soil-headerslider2

THE FARMING YEAR

WINTER

Winter: a period of dormancy for our trees

A period of dormancy for our trees

Following harvest, left over minerals are mobilised to return to the base of the tree trunk and the trees shut down for winter. It is essential that we have sufficient accumulated cold units for our trees to break dormancy in spring

Pruning

Pruning to increase airflow, light interception and vigour

Summer mechanical Pruning

Summer mechanical pruning

The majority of our trees are pruned every winter. We still use hand saws, pole saws, Electric secateurs or pole chain saws however it is also more efficient to use our 18 blade mechanical pruner which is mounted on the tractor. This operation can be carried out in winter or midsummer.

Pruned branches are laid in the rows, pushed out with a tractor and stored in piles to dry before chipping.

Artificial fertiliser spreading, less frequently used on our farm

Artificial fertiliser spreading, less frequently used on our farm

With the onset of spring, the trees demands for nutrients increases. We used to apply artificial fertiliser up to Eight times a Year. It certainly encourages growth but seriously disrupts fruit quality and tree resistance to pests and diseases. We have now reverted to mainly buffered foliar sprays, and composted organic manures. Applied correctly, this is a much more efficient use of resources.

SPRING

Harp orchard in full blossom in May

Harp orchard in full blossom in May

Blossom time is vitally important as pollination between trees needs to occur for fruit to set. Poor weather such as frost will deter pollinator insects such as bees and damage the delicate flowers with the potential to wipe out the whole crop. We also plant specific pollinator varieties to encourage windborne pollination.

Mechanically thinning blossom with our Darwin thinner

Mechanically thinning blossom with our Darwin thinner

Our Darwin thinner is a great way of reducing the burden of excessive fruit on trees without the use of costly labour or chemicals. This process also helps to balance out yields between years and gives us larger fruit which is better quality and easier to harvest. It reminds me of an automatic car wash, with rotating plastic strands that whip the trees to reduce the amount of blossom

Breaking up soil compaction with our shakeaerator

Breaking up soil compaction with our shakeaerator

Bottom up soil fracturing with a shakaerator leg

Bottom up soil fracturing with a shakaerator leg

This forms out bottom up approach, with the shakaerator shattering soil at depth to improve drainage and improve soil structure allowing more air pores. We generally like to rely upon the earthworms to facilitate this for us but it is a useful intervention following a lot of compaction at times such as harvest.

SUMMER

Breathing life into our soils using our soil aerator

Breathing life into our soils using our soil aerator

Nitrogen is globally the most widely used artificial fertiliser. The air contains 78% nitrogen and it would be foolish to ignore this free resource. By creating slits in the soil we get more nitrogen and oxygen to legume roots, such as clover, and bacteria which will “fix” nitrogen into the soil, ready for plant root uptake.

Our air blast sprayer used for pesticides but now more regularly foliar feeds

Our air blast sprayer used for pesticides but now more regularly foliar feeds

We use low drift nozzles on our computer controlled sprayer. Through varietal selection, less intensive planting and boosting soil & tree health in the future, we believe that we can continually drive down our pesticide usage. Nowadays we are more likely to be spraying foliar feeds.

Mowing orchards whilst creating a mulch under the trees

Mowing orchards whilst creating a mulch under the trees

A well kept grass alleyway is essential, particularly in the cider orchards where we harvest off the floor. The grass cuttings are not wasted as we side auger them under the trees to create a mulch. We therefore use less herbicides as weeds are smothered and soils are improved

AUTUMN

Hand picking juicing fruit

Hand picking juicing fruit

Our juicing fruit is gently hand picked into storage bins.

Cider tree shaker

Cider tree shaker

As we harvest our cider fruit off the floor, we use a giant claw like hydraulic shaker which grabs hold of the trunk and gives it a massive shake, causing the apples to drop

Our new cider apple harvester on demonstration

Our new cider apple harvester on demonstration

Apples are swept up and cleaned by our cider apple harvester, tipped into trailers and transported to the farm

Apple trailers at Throne Farm

Apple trailers at Throne Farm

After harvest we clean the orchards and apply some food for the trees before they shut down for winter.