I’ve escaped from the skin-frazzling midday sun on the Brittany beaches to take shade under the trees in the orchard at my Father-in-law’s house near the coast. And while sitting there contemplating life with a chilled glass of Brittany ‘cidre’ and admiring the view of the rolling fields that lead down to the sea, I noticed that the developing fruitlets on the apple trees above my head need to be thinned out. It’s important to do this otherwise the sugar levels don’t get high enough and the fruit won’t reach their full size. Also, it can cause over-laden branches to snap. Dessert apples such as Cox’s Orange Pippin and Egremont Russet should be thinned out to singles or pairs about 4 to 6 inches apart. Cooking apples such as Howgate Wonder and Bramley’s seedlings should be thinned out to single fruits at 8 inches apart.
Unfortunately, the leaves and fruitlets on one of the trees are covered with brown angular marks called scab or Venturia inaequalis –There is very little that can be done to prevent this fungus, unless you want to spray. However removing affected foliage and fruitlets will hopefully reduce the problem for next year. Some of my favourite apple varieties have resistance to scab including D’arcy Spice, (aromatic and spicy flavour), Ellison’s Orange, (amazing aniseed flavour) Discover, (hints of strawberry) Merton Russset (nutty flavour) and Cornish Giliflower (clover-like taste).
One of the cherry trees in the orchard has bacterial canker – the orange, oozing gum is a classic symptom. Sadly there is no real cure for this. Affected branches can be sawn out, but when the infection is in the centre of the trunk there is little that can be done. It is often caused by pruning during the dormant season. Stone fruits should be pruned when the sap is rising in spring and summer.
Anyway, back to my chilled Brittany cidre and contemplation of life….