Barton Orchard Training Day – March 2019

Clive Hester claims to be nervous about speaking in public.  But he did an excellent job of leading our training day at Barton Orchard, Cirencester on Thursday 28th March.

Clive discusses which buds are fruit and which are just leaves.

He later wrote an article for Tree & Leaf and it makes sense to repeat his account of the event here.

“At last, we found a date that was suitable for all to attend the Orchard day at Barton House! Kind permission was given to us by Frank and Marylin Gardner of Barton House to use their apple orchard as a training site and the whole day was co-ordinated and organised by the wonderfully efficient and patient Ann Jones. An especial thank you must also go to Agralan – a local company – who provided many examples of pest traps and non invasive pest control as well as leaflets about this for us.

To introduce myself – I am Clive Hester and I was head gardener at Combend Manor for 27 years and now garden for a private and smaller estate as the sole gardener. This was, for me, a follow up to an orchard day last year and was held in the same garden.

We started the day in cold but sunny conditions with a mug of coffee which was followed by introductions and an outline of aims for the day. People had come from far and wide – Coventry, Essex as well as locally and it was great to meet new people and make new friends. It soon became clear that the group as a whole was looking for a healthier and (no pun intended) greener way to manage orchards and trees in general. We began by looking at the two different types of apple trees in relation to pruning – spur or tip bearing – and the different techniques needed to promote healthy growth in each of these types. Firstly, I talked about what to remove from the trees and in what order this needs to be done, starting with dead, dying or diseased wood and then moving on to how to identify diseased wood. It is also crucial to stand back and look at the tree, their shape and the aims you have in mind for each tree such as fruit bearing, re-vitalising, decorative etc.

 

There was a very strong sense of fellowship within the group which gave rise to some excellent discussion on the aims of the day and also questions and answers which many of the attendees were able to contribute to. We touched on IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and it’s code of practice, especially in regards to spraying, which is the basis of modern pesticide regulations and dictates that we start with the most environmentally sound practice. Resistance to disease and pests is the first concern and is followed by organic techniques such as pheromones, grease traps, bait traps, pruning and mineral supplements all of which boost the health of the plant and help relieve stress. Chemical pesticides were also discussed as a last resort. [Editor’s note : Barton House Orchard itself receives no chemical treatment.] We also touched on root stocks, their history and their environmental considerations and the need for a variety of root stocks as many different purposes and requirements have to be taken into consideration. This was followed by a talk on the ecology of orchards. We then moved on to tree variety, both old and modern and were able to look at the individual needs of people attending the day as regards to the work they are doing with trees and also the access to various groups and material that can be found. I came across a good example of this on a trip to the Harrogate Flower Show last summer where the Northern Fruit Group (well worth looking up) were exhibiting and discussed with them breeds that they find especially suitable for tree growing in colder regions as well as their exchange of varieties and other plant material within the group to keep varieties healthy and promote the existence of less known fruit trees. This will, I hope, become a serious consideration within our Cotswold Tree Wardens as the wealth of shared knowledge and plant material is fantastic and is crucial to the survival of healthy trees and orchards, heritage varieties and general biodiversity of trees.

After delicious cake and tea supplied by the lovely Ann Jones (I especially liked the seed cake) we went outside and looked at and assessed the trees and their needs before a demonstration of pruning techniques and a short talk on the safe use of equipment (especially ladders!) and for those that did not need to leave early, a practical session. Many of the attendees requested that they return in the Autumn for a volunteers day during which we will hone pruning techniques and catch up on all we have done during the growing season.

As we didn’t have time to do all the activities planned for the day, Clive returned on the following Sunday to install some bird boxes.  Hopefully, the “To Let” signs are down by now!