Happy New Year, and welcome to everyone at the start of another year’s cherry growing…It’s nice to think that the new season isn’t too far away, especially on a grotty wet day, like today!
I have included details below in the orchard update on how this winter is affecting us and what we’ve been up to in the orchards, however before that, a quick summary of what to expect in the next few months.
Please note, if you have received this email but intended the cherry tree to be a gift, please can you let me have the recipient’s full name and contact details so that I can email the newsletters to the correct person and relevant email address?
Occasionally emails do go astray/directed into junk mail so if you haven’t heard from us for a while just check the website as all of the newsletters are also posted on the news page of our website so you can check to see if you have missed a newsletter.
The next newsletter you will receive will be in early March and will give you a brief update on how things are looking for the advent of spring. You will then receive another newsletter in April when there is the first sign of bud break on the cherry trees. This first sign of movement should enable us to give you a rough idea for your diaries on when the blossom walk weekend will be. As a guide, the blossom walk is generally on the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May.
During May and June you will receive a couple of updates, initially on how the blossom has set, and then on how the potential crop is looking and also in mid to late June a rough idea on when the likely picking dates will be for your cherry tree. Again, just as a rough guide, the picking dates for 2016 were as follows, although these picking dates were 4 or 5 days later than we would normally expect.
Kordia – 16th – 24th July, Regina –28th – 7th August, Penny & Colney – 23rd – 31st July & Sweetheart 28th – 7th August. The picking dates for each variety will always include 2 weekends during the week in question to try to ensure that there is a time that is suitable for everyone to come.
If you are unsure where the cherry orchard is located there is a map on the contact page on the website, however as a guide we are situated just outside the village of Northiam in the direction of Hastings. The orchard is just off the main A28 up a lane called New Road, postcode TN31 6HS.
There is also a section on the website that details the best places to stay if you want to make a weekend out of your trip to the orchard and also the best local attractions and places to eat.
ORCHARD & FARM NEWS
The winter so far has been wonderfully boring from a farming point of view. We’ve only had one storm with potentially damaging winds and so far it has been a very dry winter with no water-logging in the orchards, which can damage tree roots. It’s been so dry in fact, that I’m still using the tractors in the orchards and making almost no indents in the ground! As well as been dry, the temperature has also been generally colder than the last few winters which is also good news for the fruit buds.
Each winter, cherry trees need approximately 1200 hours of chilling on the tree buds (although it varies by each variety) – this essentially means that every hour from November until spring that is 7 degrees or under counts as 1 hour of chill and currently we are well over half way towards that. The amount of chill units the buds receive affects the cell division within the buds, and therefore the amount of flowers produced at spring. More cell division means more flowers, and more flowers potentially mean more cherries!
Last winter we didn’t receive the amount of chill units mentioned above, and we only really had a mediocre crop (although the quality was fabulous). Pollination of the flowers last year was actually very good, however a large proportion of the developing cherries never grew on and simply fell off the trees. Through experience, I’m fairly convinced that last year’s mild winter exacerbated this problem and made the fruit drop far worse than it would have been if we’d had a cold winter. Therefore I was delighted to see on Countryfile last night that a serious cold spell is forecast from the end of this week to add to the winter chill tally!
The weather last autumn/late summer was also fantastically helpful and we completed the pruning of the trees in record time. I was also able to subsoil all of the orchards (a sub soiling machine is pulled behind the tractor and makes slits in the ground directly in line with the tractor’s tyres (which is where the ground gets most compacted) to break the subsoil and leave open slits in the orchard rows so that any excess winter rain will drain away more freely) when the ground was rock hard which is the perfect time to really shatter the compaction within the ground. Sub soiling is also beneficial as it aerates the soil which over time will also increase the amount of worms within the soil.
As is now the norm, we will be replacing some of our older trees at our Sandhurst orchard so we will be planting approximately 400 trees this winter. The trees are due to be delivered at the end of February and we’ll get them planted as soon as the ground conditions allow.
Currently, I’m also working my way through a list of maintenance jobs within the orchards and on our machinery – if I stopped hitting things with the tractor during the summer months, perhaps I’d have less work to do in the winter!
I hope that all of this gives you a bit of an insight into what we have been up to and what to expect in the next few months and in the meantime if you have any queries please feel free to email me.
I look forward to seeing you all during the course of the year.