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The English Apple Man


25th May 2018 - Looking forward to another bank Holiday weekend

After the stunning Early May Bank Holiday with record temperatures on the Monday, we approach our second bank Holiday in May with the prospect of higher than average temperatures, but the strong possibility of random showers and some thunderstorms and scarily, the mention of HAIL which sets all fruit growers nerves jangling!

At this stage of the season, we begin to speculate what kind of fruit set 'mother nature' has delivered?


In the English Apple Man Journal for 11th May, I wrote: The potential for a good crop is enhanced by the 'more than adequate' winter chill, abundant blossom, enough high temperatures for most varieties during blossom, sufficient warm weather for fertilization (apart from Monday 30th April when it was very cold and very, very wet!) so with the probability of a heavy set and much thinning in the next 6 is a fact that a fruit set of 15% of available blossom is enough for a full crop. but in a year of abundant blossom probably 5% is more than enough!


Below: Left Bladon Pippin tree in full bloom on 4th May and right; abundant blossom...


WELL It seems the fruit set is not as heavy as might be expected; 'run off' (the natural thinning of early fruitlets) indicates variable crop potential.


Chatting to some of my fruit grower friends today: What seems clear is that where trees (areas of an orchard, or whole orchards frosted in last year's spring frosts) carried no crop in 2017 the fruit set is very good, but where trees carried a full crop in 2017 the set this year is more variable.


One grower told me his Gala orchard that caught the frost last year on the lower slope, but carried a good crop on the upper slope (away from frost damage) is the reverse this year with a very heavy set on the trees on the lower slope and a light set on the upper slope; 'classic next year fruit set after previous year's frost)


In general terms. it appears Braeburn is thinning naturally; 'hopefully, not to much as a Braeburn with a lighter than ideal crop load is likely to produce large apples, which often only have a 'juice fruit' value!


Gala is the most reliable cropping apple, but this season the first impression is; variable within orchards!


The probability is: moderate levels of chemical thinning required/likely with hand thinning in orchards with variable fruit set the standard procedure for most growers/orchards.



In my own garden, the Bladon Pippin trees (of which one parent is Cox) were transplanted from our trial site in early springtime last year (2017) and although full of fruit bud, only set a few apples on each tree (due to stress of moving 3 year old trees - not frost) while this year the trees enjoyed bountiful blossom and have set heavily!


Below: left; the set all over the Bladon Pippin trees was very good and right; lots of 'fives'



Below: left; the Discovery set well and right; Red Devil hand 'thinned' to two fruits per bunch




GARDENERS BEWARE - Rosy Apple Aphid is alive and spreading!


The English Apple Man clearly did not get on top of the rosy apple aphid seen on the trees last year; the result a much heavier presence this summer. Having found a few earlier in the summer and manually removed infected leaves, the 'little blue b------s' have spread quickly.


The English Apple Man directs gardeners to the RHS Website - Rosy Apple Aphid Page for advice on controlling the pest!!


Rosy apple aphid is a small sap-sucking insect that feeds on apple foliage and fruitlets during spring and early summer. Because it damages fruits even low numbers of aphids can cause significant damage.








Dense colonies of pinkish grey aphids develop on the underside of the foliage in spring and early summer. Affected leaves at the shoot tips become curled and yellowish. Where the aphids have been sucking sap from the fruitlets, they prevent the fruits' normal development. Affected fruits often remain small with a pinched appearance around the eye end. In late summer, some branches may have normal fruits while others have only damaged fruits, reflecting the distribution of aphids on the tree earlier in the growing season.

Heavily infested shoots show stunted growth with distorted leaves that start to turn brown during the summer. The main damage is to the developing fruits, which can be severely undersized and malformed.


Rosy apple aphid overwinters on apple trees as eggs that are laid in autumn in bark crevices and around the buds on the shoots. These eggs hatch in spring as the leaves begin to emerge from the buds. While sucking up sap, the aphids secrete chemicals into the foliage and fruitlets, which cause the distorted growth.


Below: left; inspect leaves which have curled for Rosy Apple Aphids inside and right; clear colonisation of these leaves by Rosy Apple Aphids



Below: left; inspecting the leaves for Rosy Apple Aphids and right; 'nasty little blighters



Below: A close up of a badly infested apple leaf colonised with Rosy Apple Aphid .....



For those wishing to use a pesticide to control garden pests, it is well worth consulting The RHS Approved Pesticide List


The English Apple Man is currently removing any shoot tips colonised by Rosy Apple Aphid and destroying the infected may be wise to treat the trees in winter with an approved spray to destroy (or at least reduce) the overwintering eggs...




Just before signing off for this week, The English Apple Man received an email from a consumer who is disappointed that home grown apples and pears are not available but other Northern Hemisphere apples and pears are!


I thought the question and my response worthy of publication!




I'm very frustrated that I can't buy English/British apples at the moment. I understand the seasonal issues and why apples from the southern hemisphere are in season - but why are apples from Northern Europe still available? French, Dutch, Belgian are all on the shelves but no English or British. Presumably these have been stored so why can't ours?


Sorry to bother you with this but I just feel that as we head towards Brexit we ought to be looking after our own produce rather carefully.


Many thanks




My response


Dear Colin,


Basically we have run out of most English Apples and Pears....its that time of year. The French, Dutch and Belgian have been stored in long term stores as our Supermarkets (rightly) want home grown apples and pears in our season, which is circa September to end of April. Crops across Europe were reduced by spring frosts in 2017 and our home grown crops also reduced, so we have run out.....


20 years ago you would have found large volumes of imported apples and pears from: France Italy Spain Holland Belgium etc. Throughout OUR season, But as we began to grow better varieties e.g. Gala, Braeburn, Jazz, Zari, etc. Supermarkets recognised the quality of English fruit and replaced imported (for the most part) with English supplies. This benefits English growers who have the home grown season pretty much to themselves. Of course this only works because we have adopted modern (Globally popular varieties) which yield better crops, deliver better grade-outs and can compete price wise with imported fruit.


The Supermarket mantra has been: "Of course we will stock UK rather than imported produce, as long as the quality is equal and the price is competitive"


For the future, our growers are trying to build up the volume of home grown apples and pears with a view to taking our season further into the summer months, assisted by newer high tech storage systems. So we will (nature permitting) soon take English Gala, Braeburn, Cameo, Jonagold etc into May/June on a regular basis......


Ironically, from time to time, mainstream media (newspaper columnists) accuse us of storing apples to long with cryptic comments like: "how old are your apples"


Science and technology are allowing longer term storage of apples and pears AND maintaining the eating experience by better understanding the nutritional needs of the fruit and developing storage technology which keeps the fruit in as near as possible peak condition.


I hope this gives you an insight into why home grown apples and pears are finished until next season (September)


Our greatest fear at the moment is the prospect of a serious reduction in migrant harvest labour......without the 80,000 + harvest workers needed to harvest UK produce {circa 20,000+ for apples and pears) there will be a dramatic reduction in home grown apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries and plums........


Kind regards


The English Apple Man


That is all for this week: I hope all my readers have a very enjoyable Bank Holiday and the weather is not too disruptive!



Take care



The English Apple Man