Sunday, July 12, 2015

We're fighting for a share of our first ever apricots

I love apricots but it's too cold and wet to grow and ripen them in the UK, right? Wrong!

There are plenty of people now doing this - and even on a commercial basis. The Daily Telegraph reckons that 2015 will produce a bumper crop for UK apricots. And it's a landmark year for us too.

We planted a tree in our sun terrace in 2013 and this year, for the first time, it is bearing fruit.

The variety was called Goldcot - developed specifically for the UK with a later flowering period, so helping the tree to avoid any late frosts which would destroy the blossom and stop any fruit setting.

It did actually flower briefly in 2014 but no fruit set. And this year the blossom was out fairly early despite the variety, blooming in a sunny spell in early April.

But again, it didn't last long as after a few days, a wet and windy period blew it away. It did, however, allow a couple of dozen fruits to set, with a little pollination help from me and my paint brush.

These grew quickly - much faster than other garden fruit - and by late May were already turning yellow-red, although even now, in mid-July, they are hard as bullets.

Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped the blackbirds pecking them.

These birds had been indulging in their annual cherry fest until I "sleeved" the cherry trees with horticultural fleece, held in place with clothes pegs. That was the theory any way.

Wind and the feathered fiends routinely undo the fleece to reveal more ripening fruit. This year the blackbirds - about 10 or more of them - have also brought in hired muscle in the shape of three adult crows to help them plunder our crop. At least the magpies haven't joined in. Yet.

They're also on the tayberries which I've partially netted to save some for us, and the summer fruiting raspberries which I've abandoned for the year. We've got plenty in the freezer from last year and we'll get autumn fruiting raspberries in September and October.

As far as the Apricots go, I've now fleeced them up too, determined to get some fruit from them. There are about 18 or so fruits left - enough for a taster - but they could take another three to four weeks, so fingers crossed.

A late Father's Day present - a scarecrow called Dave - may help.

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