Overgrown apple tree

Shortly after we started our vegetable garden about 30 years ago we planted two apple and two pear trees. They all continued to provide good crops through to the end of last year, when we reluctantly decided we needed to remove one of the old apple trees. The other apple tree is still in reasonably good shape but the pear trees have suffered from a combination of neglect, poor pruning and serious weather damage. Last year all the pears on one were cracked and both, for the first time, had pear rust. I am still trying to find the juniper trees which I understand host the fungus over winter.

Ten years later we installed a greenhouse on a reclaimed base of an old farm building. We decided to extend our garden out into the field to align it with the length of the greenhouse and use it as an orchard. My mother bought us nearly a dozen fruit trees, which we planted in two neat rows.

collage of original orchard 

Sadly our efforts coincided with work by the council on nearby road drainage which, to cut a long story short, diverted water from the road onto our land. Less than two years after we planted the trees the fields and the new orchard flooded and one row of the trees drowned.  We had to install more land drains and the orchard area soon recovered (although the fields never did), but a year later we were hit with gales and the two surviving young plum trees were damaged. 

We were disheartened and due to other developing family issues the orchard project,  like most of the garden was neglected - other than basic maintenance - for many years. In the meantime the sapling apple tree became a prolific producer of delicious apples. It clearly didn't need any help from us depsite being swamped with grass and weeds. The apple tree was the only one we bothered with and each year half heartedly tackled the weeds if only to get access to collect some if not all the apples.

In 2018 as we renovated the vegetable garden and brought the greenhouse back into full time use we extended the vegetable plots into what had been the orchard. At that point we weren't thinking of a fruit harvest, but during the summer/autumn of 2018 as we were working close to the plum trees we noticed that they were still producing some fruit. The trees were overgrown with grass and wasps had built a nest somewhere near by. It was a struggle to get to the ripening fruit before the wasps. There were not many plums and those on one tree  were scared and blemished.

wasps on plums

But we cleared away the weeds, cut out some of the obviously damaged or infected branches and decided to wait to see what happened the following year. In 2019 we harvested enough fruit from one tree to make several pots of jam and from the other picked small amounts of ripe fruit each week which added to our fruit bowl.


Our interest in the fruit trees raised, we spent some time researching what we could do to revive them properly and now think some of the problems can be resolved with hard pruning, to open up space and allow more light into the tree. We will need to wait until mid summer before we can make a start so it will probably by next year before we find out how successful it will be.

With new found enthusiasm, more time and, hopefully a little more knowledge of what we are doing we decided to plant more fruit trees and so are further expanding our "orchard".