This article was written last year and has been archived here. The orchard is now growing but this is how it started.
Things are changing on Pig Row the meadow has come to an end before it has started. The meadow is an area of the garden that we have just left fallow, rather than call it home of the weeds, we moved the chickens in and wade in once a day to collect the eggs. The meadow was always doomed to fail from the start. Meadows require poor soil and that end of the garden is pure peat as it merges into the hills of Yorkshire, the sheep look over the wall at our attempt at the meadow and the neighbourhood cats hunt in the long grass. We have found dead shrews, dead mice and dead birds; the meadow is the wilderness version of a morgue. A few months ago my wife and I sat down and decided that the meadow would become an orchard, the trees would love the peat, the site was sheltered from the west by an eight foot hawthorn and hazel hedge. On paper the site had it all, the grass could be mowed, the weeds ripped up, the remaining brambles burnt out. The only problem is that at Pig Row we garden on the ceiling of the world, the International Space Station stops off once a day for a cup of tea. Now as gardeners we are told that Orchards and high altitudes don’t mix, books tell us that Cox will wilt, Conference will commit suicide and Victoria will just keel over mid soliloquy. Most garden centres don’t fare much better in their knowledge and turn to the same books that scream don’t do it. Never believe anyone who works at a garden centre, garden centres are there for the tea and wee brigade, they are there to sell product not plants. Turn to specialists, turn to the great nursery tradition we have in England, turn to the independents. This is not a punk rock and roll thing; this is not me swinging from a garden centre flag shouting up the revolution. This is question of going to people who know what they are selling but more importantly love what they are selling. I suspected I could grow fruit at Pig Row when my Boskoop Glory Grapevine survived the winter outside after its move from our old house, Drovers, which was a mere three hundred feet above sea level to the top of a hillside. The old vine is doing well, though we have had no grapes due to the grubbing up and replanting, the vine is now putting on lush green growth and there is promise of grapes next year.
Plant an orchard if you have the room, plant a piece of history, turn your back on the supermarket apple, it is bland, tasteless, bitter (when you consider the air miles involved) and cannot compare to British orchards or the passion and love Habitat Aid show for their fruit.