacob's Ladder polemonium.  It wasn't intentional as I hadn't realised what a prolific self-seeder Jacob's Ladder is - moving them is a job for another day and I'm grateful that they're providing a useful purpose in the garden.

Last year I was making cherry compote by the end of July, hopefully it will be the same this year and then the pruning can begin in August.

17 May 2014

Tree Following: Plums, aphids and nature lending a hand

~ Plum fruitlet and curly leaves ~

I've chosen to follow all the fruit trees that I'm growing here in the garden; in the past month, the trees that have been causing the most concern are the plum trees.  The new leaves have been targeted by aphids whose sap-sucking activities cause the new leaves to twist, curl and, ultimately, die. Squishing is not an option with a 10 foot tall tree but I have been reading up organic measures that I can put in place for the future.  I haven't seen many lacewings in the past few years and these, as well as ladybirds, love to dine on aphids. Apparently tying rolls of cardboard to the tree will provide a daytime shelter for them and planting tansy, fennel, marguerites and cosmos nearby will also help.  No problem there - I'd love to see my fruit trees surrounded by flowers and, luckily, I have seed trays full of cosmos and marguerites.

I also read that an anti-aphid spray can be made by boiling up rhubarb leaves and using a dilution of the liquid to spray the insects. The oxalic acid content (which makes the leaves poisonous to all, even people) causes the heart to stop and so the insects die. It sounds good but I don't know if this will also affect the fruit (or me!) so have decided against this. Last year I was told by fruit growers at a local nature reserve that a squirt of Ecover washing up liquid in water used as a spray was what they found effective. (I'd forgotten about that until I re-read this posting!)

By working in the garden on my own during a quiet day, I realised that a much better alternative was being provided by nature.  The tiniest of birds in the garden, the Blue Tits, are flying in and pecking off the aphids (well, okay, probably the leaves as well but I don't mind.)  I've seen them doing the same to the rose bushes at the other end of the garden but then they'd been very timid. One of these little birds became less timid during the day as he flew back and forth but I worked very quietly just in case!

I'm keeping a careful eye on the trees as they're looking a bit the worse for wear now; the affected leaves are going brown which will reduce photosynthesis. Apparently once the aphids fly off (to another host plant), the tree should recover.  So, how to help this recovery? Bob Flowerdew, the organic gardener, advises that all fruit trees benefit from a nitrogen boost in the soil; beans and peas return nitrogen to the soil. Nasturtiums are also a good companion plant as aphids are drawn to their succulent leaves (although do I want more aphids around my trees? No.)  I think the answer is to use the trees as climbing frames for tall beans and see how that works out. Also to water well so that the tree isn't stressed and to remember to mulch the roots (but not the trunk) in early winter.

The good news is that, so far (but we still have the famous 'June drop' to get through), the fruitlets seem to be holding on and there are a few growing...

...Unlike the pear trees where the leaves are unaffected and looking very healthy but I've only found one fruit spike left from all that earlier blossom - and I think that's since dropped off!

The cherry trees are also promisingly dripping with fruitlets. I'm expecting quite a few of these to drop because that's what has happened in past years although there were loads left to pick!  I've also had to remove a small branch from the corner cherry tree as it had died but the rest of the tree seems okay.

The apple trees are also looking really good, with just one leaf (that I could find) having a few woolly aphids; lots of ladybirds on the apple trees should keep this in check but I'll keep an eye on it.  There was just a hint of blossom remaining on 29th April when I took these photos but, again, lots of tiny fruitlets have developed which have withstood the funnelling winds we had last week. I have strawberries, pelargoniums and borage planted around these trees and seen lots of bees buzzing around so I'm guessing this all helped with pollination!

And, finally, I have to give a big thank you to Victoriana Nurseries for the wonderful quince tree (Cydonia oblonga 'Champion') that they delivered earlier this year. It's established really well and makes me feel happy every time I stop to look at it!

14 May 2014

Tree following in May

I confess that I am blatantly cheating the system here! My attentions are completely diverted towards work today; I won't be finished until nearly 7 o'clock, by which time the Linky to Lucy's Tree Following for May will have closed.  I'll have to post the update this evening - so sorry.  The above image is by way of tempting anyone to check back later on this evening for the update on my orchard. This month's focus is on the plum trees.

Tree Following post now complete ! and posted separately as there's lots of photos!

14 Apr 2014

Tree following… Choices, choices!

I managed to miss the deadline for Lucy's Tree Following last month so this month will be an introduction and a catch up on my tree so far.

Firstly, which tree to choose? We do so well for trees here in the UK.

A. lamarckii leaf buds about to unfurl
I love Amelanchier lamarckii, also known as Juneberry, such a pretty tree and it fades so beautifully at the end of the year.  Camden Council have just planted six Amelanchiers in a side street near to the local City Farm.  It's an unusual choice for a local council to instal, one rarely seen. A nearby householder has planted up the tree pit of the Amelanchier nearest to his house.  This would have been a good tree to follow, there's obviously a story there.  On the other hand …

There's a huge, mature and gloriously swooping willow on the Heath by the path to the duck ponds, lots of activity and dog walking going on nearby, plus the occasional art installation …

Then there's the poor lopped off plane trees under my window.  They were severely pruned in late Autumn last year.  Will they resprout? Will the robins return? Will the ivy survive?  And what of the garden that they're in? We might never know …

The canopy of these London Planes completely shaded this garden in past years.

Also under consideration is my urban orchard; eight fruit trees planted as one-year old bareroots in December 2009, this is their sixth year in the veg patch. A specially-developed-for-London apple tree joined the patch in January 2013, making nine trees.  I really feel I should get to know them better. They were covered in buds in March and I honestly can't tell a leaf bud from a fruit bud plus there's the whole pruning for fruit thing. Worthy of a closer look?  I've also just added a quince tree to this collection.  I haven't grown quince before so if excitement levels are a measure of tree following worthiness, this would be the one.

Tangled branches of Ulmus glabra.
But there's more.  Just when I'd almost decided, I walked past a tree of such quirkiness that I was all of a doodah.  Ulmus glabra, also known as Wych elm.  This is in front of the manor house at Capel's Enfield site and I met it on an ident walk in my first year.  Its pendant branches hide a glorious spaghetti like tangle on top of the trunk but the downside is that I probably won't see it during the summer months until my college studies resume. It was a real contender though and one I may sneakily report on from time to time throughout the tree following year.

Being realistic, the trees I see on a daily basis are my fruit trees so I'm going to follow these. I know I should pick one but as an orchard they all contribute to the garden.

Mid border looking south: two apple trees, two pears and a cherry in the corner. 

Over the past few weeks the blossom has been luxuriant with the pear and plum flowers showing first, followed by cherry and apple.  The plum blossom has almost gone leaving the cherry blossom to steal the show.  So many people have stopped to comment or take photographs and I'm really pleased that all this beauty is getting noticed.

I think the most interesting of these trees to look at (at the moment) is the cherry tree.  It's a Morello which is a sour cherry - good for pies and compotes (and perhaps dipped in dark chocolate!) but, for me, not for eating fresh off the tree.

There are two of these trees; one I dug up and moved to another corner plot a couple of years ago, this one stayed put; both are doing really well.  It was grafted onto dwarfing rootstock and, bizarrely, this rootstock grew a couple of stems.  After a couple of years, I was fairly confident this leafy growth was not contributing anything to the cherry tree and chopped off the usurping stems.  They still sprout leaves from time to time, and I'm enjoying the greenery this year but think it should really be pruned off.  You can see this in the photo below which also shows the plants surrounding the tree: day lilies and ivy to the right,  Jacob's Ladder (pulmonaria) and rosemary to the left.  The metal spire was for the clematis to climb up but it's making its own way up the tree!  (nb. must tie it in!)

I love the bark on prunus trees, this one is no exception being a deep bronze.  Like some Silver Birch trees, the young bark peels off to reveal a beautiful surface underneath.  I don't know if this is standard for cherry trees, I'm certainly enjoying the effect on this one!

One other point of interest about this tree: a couple of years ago, I found a tiny plant growing out of the soil under the tree.  I assumed it was a sycamore or such like and was about to pull it up when I saw a split cherry pip by the tiny plant.  I carefully transplanted the tiny tree to care for it on my balcony and then replanted it a year later.  That was a couple of years ago.  The tiny tree is now about 13 inches high; I'll probably have to plant it into it's final place at the end of this year so that it can grow big and strong away from its parent.

May 2012, just a seedling. March 2014 coming back to life; April 2014 in leaf.  

Looking up into the canopy of blossom - look at all those potential cherries!

PS.  The apple blossom is looking pretty special too at the moment!

16 Mar 2014

An early taste of summer and tree following

No wonder British gardeners are obsessed with the weather! This time last year there was snow on the ground, yet this past week has been dry, sunny and, at times, hot enough for (a British) summer.  I even watered the veg patch yesterday evening - can't have my germinating seeds drying out.  I took a risk and outdoor sowed spinach, lettuce, broad beans and beetroot last weekend, just on the off chance that temperatures weren't going to dip anytime soon, but I have a roll of fleece on standby just in case. If weather forecasts are to be believed, it seems London might have rain and lower temperatures by the end of next week - more 'normal' for this time of year but who knows what that is any more?

This week though, there have been lovely things: a chance find of Skye Gingell's book 'A Year in My Kitchen' in a charity shop (flavourful recipes for seasonally grown food), a gift from same charity shop of some Mottistone lettuce seeds and a wonderful spring walk around the Capel Manor grounds before settling in for a study day in the library.  Mindful walking + books always feels good to me. Clubcard points have been converted into a subscription to Garden Answers mag so there's something to look forward to - the postman's knock is so much more exciting when the delivery includes a gardening magazine.

~ Early morning walk around the Capel Manor grounds ~

Some good ideas caught my eye at  Capel: spring onions sown to line a path (love the shed!); willow canes woven together in the walled garden - I'm guessing for a bean or pea hurdle; canes tied to hazel poles for dahlias to grow through and a random selection of vintage cloches to protect growing veg.  Just lovely.

I sowed a tray of sweet peas a few weeks back, they've germinated at different rates but are now 80% through. Unsurprisingly, the newest seeds have all come through, strong and healthy.  I've been leaving them outside on my balcony during the day and even left them out overnight last night. One more set of leaves and they'll be pinched out and then planted shortly after, weather permitting. I've bought a large bundle of dried and lacquered willow sticks from Ikea - sold for indoor decoration but perfect for wigwams and cheaper than bamboo canes.  In the garden, there's enough Cerinthe available to pick a few stems for a vase, here paired with flat leaf parsley from a huge mound that flourished throughout the mild winter. Home-grown flowers indoors really herald spring for me.

There have been some not so lovely things - my teenager has been off college with a flu-like illness for over a week (now better and every tissue in the house used up) and my computer keyboard was also ailing - the delete and space bar keys stopped working. Bit tricky that, but I've been making do with my iPad. All is well though as the keyboard was still in warranty and the Apple Store just swopped it over … with no waiting! That put a smile on my face.

The one thing that I really meant to get done (and didn't) was to write up a post to link to Lucy's tree following on her blog, Loose and Leafy.  It's taken me ages to decide which tree to focus on; living five minutes from Hampstead Heath (humungous weeping willow) and visiting Capel Manor gardens (Wych elm, Amelanchier, Acer and crab apple) every week has given me quite a choice, and then there's my own fruit trees, plus a gorgeous potted nectarine in the Which? trial gardens  … I've been thinking it over all week, made my decision, took photos and then missed the deadline for this, the first month.  The information won't be wasted as I'll write it up anyway so that I can refer back to it next month, on the 7th.  And now for a teaser: I wonder if anyone can guess which tree I chose to follow?
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