Winter Pruning

I have just finished the last of the winter pruning jobs for this season. I have pruned large M25 trees, vigorous mm106 apples and nice tidy dwarf m9 trees. It’s satisfying to be able to sort and tame some very big trees, many of which will need more thinning out next year as they will no doubt react with a lot of unwanted shoots. The aim of course is always to encourage healthy fruiting buds in the trees. Pears are already opening buds, so spring is on the way, so get on and finish those pruning jobs!

Winter Woes

The 8 weeks of frozen ground was totally unforeseen this year and it prevented me from lifting my bare root trees for the many orders received. We have now gone from deep freeze to summer conditions and almost drought in a matter of weeks! Fab for getting new trees planted and next year’s rootstocks in the ground.

I have also been setting up a multi-cropping ‘agro-orchard’ research plot with currently 9 varieties under trial. The aim is for high production system for the supply of dessert quality apples to the Scottish Organic market. This will be extended year on year, with various vegetable and soft fruits planted between each long row of apples. The trees have been grafted onto M9 and M26 stocks for ease of picking and for high productivity at 1.2m spacing. I will report on this project regularly over the next few years.

This is March 19th, and my Jargonelle and Durondeau pears have opening buds, and the Scots Dumpling and Arbroath Oslin are vying to be be the first apple buds to open up.

Green Manures – Summer Update

I have stopped using a plastic strip as a mulch this year between my wee two year old growing trees and have been experimenting with green manures instead. I have also been trialling various multicrops between the rows to try to gauge an idea of what’s possible.  So, I sowed or planted the following into clean soil between the trees back in the spring:

1  Crimson Clover

2 Heritage Wheat Varieties

3 Strawberries

4 Raspberries

5 Saskatoons

6 Phacelia

7 Mustard

8 Buckwheat

So my aims were really to find a way to control weeds without using plastic mulches and possibly to get an extra crop between closely spaced trees in the orchard.  So far, ( July 2020 ),  some of the results are promising, others I would not try again.


The first batch of clover is working very well to control weeds, the second and third sown a few weeks later are very weedy.  It will of course add nitrogen to the soil. The row of wheat is very weedy too, but holding its ears above the weeds.  So timing is crucial. Both the strawberries and raspberries needed hand weeding and may be worthwhile expanding to more rows. Neither have cropped yet.


The Buckwheat took a long time to germinate and does not really suppress weeds. The mustard grew fast and rather thickly, and certainly worked well as did the phacelia. I passed a mower over the mustard to prevent it seeding last week. Other areas of weeds were either strimmed or mown regularly, and the grassed down areas have been hard work after the spring drought we had.  The saskatoons are starting to fill up the space between rows of trees, how they will compete with the rows of apples trees time will tell.

So I will update this as I have more information to part…..







Mid-Summer Madness

I guess I should have been blogging during all the spare time I’ve had during lockdown but actually I have been very busy. Trees of course need watering, mostly twice a day,  and when the rain did finally come, the weeds came too! The polytunnel was emptied of pots to reduce the amount of watering to do, and in the hope of at least a bit of help from the clouds!

Next years trees had to be weeded, cut back and next years rootstocks tied up and weeded. I also potted up a lot of trees which have been selling well at the farm. Unfortunately I havn’t been able to get either paid or volunteer help this spring, so there were some tiring days!

Sarah took on the work of the herbs and has some very nice plants for sale at the farm. There are signs of the markets opening up again, so watch this space for Portabello and Logierait markets running this summer.

I have also been laying out a new orchard for myself, and experimenting with various crops and green manures between the rows. There will be more on agro-orchards in a later blog.

Those heavy frosts back in May destroyed a good number of fruits in Scotland, and even more so the very strong easterly wind which browned off a lot of new leaves especially along the east coast. I always recommend good shelterbelts in and around your fruit trees and that’s exactly the reason why.

Now’s the time to cover up your fattening fruits with netting, our Juneberries, Saskatoons, Jostaberrries etc. will all get a cloak very soon. Strawberries are in season, and soon there vwill be raspberries in the hedgerows.

I made several nest boxes earlier this year and am  pleased to report 2 blue tit’s and one great tit each took up residence in one!

The good weather and the quiet roads has enabled me to cycle most days so my carbon footprint is very low this year. Normally I would have been away to sunny France, but hey ho, there’s always next year…

Now the rooklets have hatched, its time for a good Summer Solstice bonfire!

oh btw I’m currently building a compost toilet as a break from weeding……




Blossoming Pears

Its that time of year again when we all get anxious about whether there will be a fruit crop this year. I love the pear flowers when they are just opening and the anthers are bright red, and wow what a quantity of them on Jargonelle, Beurre Hardy and Christie in my garden!  After a good number of frosts last week, we now have bright sunny bee flying days with warm nights so all is good?  What can go wrong? After all we only need a small quantity of these blossoms to get pollinated in order to get a good crop. Go on, count the flowers and imagine the weight of fruit if they all turned to a full crop. The trees would collapse!

I used to bank on April 23rd as the first apple flower day, but this year again it is early.. my Arbroath Oslin and James Grieve have opened a few flowers a few days early. No need to run around with a rabbit’s tail this year as i have seen many earnestly working bees today. Keep up the good work girls!

Pear Stamens


Plants for Beer

We have just spent a mini-break in Copenhagen, and as usual landed up in a botanic garden!


It’s a lovely walk up from the city centre through pleached crab apple hedges and on to a  park containing some lovely specimens of  Cornelian cherries. This tree bears edible fruit, many of which were on the floor, though they are reputedly rather astringent, and also used from Greece to Russia for distilling or for making liqueurs. The yellow flowers in spring are a delight in gardens in the UK too. I can’t recall ever seeing the fruit  on the trees here though.  Maybe this warm summer induced some fruiting?

In through some buildings and out into the botanics,  one of the first things you come across is a marvellous series of beds laid out with hops and other plants used in the beer industry in Scandinavia. I’m not going to list all the plants of interest here, go and see for yourself!


As well as a few remaining hop plants, there are many different herbs and grains here including this Rye plant, which i wouldn’t have recognised.

Next to the Beer garden is a good display of European native plants, to the untrained eye it looks like a big patch of weeds! Which actually many of them are!

Beyond this we came across a group of quinces, upon which the smell from  masses of  ripening fruits was almost overpowering!

The final lasting impression I had was of the many Mistletoe plants on the trees in the surrounding woodland area, giving an impression almost of a tropical forest of Bromeliads.

Cox Apples

An unusual occurrence this year! Well not the drought, but I am genuinely astonished to see little Cox Apples growing this year on an M26 open grown bush tree. In it’s 7 years this is by far the most productive season.

Cox Orange Pippins, to be correct, are a very well known late ripening sweet, with a hint of acid, apples familiar to us all in the supermarkets. We have been developing this fruit in Kent for a century, to the neglect of many more easily produced varieties. Because in fact it is notoriously difficult, even in good summers, needing a lot of spraying and watering. And for the commercial grower, it just isn’t as remunerative as other moderns.

But, hey, we like to munch this little apple in January don’t we? It is the “crisp’ that all my customers refer to in their choice of variety. It is thought to be derived from Ribston Pippin, which is altogether a much more vigorous tree though not that productive in Scotland either. Except for this year with a good number of fruits appearing on my trees. I look forward to tasting this highly esteemed Parent of Cox!

If you have a nice south facing wall, then yes go for a Cox, preferably the self-fertile clone. Otherwise, go for Sunset, the nearest option. Again quite small, but productive in my garden and elsewhere.

Charles Ross has some Cox parentage, but it is larger, and really a dual purpose apple. It has that characteristic russetting though.

Jupiter is the triploid version, its big, ribbed and very colourful. It makes for a spectacular sight in September.

Kidd’s Orange Red has many similarities, its larger too and a late ripener, and a lovely flavour.  Tydeman’s Late Orange is another Cox hybrid, being crossed with Laxton’s Superb it makes a nice late dessert.

Happy munching 2018!


Kidd’s Orange Red

Codlins and Pies

The Codlin apples are of  very great interest to us in Scotland as I come across them growing successfully in odd places.  They are remarkably hardy, albeit not the most attractive or the longest keeping of fruit, nor usually sufficiently large for a really good pie. Always yellow or green skinned, and rarely any coloured flush except for a bit of pinky-brown! They are always long and narrow.

The season with me starts with Early Julien, the most yellow skinned of my trees, and then Keswick Codlin, an early thin skinned cooker that saw its heyday when New Zealand apples stole the late apple market. It makes for one of your earliest pies, and is very pretty in flower. If you are able to cope with the rainfall of The lakes, then you must be of worth!

I have come across a hedgerow of Emneth Early trees in Falkirk, and only realised as the fruit was ripening! Again, a bit small, light yellow and well ribbed, but can make a wee snack too.

Another Codlin that I have happened across is Mank’s Codlin or Eve Apple of Scotland.  Oh my how many apples can you get on a small tree! These varieties are certainly precocious!  I can munch on these fruits when one falls off the tree in the orchard. The “Eve” probably refers to how many centuries these apples have been cultivated.

The neatest little almost weeping variety is Golden Spire, a good many that still survive of 80 to 100 years old in our village. Someone must have been grafting it and offering it around!

The bruiser of the group is our Tower of Glamis, a triploid and a giant! We have a little spindlebush on the pathway which produces a dozen or so massive apples. I constantly wonder how it manages to produce them from such a small tree.

Other contenders with Codlin parentage could be Liddel’s Seedling, and they are not so different to the Costards, such as Lord Derby and Catshead. Lord Derby is the deepest green of the group, medium sized and the one branch on my family tree is always strung with excellent mid-season cookers.

I also have a Burr Knot apple, one that roots from cuttings, which also has green ribbed little fruits. I suspect if we sowed the seeds of many of our apples, over time they would all revert to little Codlins!

Keswick Codlin

Tam Jeffrey

I desperately wanted this very pretty little apple to sweeten up over time, but it resolutely keeps an acidic hint. Very good to add to the cider mix though! Quite prolific even on young trees.

Tam Jeffrey