A Bloody Ploughman

A Bloody Ploughman

Most of the weekend has been dry and sunny, so in between painting the shower room we wanted to accomplish some outside jobs. Top of the list was planting the apple trees we received as a housewarming gift. Carefully selected for our climate, and sent to us as bare root stock, we’d had them soaking in a bucket in a sheltered spot until we had chance to plant them but first of all we had to choose the right spot.

The ideal location for an orchard is a south-west facing slope (for the sun) but out of the prevailing wind. As our prevailing wind, like most of the country, is south-westerly we had to slightly reconsider the site – north facing slopes are too shaded, eastern too prone to frost and the many dells and valleys on our land too prone to flooding. We also wanted a spot that was relatively accessible (our one sheltered southerly slope is very steep and would be difficult to harvest on and maintain).

We finally settled on a westerly slope, currently covered in bracken, old hawthorn and gorse branches and brambles next to the garden wall. Although quite steep there were signs of old paths here and the westerly position means the trees should get a reasonable amount of sun but they are also sheltered by another slope from the worst of the wind.

Our final consideration was avoiding the telephone and power lines that cross the field – the site we’ve chosen is close to these but large enough to avoid them.

And here are the five trees planted. The bracken has actually done us a favour, creating a really great, rich hummus to plant the trees in and breaking up some of the stones in the soil. it only took a couple of hours to plant the five trees (even with Kester on Matt’s back).

Apple varieties, from left to right - Bloody Ploughman, Galloway Pippin, Sunset, Tower of Glamis and Katy.

Apple varieties, from left to right – Bloody Ploughman, Galloway Pippin, Sunset, Tower of Glamis and Katy.

When new bracken growth appears in spring we’ll strim it off and keep doing so two or three times in the year. Theoretically this will leave the rhizomes exposed next winter and frost and snow will do the rest of the work for us in killing it off. We’ll edge the paths between the trees with some of the old branches we’ve gleaned as not all will be suitable for burning.