First Trees Planted!

Finally!! Four days ago the walnut tree arrived – a Broadview variety which will grow naturally to around 30ft high with a 20ft spread – perfect for sitting under on a summer’s day. The old saying for tree planting goes…

“when the ground is soft enough to plant, the plants are soft enough to be planted”

Our ground was hard as rock, so I figured best wait a bit. It stayed in the garage in the cool, away from sun, and the rootball kept moist.

Today, the weather has been decent, and the last three days have all been above freezing, giving the ground time to thaw. The first 13 fruit trees arrived, so armed with a bucket of blood and bone (food to scatter in the base of the holes), a spade, a spirit level, hare guards (75cm tall), tree ties and a lump hammer, I scarpered down to the patch to plant some trees 😀

The chart here shows which variety is to go where, and which type of fruit goes where. Each type is on a near north-south line (skewed by 15 degrees) to allow as much sun as possible to get to the trees. The smaller cherries are on the left so they get protection from the predominant SW winds, and get the most sunshine throughout the day. The various trees have the most appropriate pollination partners next to them as much as is possible, so the bees have less work to travel between trees who are blossoming at the same time. The plan is to install hives, probably on the far East side, to help with pollination and to provide us with honey, though Gary and Liz next door are keen to keep bees so these may be installed near their patch to the North West.

Each bare root feathered maiden (and a few whips) were placed into the ready-dug hole, with the union ball (where the rootstock was joined to the scion) above ground level by about 3″. A 2″ stake was hammered in between the roots, about 2-3″ away from the main trunk, then a small handful of blood and bone was scattered in and loose soil shoveled in to cover the roots. A quick shake of the tree helped the soil settle between the roots, then more soil on top and a good firm down with the welly. The cut sod from the 3′ wide hole was upturned to let the roots die off in the coming winter, and we’ll let the rain forecast for the day after do our watering for us. Finally the stake was cut to about 1-1.5′ high and a tree tie added about 12″ high. I figured this would give the tree enough support in winds, but will encourage the stem to flex enough to grow strong. We’ll revisit in a few days to look out for any settling of the soil levels and to top up where necessary. We’ll also prune them at this stage and install the hare guards to protect the delicate stems.

The trees planted so far are (some descriptions are taken from the Keeper’s Nursery site from where over half of our trees are from, others are from Ashridge Trees where about a third are from – both have been amazingly helpful and patient):

Apples

  • Newton Wonder – 1870 – Derbyshire – First cultivated just 5 miles away in Kings Newton – a decent cooker. Discovered growing in the thatch of the Hardinge Arms, grafted trees sold so well that by 1887 the RHS gave it a first class award.
  • Bramley’s Seedling – 1809 – Nottinghamshire – Bramley’s Seedling more commonly referred to simply as Bramley is undoubtedly the classic English cooking apple.
  • Annie Elizabeth – 1857 – Leicestershire – Regarded as one of the best stewing and baking apples. Attractive maroon blossom.
  • Grenadier –  1862 – Buckinghamshire – Grenadier is one of the best known of the early cooking apples. Possibly one of the weirdest of all British apples: it is ribbed and lumpy with a tough coat, looking as though it has taken a beating. Makes good sauce and cooks to a fine puree, perfect for apple pies and crumble.
  • Egremont Russet – 1872 – Sussex – The best know and most popular of the russet apples. Very distinctive rich nutty flavour.
  • Lord Derby – 1862 – Cheshire – A good disease resistant cooking apple suitable for northern Britain.
  • Peasgood’s Nonsuch – 1853 – Lincolnshire – Peasegood Nonsuch Apple trees bear lovely big fruit – in the book “Mr Paul” by Jonathan Cape, one character remarks of the Peasegood Nonsuch, “Capital! One of them makes a dumpling by itself.” And he is right- for they can be used for both cooking and eating.
  • Ellison’s Orange – 1904 – Lincolnshire – Intensely aromatic Cox like variety. An excellent alternative to Cox for northern Britain.
  • Worcester Pearmain – 1873 – Worcestershire – A very popular sweet early dessert apple suitable for colder regions.

Plums

  • Victoria – 1840 – Sussex – Victoria is the best known and most popular of English plums, especially good for culinary use.
  • Exacalibur – 1980 – Bristol – A very large new red variety similar to Victoria.
  • Blue Tit – 1938 – Bedfordshire – A self-fertile dual purpose blue-black plum with good flavour and reliable cropping.

Cherry

  • Morello – Kent – Morello is the best sour cooking cherry for the UK. If you want cherries for pies, jams or making alcohol, Morello is the one for you.
  • Sunburst – Canada – Sunburst is a heavy cropping self fertile cherry from Canada. It produces large sweet fruit which is almost black when ripe.

-11 degrees…brrr…

The temperature’s been dropping gradually for a couple of weeks now, and last night it hit -11 according to our car’s thermometer (that was first thing in the morning) and -10 according to the weather station. The snow has become compacted into ice, covered with more snow, on the lane which makes for a mile of very slow driving to get out to civilisation.

On the plus side, the parsnips, carrots, leeks and jerusalem artichokes are all happy in ground in the outdoor freezer – shame we can’t dig the blighters out!

On a more serious  note, the fruit trees that are meant to be delivered any day have been postponed until such a time that the growers can lift them from the permafrost! The risk is that they pull them, then the ground freezes over again before they arrive and we can plant the, so we’re slightly nervous.