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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT APPLE TREES , PEAR TREES , PLANTING CIDER ORCHARDS , PERRY ORCHARDS AND MIXED ORCHARDS.

We are asked several questions quite a lot when it comes to selecting, buying and planting trees, so it may be useful to you to look at these before you contact us. We can also thoroughly recommend our book “How to grow apples and make cider including grow pears and make perry” as a good grounding in minimum intervention orchard planting and growing.

 

 

QUESTION: Do you sell native trees?

QUESTION: How many trees should I plant?

QUESTION: How many varieties of trees should I plant?

QUESTION: Our land is in a frost pocket. Should we plant only late flowering varieties?

QUESTION: Can you suggest a list of trees?

QUESTION: Should I plant one year old whips, two year old straight leads? Can I get bigger trees?

QUESTION: Do I need to get a hedge going before I plant my trees? What should I Plant?

QUESTION: How do I prepare the ground for planting trees?

QUESTION: Should I stake my trees?

QUESTION: What should I do after planting my trees?

QUESTION: What are Cider Apples?

QUESTION: What varieties of apple should I plant with which to make cider?

QUESTION: Can you sell me apples to make sweet cider ?

 

 

 

QUESTION: Do you sell native trees?

ANSWER: Regarding "native" and heritage trees, we have a very good selection of old and new Welsh, Hereford and British varieties, but the definition of what is, for example, a "Welsh" variety is not rigid. For example, the Welsh variety known as "Monmouth Green" is also known as an English variety by the name of "Landore". I have seen Morgan sweet listed as a Welsh variety and it does indeed grow very well in Wales, and has been grown here for years, but it originated in Somerset. It could be argued that many Herefordshire varieties are more local to Mid Wales than Varieties from Monmouthshire or Anglesey. Bear in mind that malus domestica and pyrus are not native species, and that with possible climate change, varieties that are traditionally from a given area will not necessarily fare so well in that area in the future. We're finding all sorts of varieties are doing very well in our high altitude orchard trials at 1200 feet in the west of Britain. I'd certainly recommend including in your orchard some modern varieties which are very disease resistant and tasty, as well as older varieties from across the U.K. All our trees are grafted and grown by us at our high altitude nursery on certified U.K. grown rootstocks.

 

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QUESTION: How many trees should I plant?

ANSWER: You will fit 60- 80 full standard trees on an acre. We would strongly recommend full vigour M25 rootstocks- or pyrus for pears, as these trees do much better at altitude and in tough conditions, but we also have a good selection of trees on semi- dwarfing M26 apple and Quince pear rootstocks which will make a good smaller garden or allotment tree.

 

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QUESTION: How many varieties of trees should I plant?

ANSWER: What we need to know is whether you want to plant a monoculture with pollenators (as maybe you would if you were planting a fully commercial orchard), groups of varieties (i.e. 5 of each, say), or 50-70 different varieties, or some combination of those last two options. Unless you’re planning to sell bulk apples to Bulmers, or make vast amounts of single varietal cider or juice, we'd recommend a big and broad selection for genetic diversity, resiliance to possible climate change, and for the pleasure of growing, seeing and eating so many varieties.

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QUESTION: Our land is in a frost pocket. Should we plant only late flowering varieties?

ANSWER: We would advocate spreading your flowering period over as long a period as possible- given the vagaries of the British climate, you are almost as likely to be hit with a frost in early June as in April, so it’s wise to hedge your bets! It’s a good idea to grow your trees as full standards (6ft stem) so that the blossoms will generally be held above the level of any late ground frost. There are some varieties that are also reputed to have more frost tolerant apple blossoms, although we have yet to verify this ourselves.

 

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QUESTION: Can you suggest a list of trees?

ANSWER: We would be happy to suggest a list of trees for you if you can give us a description of the conditions on your site, and the proportion of cider/ perry/ cookers/ eaters you want to plant. We can supply 1 year or two year old straight leads on full vigour M25 rootstocks for apples, and perry pears on full vigour pyrus rootstocks (we favour the vigorous disease resistance of standard trees). We stock over 300 varieties of apple and currently hold around 50 varieties of pear.

 

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QUESTION: Should I plant one year old whips, two year old straight leads? Can I get bigger trees?

ANSWER: Rather like with goldfish, where it is better to buy small ones and let them grow into their pond, so it is with trees. We often have people contact us wanting big “instant” trees, and have to tell them that we don’t supply trees over two years old, as the transplant shock involved in moving them negates any advantage in terms of size. In short, bigger trees look great as you plant them, but generally sit and sulk for a few years after that time whilst the smaller whippy trees overtake them in size, health and vigour. You may especially want to consider two year old trees when planting in an area where you are not passing by so often, as they are easier to keep an eye on and don’t need as much care as one year olds and are less likely to get “lost” in long grass, etc.

 

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QUESTION: Do I need to get a hedge going before I plant my trees? What should I Plant?

ANSWER: Apples on vigorous rootstocks do pretty well in windy positions, so we’d advocate getting your trees in as soon as possible and letting the hedge grow around them- a prime reason for a wind break is to provide shelter for pollinating insects later in your orchard’s life. Regarding hedging, willow sticks are a good way to start a hedge as they root readily, you may want to consider hazel, cob nuts or trazels for a bit of nut production, beech (keeps it leaves in winter), oak, alder (nitogen fixer) quickthorn (also takes from cuttings). Ideally, avoid hawthorn as it can harbour fireblight. There is certainly scope for growing vigorous varieties of apple and pear in the hedge.

 

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QUESTION: How do I prepare the ground for planting trees?

ANSWER: We would advocate doing as little as possible to the ground. Clear brambles, bracken and vegetation that will compete with your newly planted saplings. We don’t recommend digging pits in which to plant your trees, mixing in compost, etc. Unless your land has spectacularly well draining soil, this is basically digging a back filled pond in which to drown your tree. Plant using the forestry “T” notch system. This provides immediate strong anchorage for your tree without damaging 50,000 years of soil structure and upsetting the micro organisms that are going to co exist with your tree and help it to grow strong and healthy. Over fertilising causes sappy weak growth. If you feel you need to improve soil structure, you can let the worms do it for you by mulching around the tree now and then, and top dressing VERY occasionally (every 2 years or so) and VERY lightly with a general fertiliser like Blood, fish and bone or a good compost.

 

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QUESTION: Should I stake my trees?

ANSWER: We do not advocate the staking of trees on vigorous rootstocks. We find trees develop better if allowed to ride the wind and, through that, build up their own root and stem resilience. An added benefit of this is that it avoids the damage often caused by badly placed and maintained stakes and ties, as well as the additional work and expense of staking. Our orchard is planted at over 1200 feet and we regularly have winds of over 60mph, but our trees are growing straight and strong.

 

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QUESTION: What should I do after planting my trees?

ANSWER: It is VERY IMPORTANT to protect trees with tree guards immediately after planting. Don’t leave it ‘til tomorrow- rabbits can destroy an entire young orchard overnight by stripping bark or even nipping off entire stems. We don’t like plastic tube guards unless they are well perforated- they get very hot and steamy in summer and hold in damp in winter making a good environment for canker and other problems. We can supply perforated H.D.P.E. plastic guards, or chicken wire guards secured with a couple of canes driven into the ground are great- grey plastic pipe lagging around the top will stop your tree from damaging itself on the wiry edge. If you will be running livestock in the orchard, or have deer in your area, you will need more substantial guards- see our book for more info. Trees will perform much better if you keep the area around the bottom (3 or 4 ft) clear of grass and vegetation for the first two or three years, either by mulching or with a mulch mat. We don’t recommend using wood chips, as these can harbour diseases.

 

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QUESTION: What are Cider Apples?

ANSWER: The three main types of cider apple are sweets, bittersweets and sharps. You can make a cider from any one of these types, or of various combinations. Generally, bittersweets will make a more astringent, bitter, tannic and less acid brew, whereas a cider made more with sharps and sweets will be lighter, more like a white wine and sharper. Bear in mind that lots of cider sharps are good culinary apples, and dessert and cooking apples can be used as sweets and sharps in blending cider, so that really a more pertinent question would be how many bittersweets you want to plant?

 

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QUESTION: What varieties of apple should I plant with which to make cider?

ANSWER: We would advocate a broad mix of cultivars to give you scope to experiment with flavours and give you a good disease resistant genetic diversity that will also smooth over issues like particular varieties that tend towards biennial cropping, etc. The varieties you plant depends on the type of cider you like- a traditional cider would have a blend of sharps, sweets and bittersweets at 1;1;1 ratio, but you can make excellent cider from bittersweets alone, or from dessert and cooking apples, which will make a lighter, less tannic, more white wine like cider. Also bear in mind that many trees listed as cider “ sharps ” will double as cooking apples and vice- versa, also that dessert fruit can be used as “ sweets ” in cider.

 

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QUESTION: Can you sell me apples to make sweet cider ?

ANSWER: Sweetness of the cider is not really a function of the type of apples used- you can make bone dry cider with super sweet apples. if you want your cider sweet, you will have to stop fermentation when there is still enough sugar for your taste in the brew. The most common method of doing this is to add campden tablets, i.e. sulphites to kill the yeast. Another method is pasteurisation. Another method is keeving which is a tricky and complicated method they use in northern France. Sometimes you may get a brew that sweetens up naturally with a secondary malo-lactic fermentation that takes place anything up to 18 months after the initial brew. We don’t like adding poisons or heating our cider to kill of the yeast, so we’d advocate that those with a sweet tooth sweeten their cider with a drop of apple juice immediately before drinking. Of course, if left, this sweetened cider will start to ferment again after a day or two.

 

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