Gardening: Celebrate the diversity of the autumn apple harvest

Why we should love our disappearing native apple varieties
Why we should love our disappearing native apple varieties

Apples are one of the crops we associate with autumn so celebrate the diversity of local varieties on Apple Day, held on October 21.

The day was launched in 1990 by Common Ground, highlighting the varieties we are in danger of losing, not simply the apples, but in the diversity of landscape, ecology and culture.

Apple Bionda Patrizia.

Apple Bionda Patrizia.

A quick internet search will reveal that apples native to our region are hard to find – a visit to a garden centre will turn up the usual suspects – Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Braeburn, Gala and James Grieve.

Activities by the Women’s Institute, the National Trust and Wildlife Trusts are taking place from now until the end of the month.

Of course, to mark the occasion you could down a pint of locally-produced craft cider, or take part in the Apple Wassail, where bread is laid on the roots of trees which are then doused with cider. It’s supposed to bless the trees and bring about good harvests.

To find out more about Apple Day, visit www.commonground.org.uk/apple-day/

Apple Bionda Bella.

Apple Bionda Bella.

For National Trust apple day events, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Plant an apple tree for Apple Day

Celebrate Apple Day by planting your own tree – here are some recommendations from fruit experts Lubera’s Bionda range.

Bionda Marilyn: Medium-sized, round to slightly flat, a beautiful yellow colour when ripe, never gets russets (which is very common in yellow varieties).

It’s sweeter than Golden Delicious, has a distinct pear aroma when fully ripe. It matures in early September, and can be stored until Christmas, from £19.90 for a one-year tree in a five-litre pot.

Bionda Patrizia: Medium large, even after storage, there is still lots of flavour in the spring - lots of sugar and acidity. Ripe mid-October, should be stored one to three months before being eaten, from £17.40 for a one-year tree in a five-litre pot.

Bionda Bella: The successor of Golden Delicious – stores until February/March, the flavour is balanced in autumn (sweet with good acidity, then it gets sweeter). Ripe mid-late September, from £19.90 for a one-year tree in a five-litre pot.

For more information, visit www.lubera.co.uk

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JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

Ventilate greenhouses and conservatories on warmer days, but keep windows shut at night.

Clean the glasshouse if not already done, to prevent pests and diseases from overwintering in nooks and crannies.

Greenhouses can be insulated using plastic bubble wrap. This will cut down the heating bills, but make sure to minimise the amount of light blocked out by strips of tape etc, as the wrap itself will reduce light levels.

Put cloches over tender herbs like basil, coriander and tarragon, or pot up to move under glass. Pot up mint, chives and parsley to keep on a bright window sill.

Plant autumn garlic, onion and shallot sets.

Replant hanging baskets with spring-flowering bulbs, winter heathers, trailing ivies and spring bedding plants.

Raise patio containers on to bricks or purpose-made pot feet to avoid them sitting in water.

Move alpine troughs to a covered porch or lean-to to protect them from the rain. Pick over alpines regularly, removing debris and covering dead patches with extra grit to encourage re-growth.

Powdery mildew may be a problem. Cut back fading growth, rather than spraying.

Digging the soil, especially bare patches or newly-cultivated land, will expose pest larvae and eggs to birds, as well as clearing weeds and improving soil structure. Don’t leave soil uncovered for too long, however, as it runs the risk of erosion.

It’s an ideal time for moving and planting trees, shrubs and climbers, as well as for hedge planting. Bare-rooted deciduous trees and shrubs are cheaper than containerised plants. You can still order containerised trees and shrubs, and large semi-mature specimens, for planting over the winter.

Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring such as Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba, and Lavatera, can be cut back by half now, to prevent wind rock and to neaten their appearance.

Check tree ties and stakes before winter gales cause damage.

Place fallen leaves on the compost heap or into separate pens for rotting down into leafmould. Shredding leaves first with a shredder or mower will help them break down quicker.