April in the Orchard


Autumn marks the beginning of dormant sprays. So clean your backpack sprayer out and get ready to copper if your stonefruit had bacterial infections (cankers, oozing sap, cracks in bark, yellowing leaves followed by premature leaf fall) or leaf curl. Do this at leaf fall. Two of my apples had black spot so I’ll do a copper at leaf fall on them as well. I recommend using copper on a needs basis only. howtostoreapples

How to store apples

The pantry looks glorious right now and it’s my favourite pick-me-up to stand in there! Crates of apples and pears, quinces ready to paste, pickles, relishes, jams and jars of dried fruits, sacks of onions and garlic – I could go on, but this revelling in the stores is a distraction; we need to talk of storing your pip fruits…

Mid season and late apples are fab keepers, and are well worth the effort to store properly. Having your own supply of organically grown apples to draw on through the winter is a real luxury. Successful storage begins with careful picking. Pick by gently bending the fruit upwards. It’ll come away easily and this way you keep the stalk without pulling off next years fruit spurs. Fruits with stalks keep well. Gently put the fruit in the basket.

Once all the fruit is picked you need to sort it into two piles – perfect ones (the keepers) and ones with bird pecks, no stalks, bruises etc which you need to use first. Line your crate or basket with newspaper and beginning with the perfect fruits, wrap each one in paper and put in your basket. Lay a sheet of newspaper on top of the first layer and carry on up to the top, adding the blemished fruit last. Store each variety separately. Keep your crate of beautifully wrapped fruit in a cool dark spot where no rats or mice can get it. (Is that vision of a stone cellar dancing in your head too?)

Looking after your Citrus

Boost your citrus as the new fruits are forming with a lovely seaweed spray and perhaps a dollop of seaweed beneath the mulch and they’ll thank you with beautiful fruits! Keep up your watering – boy, oh boy is it dry. Young citrus and subtropicals need protection to get through winter. I’ve made little strawbales walls on the south side of my young trees. I’ll bang a couple of stakes in front and tie on a frost cloth roof. Do tie your frost cloth securely to robust stakes, otherwise the wind will destroy your shelter and your tree will be tortured all winter with flapping cloth that rubs and breaks. Last year I used liquid frost cloth on the trees that were too big to cover and it worked incredibly well, so I’ll use this again on my Tamarillos which are too big for shelters.