It has been a funny old week. Work has kept me busy a lot of the time so gardening has had to take a bit of a back seat. This all worked out quite well in the grand scheme of things since we have had some significant rain. Sunday brought more than 20mm of rain but quite well spread, unlike in some areas. Yesterday brought showers too, annoying in some respects as I wanted to get on. But I decided to do some planting and it watered them in after (and while) I was planting. I feel the ground is charged with water at last and growth should be rapid.
In fact, some plants seem to have sucked up the water like a sponge. And that is not always good.
I am resigned to a poor crop of apples this year: April was awful for pollination and the trees are young. But they flowered really well so I had hoped for a decent crop. The consolation is that the trees will make good growth again, not having to carry a large crop. Even so, it was disappointing to see that a lot of the apples on ‘Norfolk Royal’ had sucked up water like a cactus after a drought and, not having concertina skin to allow expansion, have split horribly.
Other apples have been suffering from scab too. Scab is a fungal disease that affects the fruit and leaves of apples and related plants. On the leaves it starts as pale spots and patches that become dark brown and black and the leaves drop early. The fungal spores are airbourne and can arrive in any garden.
Control is difficult but clearing up fallen leaves can help a little. The disease is usually just cosmetic, being ‘skin deep’ but sometimes it can cause cracking of the fruits and these should be picked off because they will rot because of the wounds. This is ‘Irish Peach’.
Not all the apples are suffering so badly and I am excited to see an apple (yes you read that right) on ‘Lady’s finger of Offaly’. This is an old Irish apple dating back to 1851 though it was apparently popular in the 1950s. ‘Lady’s finger’ is apparently a generic term for any long apple and you can already see the apples are longer than wide. It is a mid season apple that is often described as ‘savoury’ and it can be used as a cooker as well as an eater and it does not store well. It is a spur-bearer.
What has impressed me, so far, is what a lovely tree it is. With standard summer pruning it has become a very neat and spreading tree and has curiously rounded, healthy and almost ‘furry’ leaves. I hope it ends up tasting good because it is endearing itself to me with its looks and health – so far.
‘Irish Peach’, and early apple, dating from before 1820, and probably bred in Sligo, is a tip-bearer and another early apple. It is supposed to be sweet and aromatic and, like most early apples, does not store well. My fruits – the first on the tree – are unusually red at the moment. It typically has a spreading, weeping habit and mine certainly does, so I think it is the right thing – fingers crossed.
And talking of Irish peaches, I am pleased to say that the peach in the polytunnel is just about to ripen. In fact I did pick one yesterday but it was not quite there. Just another couple of days if the birds don’t get there before me.
The peach was planted last spring and the main branches that grew last year had flowers this spring and, after hand pollination, fruits formed. The mass of new shoots this year have been thinned already and a few more older stems will be cut out after the fruits are picked and the new shoots all tied in to make a neat fan and these will crop next year. So I should get a much better crop next year. Even so, there are 20 or so fruits developing so you don’t have to wait long for fruits. A poly tunnel is not strictly necessary but it helps because a) it protects the flowers, which open early in spring, b) it helps ripening and c) it helps control (or eliminate) peach leaf curl. Peaches are hardy in winter so need no extra heat and they are self-fertile so you only need one. Nectarines are the same – they just lost their hair – they are not hybrid of plums and peaches.