Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Terrible season

In summary, this has been an absolutely terrible season, one of the reasons I haven't bothered posting much this year. To start with, no pollination as the insects didn't come out in the rain. The few pears that set are all abnormally small. Lots of scab on leaves and shoots. The quince set more fruit, but then a terrible attack of scab make everything drop off. The medlar set a lot of small fruit but it has now all browned off and rotted on the tree.

The plums were similarly affected, either no fruit set, or a small number of undersized fruit (which was all taken by the rogue squirrel anyway). The apples have done better, but with a fair amount of cracking or scab, and the early varieties have largely been spoiled by jay or squirrel damage before they were ripe enough to be picked. 

This has been by far the worst year we've suffered here, normally only one or two susceptible pears are affected by fungal ills, but this year everything has suffered in some way or other from the terribly wet weather. So there will be no boxes overflowing with lovely clean, large, beautiful fruit this year. Very depressing and disappointing, I have been so ill this year it would have been lovely to have had something cheering to look forward to.

War on Squirrels and Jays

Having posted on how well the codling moth traps were working, I can't say the same of the squirrel trapping. We have had a huge influx of squirrels this year, and one in particular seems impossible to trap. They have just stripped the Denniston's of its small crop completely and are randomly biting into our small crops of apples and pears. I trapped one last week, thinking at least that only left one hard nut to crack, but I'm blowed if another two didn't appear almost immediately. 

In addition to crows this year jays have done an extraordinary amount of damage. I'd been wondering what had been hacking lumps out of my Grenadier, and then moved on to the Worcester and my un-named early red. I'd been thinking it must be pigeons but then I caught a jay actually doing it shamelessly right in front of me. We have a very active extended family of jays which are continually attracted to the area by a neighbour who tips peanuts into his garden as if they were garden mulch, one reason for the influx and high breeding numbers of squirrels. 

I hope the jays may be a temporary problem. They haven't been a problem before, and I think they initially started pecking at the fruit because of scab-related soft patches on the fruit. Having started off with these, they then discovered that the rest of the fruit was palatable. I hope they don't remember next year, but they are bright corvids and they do have a remarkable capacity to remember and teach others of their kind. If they don't forget, then sadly we'll be getting towards the stage of having to net everything soon.

Pheromone traps - verdict

Really pleased with the traps, despite reservations they worked well. Sadly the plum didn't set any fruit at all, so no way of evaluating how well the trap worked other than to count the moths, but the one attached to Rosemary Russet caught approximately 10 moths and there is no sign so far of any holes in the surprisingly good crop on this cordon, and that without spraying. Unfortunately, the full standard Grenadier on the other side of the garden is full of the things again, so clearly they aren't effective over a very large area, and I'd need at least one more to help clear the problem over the full area. But certainly well worth trying again next year.