Planting and caring for my own fruit orchard has been a dream of mine for quite some time. I think I can trace my excitement to one day about eight years ago when I went to the orchard tea rooms at Granchester, just outside Cambridge in England. It was a beautiful sunny day and we sat underneath old Apple trees, in frayed deckchairs and drank tea from clinky china cups. There may have been an amount of cake eaten too but to be honest I can’t remember. The day was and is a complete haze for me. All I could do was sit there and dream of how I was to create my own little Granchester.
It helps my poetic idyll that Rupert Brooke also had an opinion on it. The final lines of one of his most famous poems is about afternoon tea at Granchester, “Stands the church clock at ten-to-three And is there honey still for tea?”
I don’t know what it is that makes orchards so romantic, but they are.
The photo above is the patch of land at the side of our house that was always going to be the orchard. We’ve been living here for a year now and I haven’t really done anything to this part of the garden except let it get hideously overgrown. As you can see I’ve been quite successful at that.
But last month I decided that 2014 would be the year to plant the orchard. And if the trees are coming in the Spring then that only means one thing. The ground needed to be cleared, the stumps removed and the soil improved. I did not do it. We hired a group of guys to come and do the heavy stuff.
They brought a mini-digger in and removed all the larger bushes. They were mostly large Viburnums, Lilacs and very, very big Sword Ferns. I was sad to see the plants go but go they must.
And this is what is left. A frozen wasteland with sticks denoting where the trees will be planted. The trees will all be semi-dwarfing and so with pruning I should be able to keep them between 12 -15 feet. They need to be at least eight foot apart and so with this taken into consideration I can fit 10 fruit trees in.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of research on choosing Apple varieties. These are the trees I have selected and ordered from Raintree Nursery.
Egremont Russet EMLA26 eating
Liberty EMLA 26 eating
Honeycrisp M26 eating
King Edward VII M26 baking
I have grouped them here in pollination groups and will be planting those trees next to each other to maximise pollination. I already have a Crab Apple tree in the garden which I saved because it will be great for pollination too.
I also ordered some soft fruit bushes. White and Red Currants, Black Currants, etc. I’ll wait until the orchard is planted to put in some Raspberry canes. I’m not sure where I’ll have the room yet!
So there you have it. A planned orchard. Obviously I have quite a way to go before I actually harvest any fruit and I’m certain there will be lots of lessons to be learned. But it’s exciting to finally get operation Granchester off the ground.