This week’s six come not from my own garden, but from the garden at Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex where I volunteer one day a week. This week, we were joined by Zuky from Sussex Apple Trees, who showed us the best way to plant an apple tree. Charleston has bought a small collection of heritage Sussex apple trees for a new orchard by the car park.
I am joining in with The Propagator who each Saturday asks us to blog about six things that are happening in our gardens right now, and his merry band of followers from around the globe.
Zuky assured us that the best tool for digging a hole in which to plant your apple tree is a mattock like this one. You have to let it fall to the earth with your weight behind it, but once you have got the hang of it, it is actually easier than a conventional spade. It is also useful for hacking off the top layer of turf if you are planting in a grassy area.
2. Heeling in
Six young apple trees were delivered but we were starting off just planting two of these, as we also needed to construct deer proof wire mesh cages around them. The others we heeled in, digging a shallow trench, poking them in at an angle and then putting the soil back on top and firming it with our heels. The reason for putting them in at an angle is so that they don’t continue growing and putting down roots. For the same reason you shouldn’t water them. The soil should be enough to keep them alive until they are ready for planting.
3. Planting out
Then it was time for planting. We started off with an old variety of Sussex apple called ‘Forge’. We dug a big hole, twice the breadth of the sapling’s root ball, put in some ‘goodies’ (bonemeal etc) and then mixed in some compost with the existing soil to give the new tree the best possible start in life. Then we planted the tree making sure the graft was several centimetres above ground level, then we firmed in the soil back around the base. We used a rubber tie to secure the sapling to a tree stake, placed at an angle to allow for movement with the prevailing winds and prevent the young tree from toppling over. Then we hammered in three more stakes to form a protective triangle around the sapling, around which we wrapped chicken wire, leaving a small gate which can be opened to access for weeding. The young tree will need protecting from deer for its first few years.
4. Old apple
Here is one of the old apple trees in the walled garden at Charleston, underplanted with hellebores. It looks a bit like a gnarled witch after pruning to let in the light and air.
5. Down the garden path
Here is another view looking down one of the path’s in the walled garden towards one of Charleston’s trademark busts. The garden is starting to come back to life after the winter and was looking particularly lovely this week.
6. Not waving but drowning
A brigade of drowned zombie cleaners or a modern day alternative to the lady of the lake. You take your pick. Charleston, once home to the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is still a hub for artists and this week the gardens were overrun with young art students who had been created weird and wonderful sculptures in the garden and were being interviewed by local media on their prize-winning creations.