Sunday, 23 August 2009

Red Comice Espalier.

Having previously had to remove the top Bartlett pear from the tier of this espalier (seem bottom pic), I'm pleased that the remaining Red Comice has made enough growth to tie in another layer. As the extension growth wasn't very central I decided to train two uprights into a sort of U cordon-cum-espalier which will hopefully appear a little more symmetrical. I will replace the frame later in the year, and use a spirit level this time!

Wild Bullace? Prunus insititia

Highly galling to have such a heavy crop of the wild plums that creep over my boundaries when the domestic varieties do so badly. I'm tempted to bud the latter onto a branch of the wild tree to see if they do better. 

Wild plums are just about edible as desert if very well ripened, and if you take off the skin, but I think I'll just jam these or better still, make plum gin. 

I don't particularly like them, but havet to pick them as the windfalls attract rats to the poultry run; the stored stones keep them going well into the winter (despite the cyanide). Soon there will be copious purple fox droppings in the garden, all full of tell-tale stones. Foxes appear to be largely fruitarian between July and September from the scat I find in the garden.

Asian Pear: Shinsui

I decided to cut off the bent branch before it broke with the weight of fruit, though I'd rather have left it in place.

I've come to the conclusion that this variety is best eaten straight from the tree, as it needs as much sun ripening as possible. It can be disappointingly insipid, like those asian pears available in the shops.

I tried one today that dropped off as i was picking it, and it had the distinct flavour of slightly-fermented pineapple that this variety has at it's best. 

Crop: Fondante d'Automne

A respectable number of Fondante d'Automne. Hopefully there will be enough late sun to ripen this French variety fully, the reflected heat from the front of the house should help.

A number had fallen off in the unseasonable gales.

Crop: Conference

As usual, a huge crop of Conference which the cordon can only barely support.

Summer pruning/deleafing

I meant to take a 'before' photo, but I got carried away with opening up some light and air into the Comice/Concorde/Conference/Beth row of cordons and the russet apple cordons. All tall extension growth not wanted for tying in (i.e. none now that the frame is complete) has been taken back to about 6-9 inches. This is purely to allow light in to ripen the fruit and air to circulate. I never cut back too radically at this stage as if the weather continues to be mild and wet, the pruned wood will sprout again, even if a terminal bud has formed. I will prune again in September when I'm sure there won't be regrowth.

Crop: Bishop's Thumb

A small crop of Bishop's Thumb on a maiden intended as one half of an arch in the front garden. Fruit is only slightly bigger than shown on photograph.

I'm not sure how closely my tree compares to Bunyard's Descripton:

BISHOP'S THUMB. Her. Pom. II., 42. F. Pousse 
de 1'Eveque. Dessert, October to November, variable 
2f by 5, long calebasse form, even. Skin, a little rough. 
Colour, pale yellow with bright scarlet flush. Flesh, 
palest yellow, fine grained, a little melting, slightly 
perfumed, very juicy. Eye, wide open almost on 
level. Stem, long and woody, continued, generally at 
angle the flesh growing higher up (the stem one side). 
Growth, vigorous, makes a good standard ; fertility 
good. Leaf, elliptical, nearly flat, finely serrate. Origin, 
this has been known in England for many years and is 
generally considered to be a native. First described 
by Diel in 1804. An old variety often found in orchards 
but of no special merit. The curious growth of flesh up 
one side of the stem is, I suppose, the origin of its name.

Evaluation: Beth

Returned from my father's funeral in Wales to find nearly half of the remaining Beth crop had fallen, though many were still edible after the wasp-nibbled bits had been removed. Including the fallen ones, the remaining crop weighed 4 kilos (8 lbs), giving a total crop of  7 kg (15 lbs) for what is a single cordon (the other limb is given over to Goreham).

8 foot oblique cordon, on Quince C planted 1998.
7 kg (15 lbs) ripening over 2-3 weeks
Growth habit very compact and free-spurring.
Disease free with good autumn foliage colour (yellow).

Flavour and texture are good; thin-skinned, juicy, sweet and slightly buttery. Acid levels are low, helping the sweetness, though probably making it slightly less flavoursome as an early culinary pear. Keeping qualities are average for an early variety, that is you have a couple of days of grace once they have turned yellow.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Crop: Tydeman's Early Worcester

I decided to start picking the Tydeman's Early Worcester, even though I'd have preferred to leave a little longer, and hope for a little more sun but the wasps were starting to cause damage, having already nibbled small holes out of the ripest ones. I left the ones that really didn't want to break off, I hope they'll survive intact until I get back from Wales in a week or so. About 1.5 kg picked today.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Crop: Rogue Red

The first crop of the scion of Rogue Red grafted on to a Comice cordon. Not the greatest position, but the foliage is rather more affected by scab than it's host, and the fruit has russeting probably related to scab infection earlier on. Still, the russeting is only cosmetic (skin can be peeled if coarse) and I'm looking forward to trying them later, squirrels and wasps willing.

Reinette Rouge Etoilée

The first fruit to set on Reinette Rouge Étoilée half-standard, showing some very odd red blotching.

Crop: Shinsui

Another branch bent to it's extreme with fruit. Another very heavy crop from this young tree, though I doubt there will have been enough sun this year to get fully ripened fruit.

Why M26 isn't great for half-standards

This is a good example of why the choice of rootstocks is important, even though there may not initially appear to be much difference between the semi-dwarfing and semi-vigourous ones on paper.

Most of my apples are on M26 (M stands for Malling, or East Malling) which is a semi-dwarfing. Not a problem for cordons, which are supported, or the strong-growing varieties with compact growth required as half-standards, but M26 lacks substance for weak-growing varieties prone to more whippy growth like this Tydeman's Early Worcester. Most of the fruit bearing branches are bent horizontal or further. I think MM 106 is a better rootstock for half-standards, and I'm trying it on a couple of espaliers which are looking good, and cropping earlier than the M26 cordons.

Crop: Red Ellison's

A couple of the Red Ellison's fell from the tree, and a couple of the others parted very easily. Not a great crop from what is a well-established cordon now, but it only set fruit for the first time last year. Top left is a Red James Grieve, which also looked like it was ripening and parted easily.

Crop: Beth

Rather surprisingly, we ate our first ripe windfall Beth in the last week July. A few more have either fallen or yellowed and parted easily from the spur. Usually I'd say the first ones drop a couple of weeks later.

I decided to pick all the ones that looked 'ready'. That is showing faint signs of yellowing on the surface exposed to sun, and which part easily and cleanly. About 3kg picked so far. Fruit size is very good this year and so far the wasps haven't taken an interest.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Evaluation: Dr Jules Guyot

The sole-surviving fruit of Dr Jules - those that were left by the squirrels were hollowed out by wasps, just leaving one. 

Sweet, quite dry, slightly floury and not terribly juicy (though this might because the sole fruit was picked too late). Skin fine, no trace of grit or bitterness. Slight taste of pear drops (described as 'slightly musky' elsewhere). Nothing particularly special, but very pleasant. 

Needs to be picked early (at the point where it parts from the spur) and eaten while still quite firm, just as the green starts to yellow, which will be within a few days of picking giving a limited period of storage/use.

Cordon planted 12 years ago, very healthy with no predisposition to scab,  but only two crops set in that time. Only one or two fruits ever survive on each spur, which also limits the size of the potential crop. The main problem with Dr Jules is it's reluctance to crop regularly, which has been the case in both my own orchard, and the one in my parents' garden in South Wales. Curiously, the fruit in Wales was a couple of weeks behind mine in readyness.

Evaluation: Morettini

A couple of fruit picked straight from the tree. Much riper than the first picking. The redder one was quite sweet and slightly buttery; the other a bit thinner and more astringent (by which I mean has more tannins). The fruit are an attractive shape and colour, very regular in shape and have very few blemishes to the skin of any kind. 

Melting, sweet juicy, fine-texured with a thin skin and no trace of grit. More acidity than some, very evident if compared with Beth. Best eaten while slightly hard, with still traces of green still evident, as flavour falls off fairly quickly at full ripeness. One of the best varieties I grow for cooking (light poaching) probably because of the mild acidity; similar in cooked flavour/texture to Williams/Bartlett. 

8 foot tall half standard tree, grafted 2001 - 2:
7.5 kg picked
2 kg approx lost to wasps.
Total 10 kg approx, 21 lbs

Tree qualities - fairly vigourous, compact grow, resistant to scab and heavy cropping. However, flowering can be confused, with buds sometimes opening as early as December if the weather is too mild.

Devoe: fruit splitting

A number of the biggest pears of the Devoe crop started splitting in July, the consequence of a period of very dry hot weather followed by extended period of torrential rain in July. It's always the largest fruit that seem prone, the ones that I hoped would be good for exhibiting in September. Watering during the dry spell might have helped I suppose. The remaining ones show no sign of ripening yet.


I've never really had any problems with wasps before, largely because I watch my fruit ripening like a hawk and whip it off the moment I think it's ready (or just before). Consequently the wasps have rarely had an opportunity. In fact, I was struck that numbers were unusually low in 2008 and 2007.

Having had to leave fruit ripening on the tree while I was away, they have now reappeared in swarm proportions with a vengeance. I'm sure there will be complaints if I don't do something, as this tree is dropping wasp-covered fruit on the pavement. They are extremely efficient at eating whole fruits, sometimes excavating away leaving just the skin like a deflated balloon.

I managed to pick about a kilo of Morettini today before giving up. I don't have a great fear of wasps, having been covered by them many time while picking blackberries very early in my youth and never stung, but the risk of grasping one while picking was too great. I returned after dark tonight to clear up fallen/rotten ones, and pick the remainder of the crop. Even so, quite a few wasps were still crawling around, still inebriated from gorging on the fruit.

Crop: Irish Peach

Lost most of the small crop to wasps. I picked one in the last week in July, and it ripened within a few days. This variety has a very small window of use, but is very early, just about ready in July.  Acid-sweet, very appley, slightly floury texture but not unpleasantly so at peak of ripeness. Skin on one a little tough, but not inedibly so. Fruit size a little small, but the tree is still little more than a maiden.

Crop: Morettini

I did manage to pop home from Wales for a few hours in the last week of July. The first crop to be ready was Morettini, which were yellowing slightly and parting easily from the spurs. I picked a couple of kilos to take home. The desert quality wasn't great, they were quite astringent for eating raw, but were perfect for poaching after about a week. Despite the brief heat-wave in June, I suspect they simply haven't had enough sun to ripen adequately. Desert quality has been good in previous years, sweet and lightly buttery but not this year. Yields were very good, but by the middle of August wasps had destroyed a good percentage of the crop (see next post).

what happened to July...

July was a horrible month. Not only because it was so wet but because I spent most of it at my father's side in hospital, leaving the garden and orchard completely untended, and nearly all the summer fruit unpicked. He died last week. Only now do I realise how much of my urge to grow fruit and veg was tied up with my relationship with him and his world; partly competitive, partly to provide things that he liked. I wonder how I will feel about it now, the amount of work that has built up, and the amount of produce that needs picking and eating seems an enormous burden at the moment. July is the one month one cannot afford to be away from the garden, growth is so rapid, disease so rampant and production so high.