Thursday, 2 February 2017

Orchard Day, Dorich House, Kingston Vale

Dorich House info on apple varieties
Lewis McNeil London Orchard Project
The rain subsided just in time for our enjoyable demonstration - performed by Lewis from the London Orchard Project - on how to maintain the orchard, at Kingston University's Dorich House at Kingston Vale. The original inhabitant - sculptor Dora Gordine - was keen on fruit, and the original apple and pear trees were reaching the end of their useful lifespan; although dead wood on healthy trees are a recognised asset for biodiversity, and is not cut out. 

choosing a vertical limb
Supporting the limb with a hook
The orchard was  restored and revitalised in 2011 by LOP. This included some supplementary planting of local heritage varieties such as Braddick's Nonpareil and Claygate Pearman, orginally grown by John Braddick of Thames Ditton late 1900's. Apple trees are flatter than the more upright pear trees and the wider angles take greater loads. 

When trees are not pruned regularly they can revert to biennial bearing; with a lot of fruit one year and none the next. Fruit trees are a forest edge species and require optimal light conditions. One of  our tasks was to cut out any wood growing vertically, which shades out the fruit beneath and makes picking impossible without ladders or a proprietary 'apple picker'. Larger branches can be cut out with the aid of a hook - held by a second person - to support the main branch to enable a clean saw cut.

Cutting out unwanted water shoots
Formative pruning-shaping a 5yr tree
 Most apples fruit on the second year's growth and the fatter fruit buds could be seen overwintering. The first years growth is useful for propagation purposes and is the vegetative growth, which can be cut back to increase vigour-especially on small trees at the early formative stage. Every cut made increases the amount of new growth, so we were warned against creating more work for ourselves in the future. 

Cutting the pear tree
MUPE over the wall in Richmond Park
The taller pear tree required a tall solution and a tripod ladder was employed. Irony was in the air in the form of a MUPE platform, which loomed above us, over the shared boundary wall of Richmond Park. The Tree Team were pruning the overhang from oak trees -just a little further - and they could have taken the leader out of our pear! The wood from the oak trees could not be spared, as it suffers from Oak Processionary moth, which means it cannot leave the site.

the pruned apple wood: 20% of the tree
20% of Sivi
Modified Renewal pruning has replaced the old practice of cutting back all the new growth. Don't remove all the water shoots just the diseased, weakest or those growing in the wrong direction. Keep the medium sized new growth and avoid the vigorous shoots which will result in a 'tree on a tree'.

The aim is to cut back on a rotational basis and encourage biodiversity by keeping dead and deformed wood. However, when the tree is covered in lichens the fruit buds are shaded out and may die so it is about balance.The spoil amounted to 20%, which will not stress the tree. We also cleared vegetation from around the mulberry tree, which I discovered during a survey last year. 


Cutting out the leader in formative pruning
small cankers will heal if cut out early
 Grafting is the only method of  retaining the variety and is done by taking a scion from the first years growth of a tree and 'joining' onto a roost stock which can be obtained from a nursery for about 0.80p.



We will be tackling the orchard at Alexander Recreation Ground, Surbiton this  Saturday morning,  if anyone would like to join us. With Lewis' advice we will be clearing weeds, cutting the tree cages as well as picking up litter Ring first for a rain check 07867507086


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