Having finished blackcurrant harvest in August with a slightly disappointing crop it was time to make sure the crop was nurtured ready for next year. Many people think that when the bushes are harvested, that's it until next Spring. Definitely not and actually, post harvest is almost one of the most critical times. Firstly we applied two fungicide sprays to make sure the leaves stay on and continue to grow for as long as possible during the Autumn to help bud development for next year. We also applied granulated lime to increase the soil pH and potash too. Finally we applied roundup beneath the bushes to reduce competition from weeds.
Our other major crop - cider fruit, was virtually ready for harvesting and the potential looked good. These are all grown for H. P. Bulmer, now owned by Heineken. Bulmers have 300 growers, mostly around Hereford and surrounding counties and this season the factory will take in excess of 120,000 tonnes of cider apples from the end of August until the end of November and this year will be their highest ever intake.
Whilst some growers will start in August with early varieties such as Katy, we started in mid-September with the varieties Gilly, Fiona and Amanda and then moved on to mid-season varieties, Ashton Bitter, Ellis Bitter, finishing with main season varieties Michelin and Dabinet.
Over the years we have developed a pretty efficient harvesting system and not only do we harvest our own fruit which this year I hope might even reach 1,000 tonnes, we also contract harvest for other local growers and in total we will harvest over 3,000 tonnes of cider fruit. Yields have been very good all round this year ranging from 38-65 tonnes per hectare. The harvesting machine team consists of just 3 people whilst the shaker, with just one man will keep four harvesting machines going, shaking over 200 trees per hour and this season the machine will have shaken 10,000 tonnes - that's some achievement!It was probably well over 15 years ago that we invested in our first ever harvesting machine - The Tuthill Harvester. A truly amazing machine that literally sweeps up the apples between the trees and after removing any leaves, elevates the fruit into a trailer being towed behind the machine. But perhaps even more incredible and I remember when this machine first arrived - all the trees are shaken by machine!
We hope to finish in the next week, although with the weather now turning rather wet, it is slowing the operation down, but nearly there!