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Archive for May, 2012

Plum leaf showing brown discolouration

Plum leaf showing brown discolouration

A number of leaves on my young plum tree are beginning to change colour at the tip.  They turn pale green and then brown and eventually start to shrivel, although  the main part of the leaf remains dark green.  (See above).

I first noticed this last week and am not sure whether it is a sign of disease or deficiency.  The tree was planted in a sheltered spot in clay soil, with a straw mulch, last autumn.  I have two other plum trees, both approx 15 ft away, and neither one is showing these symptoms, nor are the damsons nearby.

The tree also has a number of leaves with round holes (as do the other plums) which I assume have been caused by caterpillars, although I have turned over all the leaves and have found none. There were a (very) few aphids on some young shoots; these were promptly squished.

Can anyone advise me on what I should do?

Heather Hooper

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Awful April

Blossom wilt

Blossom wilt

Well spring started in a somewhat tropical mood with wall to wall sunshine which made some already precocious pear buds open up in late March and early April. Most plum, damson and gage and some cherry blossom were in bloom at the same time; the Canadian plum Valor was even going over by this time. Sunny days and frosty nights, however, are a recipe for no crop. When the halcyon start to spring ended, the wind turned north and the long awaited rain arrived. The north wind and its associated chill factor dropped the night time temperature down to freezing on repeated occasions, so that  the lowest recorded at the top of the orchard was 24 degrees F; eight degrees of frost. A few yards away stood the pear Winter Nelis in full bloom and its neighbour Onward was around twenty five per cent out. Further down the slope the tardy (thank heavens) pear Beth was just opening its blossom buds. Who knows what the outcome will be. The pear blossom pollinated and fertilized in March now shows the odd fruitlet, but not a pristine green colour and rather a dirty grey appearance, which is surely a sign of frost damage. This spring will point the way to which varieties are the hardiest.

For certain the apricots fruitlets are dead and some vine and fig foliage in the greenhouse has been damaged for the second year running. More certain crops in the polytunnel are several peach varieties and the cherry Summer Sun which has pea-size fruit. Apricot blossom and fruitlets are very vulnerable to frost. So the outcome of the outdoor stone fruit is very uncertain. With the pears, I have noticed in the past that a mere few days of sunshine is enough for fertilization to take place. The beekeeper has been regularly bringing fondant  to the bees, not because there is insufficient blossom and flowers to forage, but because it is too cold for them to fly far. A few hardy souls ventured out into the orchard the other day, but the temperature was a mere forty five degrees F and most stayed at home.

The rain fall in April for this part of Nottinghamshire was 175ml; ie seven inches. On May Day, with the wind still stuck in the north, it rained all day. It still rains most days and no end is in sight. There is much blossom wilt on pears, plums and cherries, even the occasion wilt on the apples. This is due to the very wet conditions. The plum Giant Prune is a martyr to it; the infection travels down into the new growth and kills it. The Valor plum has a severe aphid infestation already. I find it worthwhile spending an hour going round the apple trees about now inspecting foliage. Today I found tiny winter moth caterpillars which wriggle around the tree grazing the new leaves as they go and single rosy apple aphids inside rolled leaves. It is marvellous how one aphid can cause this reaction. These single aphids will quickly build up into colonies and curtail any new growth: search and destroy.

So regardless of the excesses of weather the usual problems are still with us, some worse, some not. Secondary mildew is minimal due to a lack of dry days.  I found my first scabby leaves on the Malling Kent apple, which I picked off, and this is doubtless due to the endless rain.

We have had Awful April, now what about Marvellous May?

Adrian Baggaley

Aphid damage

Winter moth

Aphid damage

Winter moth

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