Here at Fourayes Farm we only use just enough fertilisers to replace what we have taken from the ground. We manage this by taking regular soil samples, leaf samples and apple samples and, in the Winter months, we sit with our advisors to carefully plan exactly how much fertiliser to use in March. Our agronomist also helps us to work out which foliar nutrients are needed. It’s an art but it’s also very much a science. When we plant a new orchard, we use compost as mulch to help establish the young trees and carry them through the hot dry spells which seem, as time goes by, to be increasing in number, possibly as global warming takes a hold.
We have wildlife margins at the outer limits of most orchards. Although they might look a little untidy to a visitor, the tall grass and brambles and, in some areas, bracken, are essential for our thriving population of voles, mice, weasels, stoats, rabbits, ground nesting birds, pheasants and partridges to name but a few. The margins are rich in a variety of seeds that the birds seem to love.
We have mixed variety hedgerows that are good for nesting as well as our single variety wind breaks between orchards.
In 2019, with its wet spells, we’ve just managed to keep scab and mildew at bay and, with the warm and hot weather we have been engaged in a heavy battle with Rosy Apple APHID and Woolley APHID.
The one thing that’s hard to prepare for is sun scorch. Each spell of hot weather we’ve had, when temperatures went into the 30s, has quite literally left its mark. Exposed Bramley apples become scorched then turn brown, then black after which the apple rots. Affected apples tend to be on the afternoon side of the trees as this is when the sun is at its hottest. It’s best to leave sun scorched apples on the tree. If you remove them the apples underneath are also likely to burn.
This season we’ve had a small problem with crows pecking at our Bramley apples so I’ve had to fire the starting pistol a few times to drive them away.
Something I rarely speak of is bats. We have a fair few here at Fourayes Farm. On warm summer evenings I see quite a number, mostly at dusk. They fly so close I’ve almost had my hat knocked off many a time but they always seem to get it just right. It’s been a good season for grey squirrels and badgers seem to have done well too. I also like to hear tawny owls after dark as well as little owls which screech rather than hoot.
All the best
Fourayes Farm Manager