Spring? If only! The orchard should be bursting in to leaf and blossom, but at the time of writing not a bud has broken out. It still looks like mid-winter, as do most of the field crops. With another week in prospect where the yellow orb in the sky remains behind clouds, the temperature mostly languishes below 10C (today’s max 7C) there is little prospect of meaningful growth.
The optimist will say it will even out. For that there will need to be accelerated growth, or a long late autumn. This explains amply why farming is in the lap of the gods.
In times past that meant all citizens faced feast or famine dependent on the weather. Now we gaily import from wherever as we have the financial clout to make up any shortfalls. Just note the proportion of a person’s income that goes on food expenditure in different countries and we can appreciate why those who spend such a small proportion generally attribute less value to food and diet. In the orchard I’m really pleased as where I pruned some deer ravaged trees down to a bud close to the ground, that has now woken up and is sprouting! I was cutting up to 2m of growth because of the damage. Now all I need is warmth to allow that bud to put up a new trunk within the shelter.
As I farm organically I don’t squirt glyphosate around the base of the trees to keep them weed free. Instead we have dug in jute mats, a time consuming process. But they are kind! They should last two years and see out the worst of the competitive challenge from grass and other weeds. They’ll also hopefully minimise drying out in the summer, hard though that is to imagine while the soil is waterlogged.
This Herefordshire Russett is ready to go. Plenty of docks are evident within the orchard which will be topped to ensure no seeds set. Ideally a month of dry weather soon will allow the excellent Gastrophysa viridula beetle to eat a lot of the leaves, lay eggs and their larvae eat the rest. Twice in the last 20 years this has happened and completely rid a field of docks, and they have never significantly returned. The dry weather is crucial to not wash the larvae off the plants before they finish totally demolishing it.
Meanwhile I’m busy booking lots of fairs and shows to attend to bring the apple juice and cider to the attention of as many people as possible! Sales are going well but we can always do with selling more. Keep your eyes peeled and cellar full! Check out the events page on the website. I hope to have an open day on 12 May – Somerset Day! Please check to confirm first. T: 01749 812652 www.applesjuice.co.uk