I always set the mowers blades high and they stay that way through the year. The orchards sward stays green and lush through the height of the summer even on the driest of years. Grass cuttings are used to mulch soft fruit bushes and the standard apple and cherry trees. This year is going to be a challenge as the rainfall has been low through the winter and the spring. Leaving the grass long slows evaporation and holds the dew in the mornings. In contrast my neighbour’s mow short and their ground is yellowing and I’ve no doubt I’ll hear the sprinklers soon. This year reminds me strongly of the spring of 1976!
I’m not tidy. I don’t cut at the edges of the field leaving long grass as hiding places for newly fledge birds. I leave daffodils and primroses stand and only cut when the flower pods are dry and rattling with seed. I collect the seeds before I cut and spread them where I think a splash of colour will look good in spring.
In January I wrote …”Thinking back over the 27 years since we moved into this house I always think of mid-January and February as months when the ground is so hard with frost that it was best to plant Garlic and Onions in advance. Garlic needs a period of cold as does Rhubarb. Now I’m worrying that the ground is so wet that the Garlic crop which is beginning to show will rot and the weather has been so mild that Rhubarb has begun to sprout which is not a good sign at all. Our hardy Leek crop has started bolting too. All of which raises questions about whether the changing weather patterns will lead to these crops being unviable. So much for global warming and the benefits of a Mediterranean climate! No doubt growers will adapt but what other changes will the unpredictability of our weather bring? I planted 13 black currant plants from cuttings I’d taken from our mature bushes and have been concerned that fruit buds have developed in the absence of cold weather. The problem this brings about is that when the flowers show too early there’ll be no bees and other insects to pollinate them. Disaster. The apple trees in our small orchard are not showing fruit buds and there’s still time for some cold weather to slow things down. We juice most of our apple crop which provides us with apple juice for the year. I know that apple growers across the country are getting a bit twitchy because of the prolonged mild weather and the risk of an entire crop failure. Its changes like this and the repercussion for anyone growing vegetables and fruit that has been absent from any discussion about climate change. ”
Well find ourselves this summer with an orchard of sixteen apple trees and of these only two developed blossom and fruit buds. Unfortunately the two that showed blossom were second year maidens so that I took the blossom off to allow the tree to use its energies for growth. But for the first time in twenty years we have no apples of our own and no fruit juice will be bottled for the coming year. Has the fruiting cycle of our entire orchard turned biennial? Or is the continuous wet and mild climate bringing factors to bear that is changing the fruiting cycle? I shall be waiting anxiously to see what the coming autumn and winter brings and whether we shall see out orchard in full blossom! Our neighbours report exactly the same from their gardens and I’ve met people from other areas including London who also report barren apple trees. Could it simply be a common problem of mismanagement a bumper harvest last year and no thinning of apples so that the tree is exhausted and unable to support fruit buds? Or is it a combination of all these things?
Meanwhile I brought in the garlic crop yesterday. A relatively sunny break after days of rain. The bulbs are smaller than last year and I’ll clean and hang them in our stables which is shady and airy. I noticed quite a few had started regrowth. So again concerns are raised about whether our years supply of garlic bulbs will store well. On top of this an absence of bees of any kind. In my mind change in our climate is occurring. How we adapt our growing to this change is going to be key.
Mysteries and messages
This week over a few days
Docks loosen their grip
And will allow themselves
To be pulled roots and all
You and I disagreed
In our views on religion
So we agreed not to talk
You respected my knowledge
On growing and gardening
You embraced cosmic forces
And the movement of planets
And the hidden influence of stars
But we both took pleasure
Sometimes surprised by nature’s way
And the complex beauty of a flower
Or the shape of a trees repose.