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Archive for the ‘Fruit Tips’ Category

English/French orchard prompt

English/French orchard prompt

If you have ever wished that you knew what that French term porte–greffe meant, or, for those on the other side of the Channel, the English word for rootstock then now there is an English/French ‘little dictionary’, to help you with many other words associated with growing fruit trees. It is small booklet, available free for the price of a stamped addressed envelope. Charming designed and a handy size, it was made as part of the ‘Orchards Without Borders’ project, to use on the cross Channel visits between a group in Sussex and one in Normandy. (Orchards without Borders is a project run by the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership; see our main web-site for an account of one of the recent expeditions). They have extra copies of the ‘little dictionary’ to give away – send a stamped self-addressed envelope (A5 size) to Anne-Marie Bur, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD

 

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Fruitlets infected with pear midge larvae (photograph from Adrian Baggaley)

A few years ago, I acquired a small fragment of orchard, now a suburban garden, which included an old pear tree of medium height growing in lawn with clumps of bluebells and wild flowers beneath.  The tree turned out to be the common variety Williams’ Bon Chrétien, and to my dismay, it suffered total crop failure from an infestation of pear midge (Contarinia pyrivora).

Thus began an annual battle which may be instructive or at least amuse.  The books indicate that the female midge deposits her eggs in the blossom bud or balloon when it is just opening and the rapidly developing larvae cause the fruitlets to swell, distort, turn black and fall to the ground.  The larvae pupate about 5 cms underground and the next generation midges emerge the next spring. The classic advice is to pick and burn all the affected fruit and also cultivate the ground and spray with carbaryl or gamma-HCH which I was reluctant to do.

Determined to find a non chemical solution, I lowered the height of the tree, which enabled me to pick every single fruitlet, hoping to break the cycle.  Next year the fruitlets were still virtually all affected and were totally picked again. Over subsequent years various attempts were made to use a barrier sheeting under the tree  coupled with fruitlet picking and even fly papers and ultra violet lights but to little avail, although a few pears did mature.  I also discovered that some larvae drop to the ground before the affected fruitlet does, so early removal of affected fruitlets is required.  It seemed possible that midges were arriving from other nearby gardens.  It also appears that Williams’ is very attractive to pear midge so the tree is being partially top grafted over to Comice.

Close observation of the emerging midges at blossom time, they are quite large, like eighth-size crane flies, showed that they emerged just before sunset and formed small mating swarms often in the same airspace between the blossom and the setting sun.  They dance from 2 to 5 metres above ground level and can be easily seen against a clear sky.  Finding that water jets were ineffective, in desperation I fitted a long PVC bathroom waste pipe to the vacuum cleaner nozzle and found to my astonishment that midge clouds could be very effectively hoovered out of the sky!  This continued for several evenings as new midges emerged.  Clearly this approach is very time consuming, small-scale and slightly eccentric but it is pleasant to be out with the blossom at sunset whilst knowing the method has zero impact on other pollinating insects.

The improvement in fruit yield was dramatic and I now have so many sound fruit that I am able to thin the crop in line with normal practice.  Using garlic spray against scab and feeding the tree has completed the restoration of an attractive and now productive garden pear tree.

Peter Laws

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red Discovery:nfcP1020071

Discovery apple, which has some natural resistance to scab and mildew

It has been my practice to control mildews and pear and apple scab with fortnightly sprays of dithane 945 and it has always been successful. I read of commercial growers success with Aston’s, garlic/seaweed/citrus, Tree Wash, in the ‘East of England Apples and Orchards Spring Newsletter’ and decided to test it for myself and ceased to used dithane for trace elements and fungus protection.

My regime for apple, pears, cold house and outdoor vines was a fortnightly wash with Tree Wash diluted 1;100 and sprayed to run off. I noticed an improvement in leaf colour and sheen and the spray appears to have maintained a good grip, despite the wet summer. I discovered the beginnings of powdery mildew on outdoor Müller Thurgau, Septimer and Perle on 7 August and so I terminated the trial for all outdoor grapes until after winter training, when I will begin the 2009/2010 programme with a winter spray at 1:250 dilution.

There is, as yet, no sign of mildew under glass where the vines look glossy and well. All apples and pears are similarly well with the exception of one very scabby Williams’ pear.

I read of the efficacy of neem oil in a letter written to the ‘National Auricula and Primula Yearbook’ by Heidi Dixon. The gist of her letter is as follows: neem oil is extracted from Azadirachta indica, native to India and known there as ‘village pharmacy’ because it acts as an insect repellent. It has been subject to much grower and university research and has been shown to be effective against aphids, thrips, white fly, mealy bug, weevils, fruit fly, slugs, snails and other plant pests. The active ingredient azaridachtin and other bitter compounds repel insects. The writer reports that it dealt speedily with red spider mite infestation with lasting effect and that it can prevent powdery mildew.

I cannot test the efficacy of neem oil for myself as I have an ongoing trial using Ashton Tree Wash but others may wish to test it.

Alan Rowe

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Poor Man’s Fruit Walls

 This post by Adrian Baggaley has moved to our main website: www.fruitforum.net

 

 

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War on Wasps

Adrian Baggaley who gardens near Nottingham gives some tips on controlling wasps

On a scale of one to ten, the slug and the wasp must vie for pole position as the gardener’s top pest, one being the bane of the vegetable gardener and the other that of the fruit grower. Slugs can be controlled by night-time forays with a bucket and torch, or by strategically placed boards or slates which provide temporary lodgings until collected. The wasp is a different problem for the fruit gardener; not many people are prepared to pick up a wasp. My approach to controlling wasps is to swat, spray and catch them in the traditional wasp trap – jam jars with a hole in the lid and partly filled with jam and water or, my preference, Ribena and jam. This combination of approaches works well.

Last year wasps were observed attacking my moderate cherry crop on 20 July, although their numbers were very small. Wasp traps were already in place, but seemed largely ineffective; the jam jar under the tree was totally ignored. To supplement my usual three pronged attack, I had invested in two super-duper wasp traps costing £25 each and a much cheaper one for £10. The two upmarket ones looked not unlike a vertical version of the Starship Enterprise and came complete with bait. The supplier of these traps was unable to tell me what the bait was, since his supplier refused to tell him. On assembling the two traps I was naturally curious about the bait. Its smell reminded me slightly of partly fermented fruit juice, something that I am familiar with after making country wines for several years.

The new traps did not prove particularly successful for wasps, but in a year which was plagued by flies, especially green-bottles, the traps worked well. They were also successful at exterminating the local population of a type of cinnamon coloured moth. If the traps are to be used again then the entry holes require reducing to exclude the moths. The cheaper trap was barely successful: the bait being Ribena and water, it attracted green-bottles and moths. Although there were not vast numbers of wasps about, I felt that I should be catching many more.

My Excalibur plum tree had a phenomenal crop of fully flavoured plums, but unfortunately due to continual rain the whole crop cracked. This was a bonanza time for the hive bees and wasps, which allowed me to monitor the fruit-eating wasp population. Any wasps not quick enough to fly off were swatted. The ones that got away were then the ones to trap, for after all I cannot spend all day swatting around a plum tree.

My thoughts turned to the nature of the bait in the other traps and whether it was partially fermented fruit juice. I had some in the freezer in the form of grape juice stored in freezer bags inside old fruit juice containers. This was defrosted and put in the cheaper trap. The trap was inspected two days later and it was full of wasps – in fact so many wasps that newcomers could not get a look in. From then on the wasps were under control and during the winter I stored away all left-over fruit juices from my wine-making activities with apples, pears and gages. Success in 2007 needed to start early!

Anyone with sympathies towards wasps will no doubt enjoy the following story. In last May one extremely large queen wasp was reconnoitering the inside of the Wimbledon Box – my large fruit cage, so called because I put it up over Wimbledon week. Closing the door, fly swat in hand, climbing to the top of the structure, I swatted this enormous wasp. It promptly dropped to the cross-span on which my wrist was resting. Crawling under my wrist, she first bit me and then stung me – ouch! Rounds two and three to the wasp were very painful.

Adrian Baggaley

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