Spring in the orchard is a lovely time. If the weather is good, the trees will wake from their dormant period and their buds will swell and open.
Community groups will often plan blossom celebrations like Damson Day to take advantage of the sights, smells and sounds of spring.
If you have done your preparation right, it is mostly a time to top up your mulch and do some feeding but nothing too arduous (unless you are a bee).
Planning to attract beneficial insects to your orchard by providing habitat and food plants can take place now. Friendly bugs not only help with pollination but many of them will happily chomp through aphids and other pests. Solitary bees, hoverflies, lacewings, ladybirds, earwigs, ground beetles and even bats should all be on the guest list.
Grafting is the ancient art of propagating trees. A piece of last year’s new growth, called a scion, is spliced onto a root system called a rootstock. This is done when the tree’s sap is beginning to rise once more. After a few weeks, if done correctly, new buds should swell from the scion and burst into shoots.
Mulching involves adding a layer of bulky, organic material around the base of each tree to suppress weed growth in the coming growing season, retain moisture in the soil for good root growth, build up soil life and feed the tree. We usually use wood chip from deciduous trees.
After the tree’s first year in the ground it is advisable to begin feeding the tree in preparation for root expansion and fruiting. Adding nutritionally rich organic material such as compost or rotted manure to the mulch ring will allow the trees to begin taking up nutrients before the growing season begins.
As the trees blossom, it’s time for pollination. Some trees are good self-pollinators, but not all are, so it’s important that they’re able to cross-pollinate. Providing a good mixture of food plants should attract a wide range of pollinators, and the occasional crab apple will really bring in the bees. Some orchards keep bee hives to ensure pollinators are close.