Blossom at this time of year reminds us of how far this piece of ground has come in the four years since we tackled the weeds and dug eight holes, added sixteen barrow loads of manure and compost, and planted eight trees that formed the first part of our orchard. Even the stakes we cut by hand and that resulted in a tetanus injection for Andrew. We knew from the start the orchard had to include only local varieties grown in Yorkshire. We wanted hardy. We wanted tasty fruit. We lost some trees along the way, a Damson, a Greengage and an apple, some succumbed to dry summers, others to the wind and one to canker. Starting an orchard from scratch is no mean feat.
Planting one or two year old maidens means that you have to keep all your trees well watered during those first few summers. The downside of this was our orchard was at the top of the garden, at the top of the hill. We placed it there as it was the least exposed part of the garden due to an old hawthorn hedge. It meant we spent many a spring and summer making sure the base of the trees were kept clear from weeds; this included hand weeding and mulching. It's back breaking stuff getting an orchard away successfully and there will always be problems. However, the first year we got blossom made us smile so wide that our cheeks hurt, until we realised that for the trees to thrive we had to remove those first fruits. That was hard to do but by 2014 we had our first real crop of apples, even our neighbour wanted to know how we did it - it's all in the pruning, it's all in the back breaking mulch and watering. It's all in being bloody minded and telling the buggers to grow. In 2014, we turned to the second phase of our fruit plans. Again, this pushed our skills into learning how to grow cordons, create fan trained cherries from scratch and again getting to grips with when to prune, how to prune and when to water. Both these orchards are starting to pay dividends, as the blossom returns in the first orchard we planted and the first ever blossom comes to the cordons and fan trained trees.