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Do they farm trees? (1 Viewer)

Olly Buckle

Some one who lives on the other side of the planet checked out my area on Google Earth and asked me about the fields full of regular round objects. "Do they farm trees down your way?"
Well, yes they do. I live on the border of Kent and E.Sussex and Kent is the best place in the world for growing apples, some parts of Tasmania are almost as good.
There are hundreds of varieties, with wonderful names, Egremont Russet, Laxton's Superb, Beauty of Bath. Most of them are not grown commercially of course. There are a few varieties that fulfill commercial criteria, but most have qualities that make them desirable enough to be grown combined with a commercial failing. For example, an unattractive skin, an apple that bruises easily, the fruit are not uniform in size, the tree bears well only every second or third year or is susceptible to disease. From the Nurseryman growing young trees to the customer taking home fruit from the supermarket there are a chain of people passing judgment.
Those rows of trees in the Google view will be almost identical. The nurseryman grows a lot of small apple trees then cuts them down to below the lowest bud. Then a slit is cut vertically in the bark with two horizontal slits either end , like a capital "I". Next a bud is cut from the favoured tree with a nice big "heel" of bark and a sliver of wood, the "I" is opened up like double doors and the bud slid in. I learned to do this on the farm with my father and uncle Ted when I was a boy and the next step in those days was to close the "doors", bind them shut with twine , then seal the whole thing with sealing wax but I believe the modern method uses something like cling film to bind the bud in.
The advantage to doing this, rather than taking cuttings, is that plants with desirable root systems and plants with desirable apples are not usually the same. Sometimes the rootstock can affect the mode of growth of the tree, this is how pillar shaped patio apples are grown with no real side branches at all.
The rootstock are only of interest to growers and breeders on the whole and only get a code, not like the flamboyant names of the apples. Most apple tree rootstocks are an M followed by a number. This is because the worlds leading research center is at East Malling in Kent and the M stands for Malling and the number for the order in which it was grown.
Modern orchards have rows of these trees, all growing to a height they can be picked without ladders and I expect this is what my friend saw, mind you they also grow christmas trees, but that's another story.