Friday 24 August 2012

The Orchard and the Cattle Fence

With a good start from the apple and pear trees from Steak Lady, we get all inspired to carry on with the orchard. We have space in the western field (and therefore space inside the as-yet-only-imaginary sheep paddock), for 4 rows of 5 trees each at 5 metre spacings, i.e. 20 trees. This is an amount of space our trees in the so called 'orchard' at Faversham could only dream of. We had crammed them in as whips and could barely give them 5 feet between trunks so that the fast growing quince and greengage quickly dominated the space and the poor cherry and damson felt very left out. Not this time. The trees here can go 2 and a half metres (8 feet or so) radius out from the trunk before the branch tips touch, so we are hoping for some good shaped big  productive trees.

So we nipped off on the Tuesday to seek out cherry, greengage and plum. We scored the GG and a 'Morel' (sour, cooking) cherry at the garden centre in Balla-D and later a sweet cherry and a Victoria plum at the one in Castlerea. They just about fit in Mum's little car if she sits in the back behind Dad and the pots go in the front passenger footwell, the top branches just inside the rear hatchback window (which we know from buying wood for building, is just over 8 feet away!)

The main issue here, says local advice (and we'd know from Dad's many failures of allotment crops this year) is water logging and drainage. Plums and "stone fruit" in particular do not like their roots to sit in the wet. Dad therefore adapted/created a special planting method which he calls the Volcanic Cone Method. You cut out a circle of turf as you would anywhere but so that this does not create a sump or pit for the rain to collect in, you dig within this effectively a raised bed for each tree. This leaves you a cone of soil with a circular moat for drainage, and the tree hole is dug into the top of the cone so that the whole thing looks like a flattened volcano cone. Dad then staked the trees against the prevailing SW winds (Atlantic Gales!) and covered the cone in black plastic sheet to both stop any weeds and also to further shed any water. So far they seem to have worked and they should (as we say talismanically about everything we plant) "get away nicely". Mum usually adds "Grow you bugger!" for good luck. Dad's comes from Geoff Hamilton's TV show Gardeners' World and Mum's from the magazine of the same show but much later when Alan Titchmarsh was in charge and writing pieces for the back pages each week.

Meanwhile our fencing guy, Paul, shows up to erect the cattle proof fence to run down the west side of our east field just outside the trees. This will stop the cattle that will rent the grazing out there from coming into the garden, onto our 'primrose lane', and out the front gate onto the road, so it was vital that we do it before Mike the Cows would entertain letting his cows in. They will come and go from our Vendor Anna L's land 'round the back' of us (to the North) through a gap which is currently fenced off. Readers will know we have already had 2 batches of cattle from the lane 'escape' into our ground and smash up the soft, soggy lawns (see picture) so that we are anxiously waiting for local forge Tully's to create our entrance gates. I will probably have to bark at them as they loom ever closer over the yard wall!

Paul turned up with posts and wire and then came back with a post whacker attached to the back of the tractor. This is a brutal and dangerous weapon, capable of whacking an 8 foot long, 10 inch diameter pointy-ended post down 4 feet into the Roscommon clay in minutes, thumping it from above. Paul tells us he has heard many stories of people losing fingers or hands, mainly those who only hire the kit once in a blue moon. Our Irish friend in Kent, Rona D tells Dad they are known locally as the 'Widow Maker'. Anyway, Paul used it and came out unscathed and we have a lovely taut fence running 83 yards down the field and into the ditch, secured by three strands of green-coated barbed wire. That should keep Felix and his ladies and the children out.

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