Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

14-03-12 : Orchard afternoon

On this sunny March afternoon, The London Orchard Project returned for a visit to our Dorich House orchard, to help us to give all of the trees a Spring haircut!

This traditionally managed orchard has been in the grounds of Dorich House since it was built in the 1930's. The house's former occupant, Dora Gordine, was a keen jam maker, so it's no wonder that she decided to keep the orchard when she built her house!

In January 2011 we expanded the orchard with the London Orchard Project by planting 7 young fruit trees. We hope that this will mean the orchard is around for many more years to come, as the original trees are thought to be up to 80 years old, and they are unfortunately showing signs of coming to the end of their life.

This time around, the afternoon was spent doing two main tasks....

Firstly, we gave our young trees a bit of TLC. We removed all of the grass from around their bases, which will reduce competition for water and nutrients and make them much happier. Then we put new tree guards on them and lay plenty of mulch which will keep the soil damp, and weeds at bay. Thank you to The Green Team for dropping off all the mulch for us!

Freshly mulched trees!

We then did some formative pruning - the pruning that you give to young trees to help them form a good shape. Lewis from the London Orchard Project gave us a quick masterclass in how to properly prune a young fruit tree!

Last of all, we moved on to the proper pruning job of the day. Our old trees, after having a 20% reduction in size last year, were in need of another 20% taking off of their crowns. Lewis explained to us that this type of pruning, restorative pruning, had to be done in gradual stages so that we avoid shocking the trees.

After the all important safety briefing, Lewis taught us how to spot branches that needed removing from the old trees. This type of pruning is really important for the health of the trees - it means that the young branches don't grow too large for the old trees, and also allows more light and air into the crown which means that pests and diseases are less likely to be able to attack. This also helps to improve fruit production - quite important in an orchard!

Thanks to the expert guidance offered by Lewis, the trees are now looking really good. We are now all looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labour later this year :)

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