The autumn harvest

April is the time to bring in the autumn harvest. The season is seven to ten days earlier than last year, and so at the moment we are about two-thirds into the 2023 harvest.

We have finished a successful pear harvest, including cultivars like Packham’s Triumph, Forelle, Rosemarie, Bon Rouge and Cheeky. This month kicked off with the harvest of the last Granny Smiths and in mid-April it’s time for Pink Lady and Rosy Glow.

There are a few factors that determine perfect colour on these cultivars. The fruit needs a certain amount of sunlight to achieve its ripe colour. The trees have a dense leaf cover, so we are currently thinning them out to ensure that enough sunlight gets through. However, the best conditions to create vibrant colour are cool nights and mornings like we have experienced since mid-March. This encourages the apples to turn a lovely dark pink.

It looks like all the remaining cultivars will have high quality fruit with excellent crunch. In terms of colour and quality, we are doing better than last year. As far as this season’s weather is concerned, the overall temperature has been good with no extremely hot or cold days, and therefore we’ve had a positive outcome in terms of fruit size and quality.

We had ample rain during March, putting pressure on us in terms of productivity on the days that we were able to harvest. Also keep in mind that apples picked after rain, or with soil moisture at full capacity, will bruise far more easily than fruit picked on a falling moisture regime.

Autumn is the time to look at tree health. A few simple practices will help the tree through the dormant winter period and ensure its vitality for spring flowering and fruiting. We started with post-harvest fertilisers in the orchards as well as foliar feeding. This keeps the trees strong and is vital for the next season’s success.

Following the harvest at the end of May, old and excess branches will be removed to ensure good light penetration into the canopy and to maintain the shape of the trees. This is followed by more precise pruning between June and August aimed at rejuvenating growth and preventing the overshadowing of branches and spurs. But more on that later as we are fast approaching winter!