The air is warming up which means that the soil temperature will soon be high enough to start sowing outdoors. We have been cracking on with getting the original vegetable garden weeded.
The rising air temperature also signals that the end of the bare root season is approaching. We took advantage of nursery price cuts and brought home 4 trees, a Shropshire Prune to replace the scrappy specimen now rehoused in the ‘wild life zone’ and 3 more cider apples. This brings the number of cider varieties to 11 and the total number of cider apple trees to 15.
Cider can be made from dessert/culinary apples (East Counties style) or from cider apples (West Country style). The range of varieties in our orchard means we can go either way …. or both, blend varieties (traditional), or stick with a single apple (modern approach). Whilst cider apple orchards were grown traditionally as full standards we have stuck to a half standard rootstock in line with the rest of the planting.
In the UK, a grouping of the cider apple was devised by Professor Barker, the director of Long Ashton Research Station, way back in the early 1900’s. Those were the days – when government put money into horticulture and forestry research. He proposed a simple system of 4 categories, sharp, bittersharp, bittersweet and sweet, based on the percentage of acid and tannins present in the apple juice.
|Sweeter (lower acidity)
|Higher tannin||Bitter sweet||Bitter sharp|
As our orchard already contained sufficient sweet varieties I mainly sourced cider varieties from the other 3 categories, so we have
- Bittersweet: Ellis Bitter; Yarlington Mill; Dabinet; Sweet Pethyre; Herefordshire Red Streak; Camelot
- Bittersharp: Kingston Black
- Sharp: Brown’s Apple; All Doer; Tom Putt
- Sweet: Dunkerton as well as others amongst the eaters/cookers.
Now all we need to do is wait a few years for the first fruit!