New Orchard Investment

We have planted two new orchards this year at Stocks Farm. After “grubbing out” some cider orchards, the land has been put back to good use with two dessert (or eating) apple orchards – we have planted over 14,000 new trees, which will be providing fruit to the supermarkets from next year.

The varieties we have planted are:

  • 4,000 Gala apple trees: the number one eating apple in the UK. The last year, we picked over 4 million Gala apples!
  • 10,000 Junami apple trees: a new variety with a slightly odd name! Junami is a mixture of “June” and “Amie” meaning love. What’s special about this variety is it will store for up to 12 months, which means we can offer retailers and consumers British apples all year round.
  • Two rows of Sunburst apple trees: this variety has a distinct pink colour to the flesh.

We enjoy trialling potential future favourites of the fruit bowl, and are interested to see what people think of these varieties!

The trees themselves are two years old by the time they get to us, and have been grafted onto an M9 root stock. This is done to provide a stronger foundation for the trees. We plant A+ graded trees which are chosen for their superior quality. The trees come from a specialist tree nursery in Belgium.

Planting in late Spring/early Summer is what we aim for as the trees are then watered in nicely. Once the trees arrive, they get a soak in the brook for at least 48 hours. Doing this gives the roots a drink before planting, and wakes the trees back up after being in cold storage over the winter.

The ground conditions need to be just right to plant the trees – this involves working the ground down with heavy machinery to get the soil to a “friable” consistency. We do this to make it easier for the trees to root, but also so that we can use mechanical planting equipment.

Machine planting makes it much easier to get an orchard planted – this used to be done by hand which took 10 times longer and was far more labour intensive. This machine planter can plant one tree every three seconds – thats 20 trees per minute! Here it is in action:

We use a “fruit wall” system here – the trees are planted 1m apart in rows 3.65m wide. The trees will grow to 3m in height which is the optimum size for making picking easier and more efficient. Once the trees are planted, they are fitted with a wooden post and tree guard for support at ground level, and then wirework and canes for upper level support and to help create the “fruit wall” effect.

Once the trees are in, we spread hop waste mulch underneath them. There are a couple of reasons why we do this:

  • It acts as a soil conditioner – encouraging the worms.
  • It prevents transpiration (or evaporation) which reduces the need to irrigate
  • it suppresses weeds which reduces the need to spray

The ground will be planted with grass and wildflowers next. This is to encourage pollinators and insects into the microclimate of the orchard. This orchard will be in for the next 15 years at least and we can’t wait to see it grow and develop.