Bumpy ride

How have your apple trees been performing this year?  At Genus HQ we seem to have experienced the whole spectrum of results from trees with virtually no fruit to trees with arching branches straining under the weight of an enormous crop.  Our pears, too, have suffered a similar fate, some such as ‘Conference’ suffering from shrunken distorted fruit while golden yellow ‘Williams’ have thrived.

‘Spartan’ (pictured) was the undisputed champion apple this year with the heavy crop of its medium-sized fruit obviously thriving in this year’s exceptionally hot and dry summer conditions.  ‘Spartan’ was developed nearly a hundred years ago in the British Columbian town of Summerland.  With a relatively mild climate it’s on the same latitude as The Lizard in Cornwall so always promised to do well in England.

Prolific fruiting has its downside; the following year nearly always results in a poor harvest.  This rollercoaster ride of peaks and troughs is known as ‘biennial bearing’; the energy required to produce a large crop depleting vital resources within the tree which are then regained the following year at the expense of flowers and fruit.  In the past commercial growers have overcome this bumpy ride by applying chemicals, often hormones, that  reduce flowering.  Diligent pruning and thinning by hand is also an option if  the orchard is small.  Home gardeners can do the same of course.  But how many of us look at a tree in full blossom and have the heart to remove every other flower when it’s a beautiful spring day, the birds are singing and the scent of blossom is hanging heavily on the air?  Not us!!  We’ll stick with the small inconvenience of slightly less fruit next year.