Friday, 23 October 2015

The birth of a cider orchard


231 apples trees (9 cider varieties augmented by some desserts, cookers and crabs) were planted in late March 2015 on an old, long-established wildflower and grass meadow.

The planning stage was a vital part of the process

Newly planted trees - March 2015

To stake or or not to stake - that was the question??

Our grass management team of 3 blackface ewes and 1 texel/mule wether were decanted (for obvious reasons) until the vital tree protection was installed - a task we hoped would be completed in two or three months...  In the end it's taken almost six!  It's a long story, but I (Gary) had to take an enforced two month break from more physical tasks due to an outbreak of Polymyalgia rhematica (no that's not the latin name of one of the tree varieties).

"Gonny hurry up!" Florrie one of our black face ewes
looks longingly towards the orchard.

Thankfully I'm on the mend and thanks to the meds and some extra hands provided by friends near and far (as well as our 3 magnificent sons) the tree guards are completed and the orchard is finally ready for the sheep again.

Our next task in the orchard will be the first pruning over the winter.  It'll be a few years before before we get a decent crop of cider apples but so far we're encouraged by the health and growth of the young trees.  We anticipate our first batch of blended craft cider will be available in 2017/18.

Stages of building tree guards.

  1. Order materials
  2. Use jig to mark out holes for posts (pinch bar and watering can are vital tools when forming the holes)
  3. Place jig above holes
  4. Position posts and drive in approx 50cm
  5. Screw in bottom and top rails
  6. Fit galvanised wire mesh ensuring good tension (helps strengthen the structure)
  7. I made a simple timber platform to raise the roll of wire mesh and the pinch bar was useful for keeping it vertical
  8. Completed tree guard

Now for the boring bit for all the anoraks out there (I'm now one too)...

Tree protection;
231 Rabbit guards
231 Sheep guards
693 posts
1386 rails
4620 screws
690m galvanised wire mesh
about 8000 staples

"Lambchop," our adopted wether is glad to get back into the orchard
with "the girls" after 7 months to inspect the job.