Speaker: Peter Barwick
Date: 25th February
Peter Barwick has worked in the Horticultural Industry for many years, and was a commercial fruit grower for over 50 years, growing apples, pears, plums and soft fruit. He retired in 2008 after 20 years as director for the orchard and nursery departments at Blackmoor Estate ltd.
He began the talk starting with soils and the need to prepare the ground before planting by getting rid of the weeds using a mixture of SBK and roundup in a watering can with a rose starting when the fresh green growth appeared and every three weeks afterwards. For pernicious weeds mix the weed killer (glyphosate) with wallpaper paste and paint on the leaves. This will also protect special plants surrounded by weeds.
He went on to describe the different parts of a fruit tree, the root stock, crab apple for apple trees, quince for pears, and the scion from the mother tree grafted or budded on to the root stock. He advised us not to plant the scion below the soil and not to mulch it either.
Also try and get a tree with branches coming off at all angles and to encourage them to be horizontal as this means the tree is more fruitful.
There are many types of root stock for apples, from dwarf, M9 which needs staking to the very large MM11. M27 is recommended for small gardens. Quince rootstock for pears, A is vigorous and C is dwarf.
Peter told us that there are no really self fertile apple trees; they need at least one friend and the bramley needs two!
Crab apples are good pollinators and he emphasized the need to attract pollinating insects. Peter stressed the need for correct pruning to ensure a good crop. 25% of the tree can be taken out every year and he advised us not to prune too far back and to leave plenty of fruiting buds. Spur pruning works for both apples and pears, but leave three buds, Apples and pears should be pruned when dormant, plums and all stone fruits after flowering or picking. Summer prune in September. He demonstrated his pruning techniques with the branches he had brought along.
Peter finished his talk with a few words about pests and diseases, fertilizing the soil and tree care, ie keeping the weeds down and mulching after the trees are established. He gave us a list of choice cultivars and recommended a new, modestly priced book, The Apple Pruning Manual by Roger Worraker & Malcolm Withnal.
Peter answered our questions at the end of his most informative talk and we all came away feeling a lot more confident in our approach to growing tree fruit.