Bacterial Canker in Plums

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Bacterial Canker – dead buds in spring time

The Curse of Bacterial Canker

2016 bacterial canker 3

Bacterial Canker – dead blossom in spring time

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Bacterial Canker – Gummosis

Bacterial Canker is evil. Walking the orchard this spring, to get a feel for how the trees have fared over the cold and wet (or warm and wet in this case) winter, I noticed that a few of the plum trees in the little orchard didn’t look great. On a few the blossom had withered and turned brown, on some the leaves had also turned brown or just remained as undeveloped buds which were dry to the touch. And on one tree in particular, we had the awful sight of gummosis, a potential sign of canker. With two of the trees we’ve had no fruit in the five years they’ve been in the ground, despite being on semi-dwarf rootstock, and the leaves did something similar last year. We’ve recently joined the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) and they have a fantastic service whereby you can send samples in and they will carry out a pathogenic study for you, so you know what you’re dealing with.

2016 bacterial canker 1

A common symptom of Bacterial Canker – early buds die, later foliage looks good with the possibility of ‘shotholes’. The leaves will drop early in the year.

Three days later and the three sample we sent off came back positive for Bacterial Canker – an opportunistic canker that infects wounds or prune cuts, remaining dormant over winter in the tree, to pop up in the spring. The infection causes leaves to drop early, allowing the infection to re-enter the tree through the leaf wound, and so infecting the tree for next year. The gummosis is a sign of a few tree problems, but the fact we also had dead leaf buds and blossom pointed to Bacterial Canker. In an older tree we could cut out dead wood and treat the tree to prolong its useful life, but as these trees are so young, and main branches were infected, I decided to pull them up and dispose of them. We’ve had problems in the orchard with cherries first, and now plums, and I suspect that the ground is having a part to play with it. Since that bad winter four years ago, where we were waterlogged for several months, the stone fruit has suffered. The majority of the cherries died in that winter, some survived but succumbed to a canker of sorts in the spring and summer, and now this warm wet winter seems to have done similar to the plums. The apple trees, touch fruit wood, are looking okay, so we’ll order more local varieties to replace the plums. I’ve also read that the rootstock M116 is a good choice for wetter sites than the MM106 we have the rest of the small orchard apples on, so I’ll try and track down somewhere that sells that rootstock.

My Stick

2016 my stickOne thing I really couldn’t do without is ‘my stick’. A few years ago I found a nice piece of holly wood, and whittled a really simple 4.5ft stick from it, with notches every foot, and a few inch notches near the base. When it comes time to plant out, some twine, two small sticks and ‘my stick’ are pulled out and put to use – it’s so much simpler than guessing.

2016 root patchToday I sowed 30ft of beetroot, 30ft of parsnips, 10ft of celeriac and 10ft of swede – the varieties of which can be seen in this post. When it comes to beetroot, I’ve found with the F1 hybrids the germination rate is so good I just add two seeds every 4 inches, and it saves thinning out once they’ve sprouted.

Then I sat back in the shade and waited for them to grow 🙂

Dandelion Wine – Step 1

Dandelion Wine Recipe

Okay, so we de-head them, we mow them, we curse them (often), we pretend they’re not really there, we dig them up, and generally aim quite a lot of animosity in their direction. But do they deserve it?! Over the last few years we’ve made dandelion root coffee, and it’s been quite nice, in my opinion, but a lot of faff. This year Suz suggested we try dandelion wine – and not one to argue with that train of thought, I dug out the old 1970’s book “Easymade Wine & Country Drinks” by Mrs Gennery-Taylor.

The ingredients needed are:

  • 2 quarts (2.25 litres) dandelion flowers
  • 3lb (1.4kg) granulated sugar
  • G.P. (general purpose) wine yeast
  • Yeast nutrient
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 gallon (4.5 litrs) boiling water

2016 dandelion wine 1Now being of that generation who was brought up in the metric system, yet who had to learn the old imperial system as his father worked in it, I’ve converted the imperial measurement above to metric. However, I’ll be putting it all in 1 gallon demijohns, so I’ll be basing it on that.

So we picked 10 quarts of dandelion flowers – Suz spent a couple of hours of back-bending picking, and I chipped in for the last hour, even stealing some from our grateful neighbour’s lawn! Essentially we just packed the big yellow dandelion heads into a litre jug, and called that one quart.

We washed the dandelion heads, placed them into a sterlised five gallon fermenting bucket, and added 5 gallons of boiling water, five2016 dandelion wine 2 finely sliced oranges and five finely sliced lemons. Gave it a good stir and sealed the lid. We now need to leave it for ten days – no longer! (according to the book).

I must add – it’s important to sterilise everything you use when making home-made wine, beer or cider. Cleanliness is everything!

Detailed Planting Plan

Who doesn’t like pictures in place of words! Below is our detailed planting plan, showing our various growing areas, and what we intend to plant in each this year 🙂

The Patch 2016b - Greenhouse 1Greenhouse 1

We’ve dug deep into the Italian ‘Franchi’ seed range again, for both our cucumbers and tomatoes. The very first year we had an amazing crop of Telegraph Improved cucumbers, but since then it’s been quite disappointing. I suspect we’ve neglected them in some way, or done something wrong, but this year I’m going for a different variety – a slightly spikey stumpy affair called Cetriolo Marketmore. It’s self pollinating, and is an early harvesting cuke – we’ll see how they do! And as far as tomotaoes go, we’re going with the variety we love to cook with, San Marzano. A great fleshy dollop of red goodness, whose flavour really does come out when cooked low and slow.

 

Greenhouse 2The Patch 2016b - Greenhouse 2

Next up, in the greenhouse sitting next to the last, is our other favourite Franchi tomato – Marmande, a juicy beef tomato that can compete with the best for the honour of fugly fruit. Continuing the Italian theme, we have Corno Rosso peppers – a long juicy sweet pepper, looking like a large chilli. We grew something similar the year before last and they were a great shape for stuffing with cream cheese! Then we have our basil, Italiano Classico, which we tend to grow a lot of as we dry it for overwinter use. And for another strong flavour, we’ve a couple of pots of ‘Calypso’ Coriander.

 

The Patch 2016b - Greenhouse 3Greenhouse 3

We (notice I never use the word ‘I’ when it’s a bad thing?) failed abysmally last year with the aubergines. In fact, we’ve only ever had one really good year, but I won’t stop trying! Last year was down to the same reason many things weren’t as good as they could be – we had a two week holiday – the first in a long time! And I can’t imagine doing it again! Whilst it was fun, it was painful to return, and I’d be perfectly happy spending two weeks of holiday pootling around the patch, and I know Suz feels the same. So this year we’re not doing that, and we’ll be able to keep a better eye on things, hopefully! In greenhouse 3 we’ve got eight pots of Black Beauty aubergines – so even with one fruit per plant we should have enough to make a few meals 😉

 

Raised BedThe Patch 2016b - Fruit Bed 1

We love our raised bed, it’s such an easy task to work and I can see more of these in the future. This year we’re going with pretty much the same as last, except the various lettuce are also from the Franchi range. Perhaps we should buy shares?! We’ve a bed of Appollo F1 spinach, it worked well last year for us, and a bed of pick and come again lettuce, Misticanza di Lattughe. We have a couple of lines of wild rocket, and twelve lettuce stations, using the colourful variety Misticanza Lattughe Croccanti – a red and green leafy lottery. We’ve also got our baby carrots, Chantenay type – Cascade F1, and a row of Ravanello Rapid Red 2 radish, which we plant quite frequently for successional sowing.

 

Fruit Bed 1The Patch 2016b - Fruit Bed 1

Not one we usually list in our yearly planting post, but this year, whilst waiting for the weeds to dissipate from the old, failed, raspberry bed, we’re going to make use of it by way of veg! I should add, the raspberries failed for two reasons – the site is really not well sheltered, and the ground tends to wetness in this corner; so much so that the raspberries died off and we almost lost one of the rhubarbs a few years ago in a particularly bad winter. The rhubarb survived, but we pulled what was left of the raspberries out two years ago and barrowed some soil in to raise the bed by a couple of inches. The soil has some nasties in it – nettles and docks mostly – so two or three years of veg growing will give us time to turn it a few times and prompt them to germinate, so we can duly nobble them. Smiler and Jay have their own areas here – Smiler’s growing onions to sell at the front, whilst Jay has gone for carrots for rabbits, bless! We’ll grow a bed of sunflowers, for bird seed, and a bed of carrots as the ground is hopefully clean enough to not suffer from carrot fly.

I’ve also made a note of the various currant bushes there – we have two each of black, red and white. It was rather remiss of me, but when we planted them out I didn’t make a note of the what went where – so I’ve filled the varieties in as best I can, and will have to identify those I’m unsure about by fruit.

 

Fruit Bed 2The Patch 2016b - Fruit Bed 2

Our rhubarb and gooseberry bed featured in a post not so long ago, showing the propogating of new gooseberry bushes, and how easy it is. Again, I’ve made a note here as to the varieties we have. I thought we’d planted different varieties of rhubarb, but can only find receipts for one type, so they must all be Timperley Early! As far as gooseberries go, we have Invicta, which has the largest and most prolific fruit of the three, then the two Hinnomaki bushes, one yellow, one red. The red one hasn’t been great in terms of fruit number, but they are delicious and sweet. The Invicta has suffered the most from gooseberry sawfly, which nematodes have done a decent job of killing off. Thinking about it, I’m guessing Mr and Mrs Blackbird are probably getting to the dessert gooseberry Hinnomaki Red before we do!

 

AllotmentThe Patch 2016b - Allotment

Finally we have the main allotment area – this year shrunk down to 30′ x 30′. The asparagus and artichoke beds are permanent, but the remaining seven are part of a rotation system. Essentially, each crop moves down one space from where it was last grown, and once it reaches the bottom of a column, it moves back to the top of the column to its left. The odd one is the pea and bean bed, which will move next year to where the potatoes are this year. Next year the potatoes will move down to where the onions currently are, the onions down to where the root veg are, and the root veg will move to where the squash are, and so on. This way the main manuring each autumn will be where the old onion patch was and where the potatoes will next be. The squash doesn’t mind two years on the same ground, so the fact that squash will grown on ground previously having corgettes on isn’t a bad thing, and the brassicas will always follow the nitrogen fixing peas and beans.  We’re hoping by cutting down on the allotment side of things this year will prepare us for a potentially busier fruit tree season!