Our Orchards

Mark Shirley's Garden Orchard

The villages of Middleton and Cottingham in Northants were once rich in orchard trees, vestiges of which can still be seen in many gardens locally. There are still several Bramleys and a huge Pear tree in the 'Village Orchard' nearby, though sadly one blew down in storms recently. The upper part of our garden had a few old fruit trees, of which we had to remove a couple due to extensive rot, and very poor quality fruiting. A large Bramley, and smaller James Grieve remain, and crop very well.

Since then we have re-planted with 20 cider apple trees on M26 (semi-dwarfing) rootstock, over the course of three years. The first 12 were Dabinett and Harry Masters' Jersey, both excellent quality Bittersweet cider varieties with a regular cropping habit. The following year 4 Yarlington Mill trees went in, followed by 4 Tremlett's Bitter, both very good varieties, though prone to biennialism. These trees are still very young, and only just coming into light fruiting.

The ground in our orchard has been cultivated to remove the extensive Ground Elder, Ivy and Brambles which covered the site, and has now mostly been re-seeded with grass. Parts of the site are very stony/sandy, and the trees in these areas suffer in dry conditions, otherwise the trees are growing away well.

Mark Shirley's garden orchardThe orchard is small enough to be managed entirely organically, with hand weeding and regular inspections of the trees sufficient to keep pests and disease at bay. Our three hens patrol the ground for bugs, though they like to scratch away the soil around the roots which is something we're working on.

We have also planted an MM106 (Half Standard) tree in a corner of the orchard, with which we hope to create new rootstock by the technique of 'Stooling'. This will provide us with rootstock for our grafting experiments.

Mark Shirley's garden orchard

Mark Shirley's garden orchard

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