Thursday, 2 October 2014

Orchard Groundcare - website

We now have a website for Orchard Groundcare. And, as many of you will say, about time too!

We have enjoyed writing the blog, and it will continue here for a while until it too migrates to the website. Meanwhile, please visit us at

Cider reception at the House of Commons

On 9 September we were lucky enough to be on the Terrace of the House of Commons on a lovely summer evening, with a great view of the London Eye on the opposite side of the Thames, all glowing blue.

The All-Party Parliamentary Cider Group holds receptions for politicians and the industry on a regular basis, hosted by Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, Chairman. It was the first time at the House of Commons for some of us, and what an awe inspiring place it is!

Literally within hours of becoming Chair of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) Martin Thatcher delivered a strong message to MPs and government officials. 

“When we talk to growers and farmers about planting new orchards we are asking them to accept no income for a couple of years and to wait seven years for a full crop, weather permitting.

“They will only contemplate doing that if we guarantee to buy their apples for twenty-five years and if we can convince them that we will continue to invest to increase consumer appeal with a broader and innovative range of great ciders that people want to buy.

“Cider has a bright future – the fact that cider makers and growers are prepared to make that commitment is testament to their confidence – with support from government we can deliver that potential and do more to support the rural communities we are part of.”

It was great to see lots of familiar faces from Somerset at the reception, and to taste the very generous samples that cider-makers had supplied. We particularly enjoyed Sheppy's award winning Oak Matured Vintage cider, as well as Thatcher's Gold.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

NACM Open Day at Thatcher’s Cider

July 17 was a glorious day for the
annual NACM Open Day, held
this year for the first time at
Thatcher’s in Sandford,
Somerset.The setting was a
gently sloping hill with magnificent
views over a meticulously kept

Growers and industry colleagues
were treated to excellent
presentations from Kevin
Workman on Pests and Diseases
Liz Copas on Climate Change,
John Worle on New Varieties,
Richard Johnson on What the 
Cider-maker wants, and John
Thatcher himself on the
importance of trials.

Some of the new equipment
being used by Thatcher’s was on
show, with helpful guidance from
Somerset Fruit Machinery
representative Ian Game.

We were delighted to find that
growers and nurserymen from
France and The Netherlands had
made the trip. It is always good to
be able to exchange knowledge
with them, as it is with all our
colleagues in the industry.

A good lunch and lots of
Thatcher’s cider made for an
excellent day.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Bath & West Society Show 2014

The cider competition at the Royal Bath & West Society Show, held at Shepton Mallet, Somerset, is the largest cider competition in the world. 

2014 saw 560 entries, which was another record and left the judges with a remarkably difficult task.

Judging took place over three sessions, with the Supreme Champion being announced at the end of all the considerations.

Most of the winners in the various different sections were newcomers, with the exception of Hecks, who have always been so generous in sharing knowledge with new producers.

The overall winner of the Fruiterers' Cup for Champion British Cider was Broadpool Cider, an artisan cider which united the judges and defeated all of the commercial brands. It just goes to show that great cider really can be made in a garage!

Everyone was particularly pleased with the entrants for the International Award.

It is highly likely that this part of the event will continue to grow over the next few years, and we look forward to more international entrants as cider increases its following worldwide.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

South West of England Cider-makers Association

The Spring meeting of the South West of England Cider-makers Association was held at Thatcher’s, by kind invitation of John and Martin Thatcher.

After the appalling weather of the past months there is great concern about the health of the trees and what it might be possible to do about it. 

It is likely that the worst effects of the flooding will not be apparent until July or August, when the trees are at their most stressed and need their roots to provide nutrition.

Robert Fovargue of Pearce Seeds gave a very well received presentation in which he 
discussed some of the measures available to growers. 

Soil structure may have been damaged and poor drainage areas will be particularly apparent.

First do your annual soil sample to check your Ph levels. Simply applying nitrogen to your soil is not going to be enough if it is out of balance, lacking for example zinc or boron.

A more precise way of getting nitrogen into the plant is by applying a foliar feed which will filter down gently into the roots. Phosphite feeds are particularly worth looking at as they optimise plant metabolism and improve performance, especially if the plant is under stress. 

As the feed reaches the roots it will have picked up a further oxygen molecule, delivering what is then Phosphate to the roots.

Robert’s advice is to do what you normally do to feed the roots, but above that to feed the leaf rather than the soil. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Mechanical pruning

Robert Fovargue, the agronomist for Pearce Seeds, was kind enough to invite a group of Somerset growers to meet the Hereford contractor Rob Collins who has had a lot of experience with mechanical pruning.

Robert and John Worle first showed us round several orchards with trees at different ages and pruned in different ways, including mechanically.

We were intrigued by Rob Collins’ machinery, seen above.
Growers that have tried mechanical pruning are all continuing to experiment; none of them have rejected the method in favour of solely hand pruning. It tends to be done in the summer, after eight true leaves have formed. 

Hereford and Somerset do however have very different needs and it is clear that the vigour of the Hereford orchards is a great deal stronger than ours here in Somerset. With Hereford’s historical connections with hop growing and intensive horticultural production we have a lot to learn from them.

Although none of us in Somerset yet has the kit to try mechanical pruning we are keen to give it a go. Perhaps we can get Rob Collins to come down and give us a demonstration.

For an article by Rob Collins please see here
and for the YouTube video please see here

Monday, 17 February 2014

SIVAL, France

We were extremely impressed with the the SIVAL horticultural exhibition in Angers, France.

What caught our attention most was the sheer number of businesses that have a role to play in the industry. This is the largest horticultural exhibition in France and we certainly saw more apple related people, equipment and businesses in one place than we could ever dream of seeing in the UK. 

This is possible because of the participation of such high income generating businesses as the wine industry and we found lots of crossover innovations that we can use in our own business.

We have never come across a situation where we could see every single brand of orchard tractor in one place, but they were all here. 

We saw exhibits of everything from posts and wires to harvesting machinery and bottling equipment. 

It was not hard to get to and completely free to enter. Lots of business seemed to be being transacted and we met up with some old friends. 

We would encourage everybody to attend next year - perhaps we will hire a charabanc!