All along the central wall at Allen’s Gardens the fruit trees have been sending up shoots. Apples and pears in training. The trees are small but they already have fruit. They’re a little extra sideline on a site that’s mostly about salad, doing their bit for the biodiversity so necessary in a well rounded organic site.
Ru is back today. And with him comes a flood of volunteers, despite the unpredictable weather. Perfect timing as it means that while they plant up the new beds, Ru teaches me about summer pruning. A bit ironic as it hardly feels like summer – certainly a common cry at the moment – but the time is right as we’ve gone past midsummer, so there’s unlikely to be too much growth (gulp! can’t believe my stint here is already half over…). Summer pruning means we tidy up the trees and make sure they are growing the way we want them to. They’ll take a bigger pruning during winter.
We pull back the netting that’s been protecting the trees from the squirrels and birds and Ru shows me how to cut the new upright shoots back ( = you sharpen your secateurs nice and sharp and make a diagonal cut just above a leaf. It’s got to be really clean and well sloped so that it doesn’t rot ) and train the horizontal branches by tying them to the wires attached to the wall.
Along the wall, the trees are being trained in what is known as an espalier shape. This means they grow up close to the wall and are trained along the wires. In the bed away from the wall, we have a couple of stepover trees, trained to be low enough to, you guessed it, step over. It seems strange to have the trees so low to the ground but it means that we can plant salad plants around them and they don’t make much shade.
The branches of the tree are weighted down with a brick to keep them low. On this bed we are growing Red Orache.
It’s a strange job because you cut back all the upright shoots, take a step back to inspect your work and then see all the ones you’ve missed, despite being sure you had gotten them all the first time. It takes me all morning. All that’s cut away gets put into the compost.
One of the trees seems to have a bit of disease. We consult a tree book but can’t find the cause. Anyone have any ideas?
We then have a belated birthday cake for Ann-Marie, served up with fresh lemon balm tea.
After lunch everyone cracks on with the harvesting, determined to get it all done earlier than we have been. It’s amazing that however much we decide to harvest, we always seem to get away at the same time. With a record 20kg of salad to pack this week, we surprisingly manage to finish by 7.15, just a little earlier than usual, with a little help from a friend of Annie’s, one of the support workers. It would have been even earlier but we were kept longer thanks to the wonderful glut of black currants at Springfield. I wonder how much more they’d be enjoyed by the lucky consumers if it was known that Nat and Bruce spent over an hour in the rain picking them all – truly deliciously local.
Grower: 1 | Apprentices: 2 | Volunteers: 4 | Support workers: 1 | Helping friend: 1 | Dog: 1 | Fox: 0
Harvested from the site…
Salad greens & edible flowers: 20kg | Chard: 6.25kg | 10 punnets of black currants: 3.5kg + loads more which we didn’t package up as we ran out of punnets | 1 punnet summer fruits (red currants, black currants and logan berries): 300g | 1 punnet red currants: 350g | Mint: 30g | Basil: 30g | Thai basil: 30g