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Saturday, 16 January 2016

A day pruning the plum and apple trees

It's been a busy old week. The unseasonably warm weather had broken,  and on Tuesday morning, it was bitterly cold as I drove to my allotment at about twenty past eight . 4 degrees and windy. No wonder no one else was there as I opened the gate.

I didn't much fancy being there at that time either, but I had a busy day in front of me, I had to work the following day before going into hospital on Thursday for an operation.

On the allotment there was a job to do which was very much overdue - pruning my apple and plum trees. I was about to get a masterclass in how to do it from my friend Eric.

He had a lot to work with.....

Eric reckons the trees here are about thirty to forty years old, and haven't been pruned for about ten years. I took over the allotment in 2014, and I must confess I'd not pruned them either, and they were very unruly.I didn't know where to Eric showed me,....

I met Eric through his son Stuart about four or five years ago, and he has the most amazing third of am acre plot of land that he has been cultivating for about fifty years. It's the most productive space with different varieties of plums, apples, redcurrants, raspberries, blackcurrants, white currants, all sorts of vegetables, and a pond. In fact it was Eric who inspired me to get an allotment in the first place.

He knows about pruning.....which was just as well, as there a hell of a lot to do.

"See here" he said "the first thing to do is remove all these crossing and rubbing branches." He snipped and pruned. " You want a wine glass or goblet shape"

Then came out his loppers, his pride and joy...and then the pruning saw.

Normally, the aim with apple trees is to stimulate new growth by taking out a bit of old wood  each winter. But more drastic action was needed on my apple trees, they had been neglected for so long.

The rain came down but on he worked, passing on tips, and tutting when he saw the damson tree. I know it wasn't the ideal time for pruning plum trees, but by autumn  the overgrowth was making it difficult for a couple of allotmenteers nearby to get to their plots so it was a case of needs must.

This was not got to be a mini pruning...the plums had been  heavy croppers last year, so thinning first and then there were some broken branches which needed taking back to the undamaged wood. Eric checked for silver leaf disease.

I had intended doing much of this myself....but Eric loves pruning and really was a man on a mission. He let me loose with the loppers a couple of times, and I wasn't allowed near the pruning saw either. But it was a fascinating lesson  in what to do next time.

It's all very well reading a book and looking at diagrams, but there's no better way to learn how to do something than being shown.


The rain was heavier by now and my feet were freezing,so it was time to get back to the car for a flask of coffee and some home made biscuits. Eric declined the coffee but really liked the biscuits so took some home with him.
"I've enjoyed today" he said "nothing like getting your teeth into something". He was talking about the pruning, not the biscuits. I enjoyed it too, but was anxious about this year's fruit. "Will it be Ok ?" I asked
Eric said it would, but there wouldn't be as much as last year in quantity but the quality would be better.

And that's enough for apples had been winners at  my very first show in August

and my plums too....

so I can't wait to see the apples and plums this August.

And since Tuesday, I've been into hospital and had some internal pruning done too. I've had my gallbladder out, so I should be looking and feeling much better as well!

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