Steyning Community Orchard NewsThe Steyning Community Orchard (SCO) will be 6 years old this year and we are beginning to feel we are part of the Steyning scene.
This January saw our fifth Wassail - now part of the Steyning calendar. It is good to see families engaged together helping us celebrate part of this county's history and tradition even though it often occurs on a cold, wet, wintery evening!
The New Year brings with it the excitement of mother earth beginning to awaken. Spring bulbs are starting to poke through the ground and trees are waiting for a bit of warmth, so the sap can start to flow. For this reason we have to be sure we get all our fruit trees planted before mid March.
In our main orchard on the Memorial Playing Field, dates for planting seven trees will be 22nd February and 7th March, and four in the Steyning Downland Orchard (next to the Rifle Range) are scheduled for the 15th March. These trees should start bearing significant fruit in around 4-5 years time.
Since we began, we have planted over 100 fruit trees in our orchards, the Bramber Community Orchard and in other local private gardens and orchards. All very encouraging particularly in view of the current campaign to help combat climate change by planting more trees.
In May the Steyning Festival will be holding a 'Green Day'. Our plans are to include a Bioblitz Day with the Steyning Downland Scheme around the Orchard/Pond area adjacent to the Big Picnic Field.
There will be a survey of plant, insect and other animal life in this one location. It will include bat surveys, moth trapping and pond dipping, as well as plants, flowers, birds and butterflies. We will need a lot of help with this, so if you are interested keep on the lookout. We hope to repeat this on a regular basis so we can develop a record how our activities are affecting the area's wild life.
June is often a quiet month in the orchards but we have to be on the alert for green fly infestation and moulds and viruses. This is also the month in the 'June drop' when unhealthy and poorly pollinated fruit drop from the tree, enabling it to concentrate on the healthy ones.
Over the last few years there has been a tendency for fruit to ripen earlier, often by two weeks, probably because of the warmer weather. It is for this reason that we have moved our Apple Day to September from October. We can be more certain of having plenty of apples on the big day, displaying all the different varieties as well as making litres of delicious juice from all the apples you gathered from your trees with your family.
How wonderful is that look of disbelief on the faces of children when they see, partly through their efforts, their own apples becoming juice that they can drink!
Let’s hope that our wassail last month roused the trees from their slumber and that they will produce a delicious harvest. The fruit we grow in the orchards is for the community - for us ALL to enjoy.
Perhaps our next project should be brewing cider?!
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