Archive for the ‘PEARS’ Category

You may have noticed my persistent Fruitshare.net plugging on Twitter has lapsed for a little while over the past week or so. Proper work [preparing borders for new planting] has been responsible for the mini break. But, despite the Twitter quietness, pretty incredible things have been developing for Fruitshare’s ‘spread the word’ campaign.

It began with an article about Fruitshare in my local newspaper the Bolton News, [thankfully the online version doesn’t have the cheesy photo]. The article miraculously instigated two further publicity leads, a stint on BBC Radio Manchester with Heather Stott and, the cherry on top…an email from CBBC’s Newsround producer to say they’d like to feature Fruitshare! Obviously I said ‘yeah’!

I’m now in the process of gathering some ideas… potential gardens, Fruitsharers and Fruitseekers that would be up for a bit of stardom. I think I have sussed the first two…but just need someone from around Bolton or Manchester, preferably with kids [age 6 to 12], with a bit of a passion for baking [or jam making or whatever] to be our featured Fruitseeker. I shall thus be approaching those already registered on the Fruitshare website to see if I can find that special star…filming will take place over the next couple of weeks.

I’m very much excited about this little bit of national coverage for Fruitshare and keep my fingers crossed that it might just, maybe, possibly lead to a little bit more…I need to keep that publicity ball rolling. This week I will be around in the office a bit more so will continue the Fruitshare.net tweeting. If you happen to spot one, please do continue to retweet…it all really helps.

The number of registrations on the Fruitshare website keep rising, especially on the ‘Fruit Wanted’ list. My next mission is to try and up the numbers on the ‘Fruit Available’ list. Any Fruitseekers reading this, if you know of anyone living nearby that has a fruit tree growing in their garden please let them know about Fruitshare. This poster could be used in local shops or even posted through letterboxes to help spread the word in your area.

I will keep you all posted on how the Newsround feature develops and who will be the Fruitseeker star!

Thanks all and happy fruitsharing x

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Some of you will have already clocked that I have a bit of thing for fruit. It was an unknown variety of strawberry that first made me swoon, an incredibly sweet and juicy one that simple knocks the socks off anyone who tastes them. That was the initial hook which consequently set about a heightened sense of awareness of what fruit, if any, was growing quietly in other people’s gardens …with a relentless desire to have a sneaky little taste.

My eagerness for wanting to find and try fruit was, all of a sudden, completely quenched with the onset of the apple harvest season. I gathered unwanted apples of all shapes and sizes from the gardens I worked on, made enough apple crumbles and apple Dorest cakes to feed the five thousand and had enough surplus apples to keep family and friends extremely happy. It was an overwhelming time and they weren’t even my apple trees.

Borne from this abundant apple frenzy is fruitshare.net. I wanted to find a way of sharing this unwanted garden grown fruit, not just in the area I live but to make it accessible to people across the country. The website was set up and then redeveloped a year later in partnership with another fruit enthusiast, Richard Borrie from orangepippin.com, into a fully working database driven website. We are now in the beginnings of our second harvest season and we are keen to spread the word about the Fruitshare initiative as the more people that know about it the more sharing of the country’s forgotten fruits will take place.

Hence, I am now on a little mission to get as much publicity as I possibly can, and by publicity I mean national… and beyond. I think the idea is a great one, but I am biased I know. What would be really really cool is if all of the grow your own/buy and source local/encourage sustainable food endorsing celebrities/organisations would give Fruitshare a big thumbs up and link up to us from their websites  …but, lets be honest, that would just be dreaming. So, back to reality, a press release is the normal first port of call. Done. This has been sent out to a whole raft of publications from local press [they’re getting a bit fed up of me now I can tell], specialist magazines, national newspapers to BBC Breakfast! If anyone has close friends or relations at any of the major news publications please do get in touch!

You’re probably sensing that I’m not getting very far with the traditional publicising route; well you’d be pretty much spot on. Time is ticking, I don’t have oodles of free time to be chasing illusive ‘contacts’ I’ve been dragging out of the internet, I need a new plan.

Twitter. You’re very likely to be reading this because of Twitter. Fruitshare.net wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter [Richard from Orangepippin contacted me via Twitter]. My other half rolls his eyes every time I mention Twitter…like many other other halves I am sure. People love Twitter, people hate Twitter. Twitter has had bad press, has been blamed for the recent youth riots, but, it was also the cause for the mass community clean ups that followed. It has a good side and bad side; I want to bring out its great side.

With Twitter on my mind I have devised a new little plan, just to see how far I can publicise Fruitshare by just tweeting. As Fruitshare’s website is purely in existence today due to Twitter what better way to see the initiative evolve into an international phenomenon [there’s no harm in thinking BIG!].

So here’s the plan. If you think the Fruitshare idea is a great one and would like to get involved by spreading the word just simply retweet my tweets about Fruitshare. My mission is to tweet appropriate publications/media/organisations details of and a link to the Fruitshare site plus a link to this blog in the hope that they will give coverage to the scheme.

That’s it. Not rocket science I know. It may be a complete belly flop from which I’ll need to pick myself up and put my thinking cap on again. But, I’m up for giving it a go as I really would like to see people making the most out of the nation’s forgotten garden fruits. Please help by spreading the word. Thank you x


UPDATE 12/09/11

It is day 6 of the Fruitshare campaign and so far the blog stats have rocketed, the retweets have been immense and the lists on the fruitshare.net site are getting longer! Support and feedback has been really positive and I thank everyone who has spread the word so far.

One other idea I’ve come up with to help promote the Fruitshare initiative is a little A4 poster that can be downloaded from here, printed out and pinned to notice boards up and down the country [and beyond] in offices, cafes and shops. I’m demanding I know. I am duly printing them off myself and will be loading up the other half with them [who’s still rolling his eyes at me] to put up around his workplace. I shall go and hassle all the shop owners, with big smiles.

I am still persisting with the Twitter campaign, although I do sense most are now fully informed with the whole Fruitshare thing…I apologies for my one track mind and repetitiveness. It shall all be over with the end of the harvests! My mission is still to get some national media coverage [I’m afraid I’m still thinking BIG]; and would love anyone to contact me for the official Fruitshare press release [mentioned earlier], for a chat about the project or any other ideas on how to spread the Fruitshare word. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a bit passionate about the whole affair and will even share my precious, maturing sloe gin with anyone who can steal me that national slot for Fruitshare!

Thank you everyone, happy Fruitsharing x

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Adapted from January article for BL Magazine.

Gardens in January are generally stark and skeletal. Not exactly conjuring up an idyllic scene I know. Seeing borders stripped back to frameworks and trees unclothed is rather useful though, especially when it comes to pruning fruit trees! Yes, we’re back to the ‘grow more fruit’ mission with this month’s nitty gritty guide to pruning apple and pear trees. Before you hastily navigate away, hang on, my mission is to explain this complicated process in simple and logical steps [ok I’ll be honest, with a few technical terms thrown in].

First of all, it’s good to know that pruning can be done in late summer, usually in August, and in late winter, ideally January. Summer-pruning is primarily concerned with cutting back the current season’s leafy growth and is mainly done on the restricted/trained trees like espaliers. Winter pruning is primarily for standard tree forms.

In my mind, pruning is really about getting to know the character of your tree. Once you are familiar with how old it is [a rough idea is fine], how it grows [big standard, bush or trained tree] and how it performs [in terms of fruiting*] you are on your way to understanding the pruning approach your tree needs. All you need now are a handful of plant science facts, a modest amount of confidence and the right tools. 

Start by staring at your tree. Keep staring. Look at the main trunk and follow the branches, see how they form, work your way to the tips. Can you make out the new, fresh growth from last season? Can you work back to the trunk identifying each year’s growth? Can you make out the shorter, stubby, wrinkly-looking twigs? These are referred to as ‘spurs’[see picture below], magical little stems that carry the fruit. It is these fruiting spurs that we are trying to encourage by the way we prune. After gazing longingly up at your tree you may feel confused and walk away unsure. But don’t give up! Keep looking. Keep going back. If you have an older tree you will probably find it harder seeing these growth sections than if you have a younger specimen. Nip down to a local nursery and take a long look at some younger fruit trees. It may help you see the differences more easily.

Now for the science, ‘Apical Dominance’ [keep reading, it’s just about hormones] is when a single, vertical stem grows stronger and more dominant than all other stems. Plant hormones [technically known as auxins] dictate the way a tree grows, flowers and fruits and it is a high concentration of these hormones at the tip of a stem [called the ‘terminal bud’] that causes this apical dominance. The problem with this type of growth is that it is purely vegetative, which isn’t very good if we want more fruit. By reducing the apical shoot [pruning out the ‘terminal bud’], the hormones will be reduced, encouraging axillary buds [this is the name given to buds that develop into side branches] to grow instead.

It is also useful to know that horizontal branches have less concentration of these hormones, making these perfect candidates for producing fruit…so don’t prune these out [unless damaged or crossing others]! Some fruit tree training techniques make the most of this by actually tying young branches down to mature horizontally. Clever.

One final bit of essential knowledge is… the harder you prune back, the more vigorous the new growth will be [it’s to do with the root/canopy ratio and the amount of energy produced]. With this in mind, cut any stronger growing stems by no more than a third, while weaker growing stems can be cut back much harder [say two thirds or to just a couple of buds]. It is also for this reason that any major pruning of older fruit trees should be done cautiously, little by little over a few years to ensure you keep a root/canopy balance. 

Right. You should know the character of your tree, you have a number of essential facts to hand…where do you start? A good pruning saw, loppers and secateurs are handy. Then, start with the three ‘D’s’ – take out all the Damaged, Diseased and Dead branches. Next, look for branches that are crossing and rubbing together. Aim for an open-centred framework as this will reduce the chances of developing scab [a fungal disease] by allowing air to circulate more easily.

If your tree is old and needs a lot of pruning work, you may just start with taking out the three ‘D’s’ one year, crossing and rubbing branches the next, branches growing across the centre the following. For younger and trained [espalier or fan shaped] trees you may only need to keep an eye on branches growing in the wrong direction and cutting back new shoots to 2 to 3 buds [in August] to encourage the growth of side branches and fruiting spurs.

All this may seem daunting and if you are still frightened about pruning your fruit tree there are some very useful video clips on youtube.com and on Landscapejuice.com. Or, for another confidence boost, fruit pruning workshops are brilliant, check with your nearest horticultural college.

* It is useful to be aware that there are two types of fruit-bearing forms. Tip bearers and Spur bearers. Tip bearing varieties tend to fruit at the tips of the branches and will therefore require lighter pruning. Spur bearers [which tend to be the most common form] will bear fruit along the short stubby spurs along the side branches. Some varieties however do bear fruit on the tips and the side spurs! To identify which type your tree is you will need to look carefully for the short stubs and decide where they mainly grow.

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