Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Terrible season

In summary, this has been an absolutely terrible season, one of the reasons I haven't bothered posting much this year. To start with, no pollination as the insects didn't come out in the rain. The few pears that set are all abnormally small. Lots of scab on leaves and shoots. The quince set more fruit, but then a terrible attack of scab make everything drop off. The medlar set a lot of small fruit but it has now all browned off and rotted on the tree.

The plums were similarly affected, either no fruit set, or a small number of undersized fruit (which was all taken by the rogue squirrel anyway). The apples have done better, but with a fair amount of cracking or scab, and the early varieties have largely been spoiled by jay or squirrel damage before they were ripe enough to be picked. 

This has been by far the worst year we've suffered here, normally only one or two susceptible pears are affected by fungal ills, but this year everything has suffered in some way or other from the terribly wet weather. So there will be no boxes overflowing with lovely clean, large, beautiful fruit this year. Very depressing and disappointing, I have been so ill this year it would have been lovely to have had something cheering to look forward to.

War on Squirrels and Jays

Having posted on how well the codling moth traps were working, I can't say the same of the squirrel trapping. We have had a huge influx of squirrels this year, and one in particular seems impossible to trap. They have just stripped the Denniston's of its small crop completely and are randomly biting into our small crops of apples and pears. I trapped one last week, thinking at least that only left one hard nut to crack, but I'm blowed if another two didn't appear almost immediately. 

In addition to crows this year jays have done an extraordinary amount of damage. I'd been wondering what had been hacking lumps out of my Grenadier, and then moved on to the Worcester and my un-named early red. I'd been thinking it must be pigeons but then I caught a jay actually doing it shamelessly right in front of me. We have a very active extended family of jays which are continually attracted to the area by a neighbour who tips peanuts into his garden as if they were garden mulch, one reason for the influx and high breeding numbers of squirrels. 

I hope the jays may be a temporary problem. They haven't been a problem before, and I think they initially started pecking at the fruit because of scab-related soft patches on the fruit. Having started off with these, they then discovered that the rest of the fruit was palatable. I hope they don't remember next year, but they are bright corvids and they do have a remarkable capacity to remember and teach others of their kind. If they don't forget, then sadly we'll be getting towards the stage of having to net everything soon.

Pheromone traps - verdict

Really pleased with the traps, despite reservations they worked well. Sadly the plum didn't set any fruit at all, so no way of evaluating how well the trap worked other than to count the moths, but the one attached to Rosemary Russet caught approximately 10 moths and there is no sign so far of any holes in the surprisingly good crop on this cordon, and that without spraying. Unfortunately, the full standard Grenadier on the other side of the garden is full of the things again, so clearly they aren't effective over a very large area, and I'd need at least one more to help clear the problem over the full area. But certainly well worth trying again next year.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Pest/Damage Quiz

I was going to write a few boring paragraphs about all the tedious things that had gone wrong this month but as I was asking my husband to guess what had gone wrong this time, I thought I'd leave my few readers to guess too.

Okay, answers:

a. Apple sawfly (nibbles paths along surface before burrowing into core). Control: spray after petal drop if you can be bothered, remove all affected fruitlets.

b. Squirrel

c. Splitting due to seasonal June torrents

Monday, 11 June 2012

Mea Culpa - pheromone traps

I meant to post quite a while back that I'd decided to try moth pheromone traps for the first time as a couple of apples and one plum are very badly affected by the relevant species. I bought some from a common-or-garden centre in Bicester, and managed to get them both in place by mid may. 4 codling moths appeared in the trap around the last couple of days of the month, and I notice the first plum marauder turn up about a week later. All dark, dull, undistinguished moths  about 5mm long. My aim was to spray the trees soon after to catch the tiny caterpillars just before they started to burrow their way into the fruitlets, but the weather was so bad that it was just impossible. Yesterday I found a nice, plump fruitlet with a pin-sized hole, and cut it open to reveal a surprisingly large grub around 4-5mm long, so it's now completely pointless attempting to spray the affected apples; I will try to spray plum tomorrow, deluges-permitting.

The moth 'reservoir' Grenadier tree in the new plot of land has been thinned by one third for the third year in a row, so that hopefully there will be fewer infected windfalls to dispose of or infect the neighbouring garden, as well as the hope of better quality fruit overall. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Disasterous rainfall


The non-stop rainfall we have been experiencing for the last couple of months has had a disasterous effect on the pears. Cultivars that are usually fairly robust and reliable have been affected by scab for the first time, and pollenation has been very low. Morettini is usually very healthy in growth, but nearly every fruitlet is completely covered with deep scab lesions. Beth is affected in both leaf and fruit, Winter Nelis and Josephine de Malines don't have a single fertilised fruitlet on the whole tree. Fondante d'Automne has just a couple that I could find. By contrast, Bishop's Thumb, Comice and Conference so far have bumper numbers of fruitlets, but overall I think it will be a very bad year for pears at least. A lot of the apple blossom was by contrast spoiled by unseasonably hard frosts but so far the fruit seems to have set. Fingers crossed that the season isn't an entire washout.

Nether Winchendon House

Visited Nether Winchendon House a couple of weeks back and was amazed to see how well the rather extensive, ancient orchards had been managed and brought back into production. The trees were of quite some age, and although originally pruned into nice open shapes had been planted far too close together. The branches must have been completely intertwined, each shading each other. One quite often sees orchards like this out and about, branches all dead and covered in lichen. Often people are really apprehensive about pruning old standard trees so it was lovely to see that someone had bitten the bullet and taken out all the dead wood and headed the huge trees back to a manageable size. As I was saying this, and admiring particular details, the gardener overheard and interrupted the conversation! I guess she doesn't always hear such appreciative comments. We had a lovely chat. I'm not generally a huge fan of pollarding old trees but if it is done well, with the good of the tree in mind the result can be both attractive, productive and keeps the tree in health for many years longer.

A very nice pear espalier.

Nether Winchendon House itself

Monday, 23 April 2012

Santa Claus - keeping test

I'd planned to keep my last few of Santa Claus's until Easter to test how late they would keep, but then forgot all about them. Today I noticed the neck of one was browning off so I decided to try them. I know now that they would have benefitted from being wrapped in tissue to stop them drying out, so will do that next year but, appearances aside, they were still quite edible. I thought they would probably have just gone brown at the core but no, the flesh was still quite firm. The taste was slightly vinous, very much like an Asian pear that is slightly over-ripe. 

I'm now quite impressed with this variety, I like firm pears with a tendency to crispness and the taste is also good. They are much later than the catalogues suggest, I don't think the first one was even ready in January and with care, they will keep in reasonable condition until April. The only down-side is that the variety is rather prone to scab, so needs a sheltered location that also has good ventilation, quite a challenge. I had given up on the cordon planted against a south-facing fence as the fruit were perennially riddled with scab lesions, but planting an additional tree I'd grafted into a more exposed position in my south-west facing front garden has been a lot more successful.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Three variety espalier

And at the bottom, and example of "playing with novelty grafting to add many different scions to a fruit" - espalier of three varieties, Passe Crassane, Beurre d’Anjou, and Bergamot d'Esperen

Blossom - Morettini

The first flowers of Morettini have just unfurled, heralding Spring! A sight to cheer the heart!