Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The first apples, from little Katy

I've picked the first apples from our orchard in the last three or four days. The two Katy (or Katje) trees are the earliest and produce bright red fruits, very crisp, juicy and a great flavour. I'm told they don't store particularly well, but then again we don't have that many - maybe 30-40 fruit, and they are delicious, so storage doesn't come into it.

The trees aren't big - one's about eight feet and not very bulky, the other about 4 feet and not much more than a couple of branches. Why is this?

The original apples in the orchard were bought mail order from a "reputable grower". The order for each of the four varieties we bought (plus a ninth tree free) was to have them all on MM106 rootstock which should have produced a mature tree between 10 and 13 feet tall.

After the first year, one of the Katy's had only grown a couple of inches in any direction. I enquired with the vendor and was advised to cut the top four inches off and let it grow again, which I did.

I pruned the trees into shape over the first three years or so and let them thicken up, but one Katy and another tree - a Sunset - have struggled to get much beyond three feet tall.

The Sunset is partly in the shadow of an oak tree, so far from ideal, but not a full explanation of why it is so short. And thee other Katy is right in the middle of the orchard, in full sun on a south-facing slope.

The fruits are fine, but few because of its size. Any ideas? Have I been given a couple of trees on dwarf rootstock, like M27?

I'd think twice about buying mail order in future. I had a disappointing experience buying asparagus crowns (cheaply!) on eBay earlier this year - only one spindly stem emerged.

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