Update Feb 2022

We shall be providing regular updates to record what we’ve been up to – Welcome to our first update!

We’ve been very busy throughout January and now into February 2022 pruning orchard trees and individual apple trees, surveying orchards, planning, networking, researching and supporting volunteers at work sessions at community orchards.

We’ve been lucky enough to work at some fantastic garden orchards to prune the trees and offer advice on their ongoing management. At one orchard near Launceston a large number of the trees have at one point or another fallen over. But some of the resulting trees have regrown on their own roots. This creates a slight dilmemma to the orchard owner and orchardist about whether to let them grow on, and on how to prune them with awareness that they will grow much more vigorously than the original rootstock provided. If planted in an orchard with other trees, these ‘own root’ trees might therefore swamp some less vigorous or younger trees so decisions need to be found about this. There are benefits to growing apple trees on their own roots. I’ve created a separate post about ‘own root’ trees here.

Community Orchard at Tehidy Country Park

We also helped out with pruning at Tehidy Country Park alongside the fantastic regular Cormac volunteers and will be heading to St Ives Community Orchard next weekend.

Orchard skills workshops – Pruning & Bench grafting
We’ve also been planning some orchard skill-based workshops to include a pruning workshop in February in partnership with Kehellend Horticultural Trust, a grafting workshop with Helston Incredible Edibles in March, a grafting workshop at St Ives Community Orchard and hopefully also one in Redruth too this year. All information about these can be found on the workshop page. We hope to offer summer pruning workshops and more planting workshops next Autumn.

New Redruth Community Orchard
We’re still in discussion about a Redruth Community Orchard, but getting ever closer. Watch this space or get in contact to find out more.

Community Resources
We have secured funding for a new community apple press and scratter that we hope to take out into the community in Autumn in the Redruth – Portreath – Camborne areas initially. If you would like us to run an apple pressing session do get in touch.

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We have been receiving some fantastic mentoring via the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Cornwall which ‘supports Social Entrepreneurs to realise their ambitions and create social change’.

This experience has already helped to cement ideas about our work and what we want to achieve and focus the CIC on areas to develop that could have most positive impact in our communities. Obviously we exist because we want to see more community orchards, more people with orchard related skills so each community can look after them effectively for the future. Orchards in every community provide not only apples, pears and other fruit for everyone – for free – but they also create social spaces, places to learn together, places to relearn skills that have been lost and skills which will help all of us build resilient communities and food resources for the future.

It is very clear how orchards in our communities can have an uplifting effect on the local people and area and bringing people together is an aspect of our work we’d like to explore in the future, including how we can work with older people.

Thank you to:
Tr1cycles bike shop in Portreath for providing us with spare used inner tubes for us to use as tree ties – the perfect resource for the job and allowing us to reuse and repurpose.
Cormac Ltd Rangers at Tehidy Country Park for allowing us to come in and help work on the orchard and organsing the bark mulch for volunteers to put round the younger trees.
Kehellend Horticultural Trust for supporting our orchard ambitions and working with us to provide orchard skills workshops.

‘Own root’ apple trees

‘Own root’ apple tree multistems regrown from the fallen original

It’s hard to see from this photo, but this is a multi stemmed apple tree which orignally fell some time ago – fallen apple trees being a common sight in Cornwall. It has regrown from where it fell at several points, creating it’s own new root systems completely disregarding the original rootstock it had previously grown on.

This has happened because some west country apple varieties can be grown as ‘pitchers’ or as ‘own root’ trees. Other apple trees cannot do this and need to be grafted. ‘Own root’ trees can be grown from cuttings taken now when carrying out annual pruning.

The draw backs with own root trees are that the final size and vigour of the tree will vary depending on the variety and the pest and disease resistance will vary too. In contrast, the vigour and disease resistance of known traditional rootstock size, onto which a tree is normally grafted, has been bred and sold commercially due to these particular characteristics and therefore are known and usually chosen for this reason. If a tree has fallen and regrown on it’s own roots – as in the orchard above where we were pruning this month – then the tree may outgrow it’s space more quickly if of great vigour than the original rootstock. The size will impact the other trees surrounding it and also your ability to harvest the fruit. The final size will be dependent on the variety but could be up to the size of a wild crab apple tree – say up to 8-10 metres tall. But equally

However, there are many benefits to having one or two own root apple trees in your orchard. Grafting obviously creates a weaker tree in some ways, as you are splicing two trees together, the resulting wound does create some stress on the tree. Growing an own-root tree will generally result in a healthier and stronger apple tree without this area of weakness created through grafting union. Mary Martin and James Evans, of ‘A Cornish Pomona’ have been experimenting with ‘own root’ trees for some years and the range of characteristics of vigour or pest and disease resistance varies between the varieties.

There is more information on this fascinating topic researched by Hugh Ermen on the Orange pippin website and also here at an apple farmer website.

Pruning at Tehidy Community Orchard – with cows!

Fantastic to join the regular Tehidy park/ Cormac volunteers this week in the orchard for weeding, mulching and pruning. At one point a cow decided to run in and join us in the orchard having escaped from it’s field but lost it’s herd – making for a bit of excitement! Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo…

Weeding around trees and then mulching was done to help ensure that when the meadow grass grows it doesn’t swamp young trees and compete for nutrients. But also, with older trees it helps to protect the trunk, as it becomes clearly demarcated and therefore no strimmers, or other machinery need go near to the trunk at all when people are maintaining the grounds thus ensuring no chance of catching the trunk.

We pruned some of the larger trees to bring them down as they’ve been heading for the sky where we can’t reach the fruit so well and just to encourage new fresh growth throughout.

The Pear Apple tree has already been top grafted a few years ago with some Bramley scions so we were careful not to chop those off. Young trees got a bit of formative pruning and we all had great chats about apple trees, orchards, pruning, grafting and how to get more orchards planted locally.

Thanks to all at Cormac and the volunteer team for allowing us to come and join you in the wonderful orchard.

We hope to be planting some more apple trees at Tehidy over the coming weeks – watch this space.

Apple Canker in your orchard: Identifying and dealing with this fungus

Apple trees can live with canker and carry on as living, producing trees, remaining good for biodiversity, wildlife and fruit. It just takes a bit of monitoring and annual pruning to keep it in check.

This week I’ve been pruning a ten year-ish old apple tree that has quite a significant problem with canker. There are many open lesions on smaller side branches, lots of spur and tip die back plus the trunk has areas that look like lesions are developing.

Pruning in winter allows you to identify the canker from the small red spores of the fungus. I ensure I remove all the branches with lesions and spores on and take them right back to the main central leader. I then prune off as many branches with dead spurs and die back as possible. It’s important to take these prunings away and burn else the spores can reinfect other branches of the same tree plus spread to other apple trees in the vicinity.

In order to stay on top of a tree that has canker ensure you prune out infected material each year to prevent it from spreading. Keep it under control and prolong the life of the trees and their productivity and therefore limit the extent to which it is affected by the fungus.

Once infected, Canker can spread throughout the tree and to other trees via small red spores in the Winter and Spring (seen in this image) and white spores via water droplets in Summer. Both can cause reinfection on other parts of the tree so remove any that you find, including all fallen leaves and burn.

Canker is common in Cornwall due to the wet weather but choosing canker resistant varieties – which Cornish varieties often are – will help to keep it at bay. Despite this though, I do know many orchards that have no canker so if you keep trees healthy, choose canker resistant varieties and keep an eye out for canker infection by conducting annual pruning, you can help to ensure it’s not something you have to deal with. But if you do find your trees have canker, don’t let it worry you too much – keep on top of it and your trees will continue to live a productive and long life.

The following images are of a Charles Ross apple tree which has had a canker infection for at least 6 years – probably much longer. It can be seen at the bottom of the trunk therefore affecting all of the tree. This also causes some die back of branches in the canopy plus lesions on side branches. Despite this, you see the huge crop of apples each year, without fail. It is true that an apple tree under stress will give a bumper crop because it wants to live on and the way to do that is to produce as much fruit, and therefore seed, as possible to give it a good chance of reproducing. This tree has been cropping like this every year so it doesn’t seem like a tree at the end of it’s life yet; it does very well considering the pressures of the canker fungus that it hosts. However, it is at a stage where I wouldn’t try to prune out the infection in the main trunk as it’s really taken over the tree, and if I did so there wouldn’t be much tree trunk left. So, limiting it’s spread via spores is the main priority by annual pruning, to ensure it doesn’t spread to other trees. Luckily there are not any other apple trees in the vicinity.

In conclusion, whilst canker can weaken and reduce the length of life of an apple tree if left unchecked, you can prevent it from taking over and control it through annual pruning pretty successfully. The fungus doesn’t stop the tree from fruiting, and it carries on growing. The downside is that if you have other apple trees you run the risk of it spreading to others trees unless you take action to stop it’s spread. You need to monitor your trees in order to spot it early if it does spread.

If you’re really brave you might like to attempt to cut out larger canker infection in tree trunks as you catch it – this involves using a knife to dig out into clean healthy wood, ensuring every bit of infected wood has been removed. The cleared wound can then be covered with sealant to ensure no further infection. A video of this process can be seen here,

How to get rid of fruit tree canker – YouTube

I’d be happy to discuss canker with you further if it’s a problem for you, as well as pruning it out each year to stop it infecting other trees in your orchard.

Bladder campion in the orchard

An easy support plant for your orchard could be bladder campion. What a yummy, easy to grow plant with wonderful flowers for insects too.

Silene vulgaris also known as Carletti, or Sculpit or Baldder Campion is a wild edible found in meadows apparently well loved and cultivated in Italy as a cooked green often used in risottos or omlette (See Stephen Barstow, Around the World in 80 Days).

Bladder campion would be happy in a position at the edge of an orchard in full sun and shoots can be harvested from Spring onwards and now too, Autumn, they are putting on a new flush of fresh leaves actually. Use just as salad leaves or I’ve also added chopped Carletti shoots into my regular Jamie Oliver style flatbreads (half dairy free yoghurt/half plain flour of your choice and baking powder). Yum! I’m sure you’d be able to tell me some more adventurous uses for it as I’m an extremely basic and lazy cook.

If you’re local and you’d like some seed to give it a try now or in Spring just let me know.

More info:

Growing hops in the orchard

Today I was really happy to find some hops growing wild along a stream near Holywell Bay, Cornwall. It was so abundant and full of life. It’s mid May now and will continue growing until the end of June to get to it’s maximum height before focusing on flowering (if a female plant). I might have to go back and check whether this one flowers because it’s hugely prolific. Here’s some photos of the wild hops I found.

Wild hops plant on fence
Wild hops plant growing up a fence

I’ve been planting hops amongst fruit trees and shrubs in orchards I work in over the past few years as it’s a really useful and beautiful climbing plant.

I cooked the shoots of hops for the first time this year. Fried in a little oil along with some Goji Berry shrub shoots. They were both really delicious and I highly recommend them. You snip off about 10cm off of the end shoots in late Spring once the plant has got going. Any longer than that and the shoots get stringy. Try snapping the stem as that will reflect how good for eating they are, if you can’t snap the stem then it’s too stringy and old. Some people continue to snap off shoots well into summer which helps to keep the ends more tender and flower later.

They like full sun for good flowering but this hops was in only part sun, part wooded area next to stream and thriving with plenty of tender shoots to harvest.

Hops shoots with red stems

Pears & other fruit for Cornwall

Pears are suitable for growing in Cornwall even though they are quite rare and you don’t often come across them in older orchards. Many people are now growing pears in Cornwall and are having huge success so it’s definitely a good idea to add a few to your orchard. Figs, medlars and quince are also suitable to Cornish conditions and help provide a diverse group of top fruit and flowering times.

Here a few examples of Pears which people have had success with in Cornish conditions.

Beurre Hardy, Beth, Conference, Glow Red Williams, Concorde, Asian, Josephine de Malin