As a family farming business we thought you may be interested to have a monthly update on how things are going 'Down on the Farm' which George runs.
We have been farming at Lower Lulham (the home of Certainly Wood) since 1957 and Nic and I were brought up here, and I have been farming here since I left college in 1980. The farm is just over 150 acres growing blackcurrants for Ribena, cider fruit for Bulmer's Cider and we also grow nursery Poplar trees to eventually be made into Certainly Wood kindling.
The weather has, and will continue to have a major impact on the farm this year. Our average rainfall (figures taken from the last 12 years) is 32.5 inches or 812mm. Even since Christmas after a wet autumn, we have had 14.5 inches (362 mm) and so the farm is saturated.
Work activities are therefore restricted and we avoid using machinery in these conditions as it compacts the soil and causes massive ruts. David, our fruit manager is busy hand pruning the cider fruit trees, an annual activity and vital to maintain a quality tree structure from an early stage. Each tree is carefully pruned, removing low branches and any larger branch that is too strong and competing with the main leader. The aim is to try and develop a tree with lateral branches that are well spaced and as near to parallel to the ground as possible, with the one main leader as vertical and dominant as possible.
Some of our older cider fruit trees have not cropped very well and so we have made the decision to graft the trees over to a new variety. This is a very skilled operation which takes place in May. I will let you know how this is done when we start. In the meantime we are gathering small branches ready to use for the grafting. These small pieces have been carefully selected and will be kept in cold store until May. The reason for cutting them now is to make sure that the buds are dormant.
The blackcurrants have all been pruned mechanically to remove some of the lower, outer branches. This allows more light to get to the centre and hopefully help the crop. This winter really has been too mild for the blackcurrants which need sufficient winter chill, giving the bush time to rest during the winter. Blackcurrant’s need at least 2000 hours under 7 degrees to help with the crop in the summer. We will let you know how the crop looks as the spring arrives.
The poplar nursery is where we grow 8 different types of poplar trees. The difference between poplar tree growing and nearly all other hardwood trees is that it is possible to grow a poplar tree from a stick without any roots. We plant the trees on agricultural and forestry sites throughout the country. Poplar is the fastest growing hardwood tree in the UK and is the match industries favourite wood. It is therefore a brilliant wood for making top quality kindling.