As we move closer to August, the weather forecast does not promise any general rain, some sporadic thunderstorms, many of which will only produce flash flooding and fail to soak the soil in gardens and production areas. Today, here on the Sussex Coast a welcome few hours of 'gentle drizzle' cooled
The hot weather has influenced the ripening of soft fruit and cherries, potentially shortening the harvesting period of each variety. Lack of rain has made Cherry harvesting easier with no fears of splitting caused by rain, however the high temperatures may be responsible for a reduced crop.
Casting my mind back to 1976, my memory records a much more stressful summer with even higher temperatures after a very dry winter. The 2018 summer is shaping up to be the hottest and longest lasting period of drought since 1976 but with the benefit of heavy rain in January and February responsible for our main reservoir - Bewl water currently 90% full.
Below: left; Bewl water at low level and right; Bewl water full (both library pictures)
In my region of West Kent & East Sussex the cherry harvest is fast moving to a conclusion. Growers in this area are probably only a week or so before the last pick; talking to other growers across Kent the harvest will continue for another two to three weeks. 'Further afield' at traditionally later regions harvest is just getting going; Herefordshire and Scotland for example.
In West Kent prices of Cherries (roadside sales circa £6-£7 kilo) have been delivering a slightly higher 'return per kilo' to the grower compared to last year due to the yield on many farms as low as 50% of last year (the crop was heavy in 2017) - however further afield yields are reported as 70-80% of the 2017 crop and larger cherry farms marketing primarily to Supermarkets are 'currently' receiving less than 2017. This may be due to a 'peak in production' at the moment which may change as some farms finish supplying.
This year has thrown up an anomaly - many cherry growers protect their cherry trees from cold air at flowering time and the consequences of rain at harvest. However this year the cherries under protection MAY have suffered from to much heat at a critical stage of flowering. Talking to a grower in East Kent with a large acreage of cherries, his policy is NOT to cover the trees until after flowering and is looking at a potential crop of 70-80% of 2017.
Below: Tunnel design/coverings come in many formats and each grower will add his own 'tweak' to a particular design
Covers (plastic sheet) come in different specifications and using a 'white' sheet rather than clear plastic can delay the maturity and spread the season by at least a week.
Below: Cherries from GH Dean on sale in Waitrose at Hawkhurst in Kent
GH Dean was featured in the English Apple Man Journal for 6th July. To view Click on GH DEAN CHERRIES
Below: Cherries and Blackberries purchased at BENSFIELDS at Sandhurst in Kent
Below: Bensfields grow Cherries, Plums, Greengages, Strawberries and Blackberries. Bensfields is located directly opposite Sandhurst Baptist Church.
Below: left; Cherries bought at BROWN'S Farm Shop on the A21 at Robertsbridge in East Sussex and right; Kordia cherries bought in Sainsburys in Hastings East Sussex
Below: Cherries bought at Eggs to Apples Farm Shop in Hurst Green East Sussex and right; English Apricots purchased in Tesco in Hawkhurst grown by Tom Hulme in East Kent and cherries from AR Neave
Below: left & right; this 1kg tray of Premium Cherries bought at 'Dallaways Cherries' at Sandhurst in Kent
Below: Premium Cherries on sale @ £7.50 per kg at Dallaways Cherries
Below: Dallaways Cherries are more than just a fresh cherry business with Cherry Juice among the products
Below: Cherry Brandy and other fruit flavoured spirits produced by Dallaways Cherries
Dallaway Cherries hold events across the season including blossom walks and offer consumers the possibility of renting a cherry tree. For more information click on: Rentacherrytree
Next week The English Apple Man will be attending Fruit Focus at NIAB/EMR in East Malling Kent.
While Fruit Focus is very much a trade show anyone with a commercial interest can apply for a ticket by visiting the Fruit Focus website.
For a preview - click on FRUIT FOCUS 2018
Finally: "They always say Cows settle down before rain (avoiding laying on wet grass) and this morning as I walked my dog in the Sussex countryside as a very light spattering of rain fell, before turning into a steady drizzle later, these Cows were ahead of the game!"
Until next week..
The English Apple Man