The natural thinning of the June drop has left the Sunset apples neatly spaced in twos and threes on most of the branches. Perfect for a good crop of medium-sized apples. The Fortune, which crops erratically, set more fruit than usual this year and most have hung on into July, clustered in fours or fives high in the crown of the tree. Too late to thin by hand now, as the fruit are already filling out, so there’s a crop of bite-sized apples on the way.
The August-fruiting Discovery crops reliably but the distribution of the fruit looks random, with singles, pairs, threes and fours, so there will be apples of all sizes at harvest time. The Bramley is also carrying threes and fours, already squashed tight together as the stalks are so short. Impossible to thin now and tricky to pick later as removing one apple usually dislodges all the others in the cluster.
I’m catching up with my ‘other garden’ this weekend, dead-heading and tidying the borders and reclassifying some of the weeds as desirable native wildflowers. At first glance the garden looks quite tidy, as our lodger has been mowing the lawn diligently in my absence, but the dense-packed plants in the borders hide swathes of ground elder and there are brambles climbing the apple trees. (There’s more about the garden in On the Wild Side)
The twenty year old apple trees are strong and healthy so I usually do some early summer pruning to keep them to a manageable size. The trees are all grafted on ‘semi-dwarf’ rootstocks but need a summer trim, as well as the main winter pruning, to make sure the fruit is in reach from a step ladder. The Fortune has got away this year and long, straight shoots are waving in the wind above the fruiting branches, taking the height of the tree to over 20ft (6m).
The four apple trees are in a fenced pen, grandly known as the orchard, which used to be our hen run. Hens and apples were a successful combination, with the composted litter from the hen house feeding the trees and windfall apples feeding the hens. The five hens led a happy life, scratching among fallen leaves or recently spread compost, and helped to keep the trees healthy by eating up potential pests. Sadly a fox finished off our small flock, just as we making arrangements for them to move to a new home, before our move to Paris.