Have you noticed that the grass in our orchard has not yet been cut? There is a good reason. After our incredibly wet winter and early spring the ground in the orchard was extremely soggy until the end of April and some areas are still damp. Attempts to bring in heavy mowing vehicles to mow the grass would have left deep ruts in the mud or they would have got stuck.
On a personal level I am pleased at the delay. The longer grass looks attractive, has encouraged ground-feeding birds to forage and allowed more flowering plants to grow than we would have seen previously. Look carefully and you will see slim plants dotted around with white or pale lilac flowers, that stand taller than the grass. These are Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis) also known as cuckoo flower, part of the brassica family (think of cabbages and salad rocket). Although these plants are common throughout the UK, they prefer wet grassland - which summarises the state of the orchard grassland in recent months.
When we originally planted the first orchard trees in February 2012, the site was damp, not saturated. But planting in March 2016, after months of heavy rain, meant most of the site was unusually muddy and not ideal for our young trees.
Now that the ground in the orchard is drying, it is becoming rock hard again and cracks are appearing due to the heavy clay subsoil.
The recently planted fruit trees have started their once-a-week watering regime, tended by volunteers who have 'adopted' them, bringing water from home to water the trees as park water supplies are not easy to access.
Meanwhile the established fruit trees have been flowering in succession, attracting local photographers to capture the splendid blossoms. In future years, when the new trees will also flower, it would be a perfect time to celebrate the beauty of our orchard.
|Conference pear tree|
|Apple Red Windsor|