Moving Mature Apple Trees

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Hawthorn hedge

Before I embark on our winter pruning in the orchard I have to assess a problem, there is canker in most of the apples by the hawthorn hedge on the west side of the orchard and we have to find out why. The reason is pretty damn clear, the hawthorn hedge due for layering is a thug, it's roots mingling with brambles have turned this side of the orchard into a poorly drained area. We can follow the litany of this rambling bog as it charts its way down the hill, to date it has taken an Apple Balsam, a Merryweather Damson and Old Greengage to a mix of canker and rotting roots in winter soil. The only trees that have survived, canker and all, from the original 2011 planting has been Apple Fillingham Pippin and Apple Hunthouse, neither one achieving the crops we saw last summer on the east side of the orchard. Even Apple James Grieve I planted only a few years ago has sulked beside the hedge. Well, enough is enough, and with spade in hand it's time to see whether my thoughts on the subject can be proven, is it hedge roots and wet winter soil?

Moving Trees

The Apple Fillingham Pippin now in it's eighth year should by now have put down huge roots but a quick clear around the base of the tree and I can see that it is prone to wind rock (when trees move a little too freely in the breeze); which shouldn't happen as the hedge is a windbreak. A quick manual shake, maybe a little too vigorously, and the tree succumbs to subsidence. In under twenty minutes I have dug up what should be by now a mature specimen of nearly a decade. Compared to the Apple Keswick Codling across the way, on the east side of the orchard, it is pitiful and even the few roots I cut off with the spade doesn't prepare me for the shock of the root system that I expose beneath. 

Apple Fillingham Pippin

This top heavy tree has hardly any roots, though the soil it moist to the touch you can see the larger hawthorn roots beneath the hole the tree has come out, a net of orange roots effectively creating a pan beneath the tree, choking any chance of a tap root striking downwards. I could do one of two things here with the Apple Fillingham Pippin, call in my losses and burn the tree or else try something radical to cure the problem and kill the canker. I will replant the tree on the east side of the orchard, give it a drastic prune removing all signs of canker and cross my fingers. It is a long shot, it will need plenty of water this next summer but maybe I could give this tree a better life. It's a two person job to drag the tree up the hill, the roots gouge the lawn; which after many years, Carol has agreed, should go...oh, the plans I have and partly why the west side of the orchard is on its way out. Giving the Apple Fillingham Pippin a drastic haircut also gives the tree a chance to really put down some roots before spring and ease the pressure on the tree itself, I remove around half of the top growth, open up the centre of the tree and remove all canker signs. The canker may return but this tree has put up with it for many years and what apples we have had have been sweet.

 Planting mature trees

Before the pruning though: a new hole, a new stake, an extra long tree tie, a lot of swearing trying to get it level and straight with the rest of the trees; then secateurs, loppers and a freshly pruned Apple Fillingham Pippin

There still sits on the west side of the orchard that tired Apple Hunthouse and miserable Apple James Grieve. The latter, when dug up, has hardly any roots and I put it in a pot. There is a pear also, I have forgotten the name but as of yet we have not had pears in our garden, late frosts, early winters have not given us a bounty of pears. In clearing this side of the orchard we find old turf turned to loam, which we use in these trio of pots. With a final wheeze and heave of the wheelbarrow we deliver the rest of the loam as a thick, unctuous mulch around the Apple Fillingham Pippin giving it the best start we can. 


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