This September we had the biggest harvest of Apples from our new Orchard to date. The Apples & other fruit trees have been planted over the course of 3 years, the last trees being planted in the spring of 2012.
They grow on a very testing site, exposed to the wind and on heavy clay soil. The fruit trees have had a tough start, but a little bit of tender care and the damp summer of 2012 meant they got their roots in properly, and are now starting to perform as they should. Undeniably it’s been a good year for fruit all round, even our small Vegetable garden Orchard has produced fruit and these trees were only planted in the spring of this year.
One of our volunteers has taken on responsibility for the large Orchard almost entirely and over the course of winter 2012 – 2013 he would come down to see me and tell me about how the pruning was coming along, retie any trees that had come loose, repair rabbit guards etc.
In the spring he mowed, keeping the grass low improved the air circulation around the trees and took out competition for moisture and nutrients. The spring show of blossom, although later than normal was incredible. There is nothing more beautiful than standing surrounded by fruit trees in full flower. The scent on a still day can make your mouth water!
Finally in mid August, our volunteer, Peter started coming back from the Orchard laden with boxes of Apples. At first it was a trickle, then a veritable flood of Apples. Once the kitchen had their fill and they had made Apple pie, Apple crumble, Apple juice and of course offering up our Apples au natural, we started to offer them for sale in our shop …. And still the Apples kept coming! It was beginning to feel a bit like a scene from the Magicians Nephew with crates of Apples stacked waist high and Peter warning me there was more to come, much more.
At this point we had to get inventive as we had way more fruit than we could ever deal with so we contacted a local business, Biddenden Vineyards and consulted with a lovely chap called Julien, who offered us the solution of juicing our Apples. So a date was set for collection and a collaboration of the Rangers team and the Veg garden saw a bright Thursday morning in late September, and an army of Volunteers set off for the orchard with our hastily assembled Apple crates. Less than 2 hours later with big smiles the Orchard had been virtually picked clean.
We had estimated having about ½ a ton, we had underestimated, on final weight we had just under a ton of fabulous Apples. These were sent off for pressing and within 3 days we had our very own bottles of Apple juice. This means we can carry on enjoying the fruits of our labour, if you’ll excuse the pun, right into next year. Well, I say that, that’s if there’s any left as we’re selling it in our shop, and by all reports it flying out the door!
Finally a quick note about the storm the other night, there were some casualties, relatively minor ones compared to how bad things could have been. A few small trees have gone down in the garden and wider estate, causing very little collateral damage. The worst thing to happen to the Vegetable garden was that we lost both sets of the south ends of the polytunnel doors, the wind had, despite our best efforts, ripped the locks off the doors, snapped the reams of baling twine we had wrapped around the handles for extra security, pulled the anchor points clean out of the ground and then proceed to thrash the doors back and forth till they cried mercy. Thankfully it appears that’s the worst it did and it shouldn’t take too long to replace them with something bigger, better and more resilient.
Lou – Senior Vegetable Gardener