A Chilling Thought

daffThey forecast another cold spell for this weekend as I write these lines. After this past week’s balmy weather, this could spell trouble for early opening buds.

But did you know that cold is good, if done right, for fruit trees and biennial plants like cabbage, sugar beet, celery or carrot? These plants all need to reach deep sleep through a cold period before they can blossom. Much like we rest through the night, apple trees, for example, typically need 1000 hours below 6 or 7 C, and not too much below 0 degrees through the dark season.

Of course we all know that much below freezing is called “freezing” for a reason! It’s no longer a chill, and much above 6 or 7 degrees makes some boys peel their shirts off. A chill is between 0 and 6 or 7 degrees, give or take.

1000 hours, that’s 42 days or a month and a half to you and me. The chill units don’t have to be sustained just like we don’t need to slumber through 6 to 8 hours of deep sleep every night (scientifically known as NREM Stage 3). It seems obvious, but is not clear to me, just how much fluctuation in temperature the trees can take before they are stuck in light sleep and fail to reach full dormancy.

Please let us know if you are a local fruit tree whisperer.

Different varieties and different species have varying chill unit requirements. Local weather records shows that most of February, much of January and some of December should qualify for plenty of apple tree chill hours, albeit not always continuously.

A third of the orchard trail has been planted three years ago and trees are looking fabulous, so we should see those trees bear a reasonable harvest thanks to the lovely cold. Provided the bees will fly at the time of blossom, and no hard frost will hit late, and the many other factors that make successful organic fruit growing a bit of a game of chance won’t come to fruition. Fingers crossed!

At least it’s nice to know that we have been shivering for a good cause, don’t you agree?



IMG_20180113_122914775.jpgWe thank everyone for helping with a successful 2018 winter pruning – in record speed as evident from this little video: https://photos.app.goo.gl/1cBuxzffoFuIr9xx1

Here are some pictures from the 2018 orchard activity kick-off.

Our next date is Tree Planting Day, February 10th. If you can’t wait until then and still promise to come help us on the 10th then you might be interested in Cultivate London’s Hanwell Community Orchard Trail. Click here for their flyer (pdf).



Winter Pruning

j-m-01Welcome back from the festive season, and a very Happy New Year to all!

Here’s a great opportunity to start with those new year resolutions, to be an active part of the orchard trail, to help improve our local area and preserve some of our local nature gems. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s free!

Come and join our

Winter Pruning & Guided Tour
Saturday January 13th, 2018 11:00

Meet 11:00 at the Osterley Lock Orchard and join a guided tour, or join the active workforce for the 2018 winter pruning. No experience necessary but suitable clothing for either activity is recommended.

The guided tour is the perfect opportunity to explore the orchard trail if you haven’t had a chance in a while.

The pruning group will look after apples, pears, quinces and medlars from Osterley Lock to Blackberry Corner. We’ll have some tools but you’re welcome to bring your own pair of secateurs, gloves, and so on.

Both groups hope to retire to The Fox ~14:00 for refreshments.


Acrobats’ Advice

img_20160710_184605Early apple varieties are now beginning to ripen and the pears aren’t far behind, just looking for a little more time and sunshine.

While trees planted with our orchard trail do not yet bear a lot of fruit this year, more mature trees in the area carry a substantial amount of the delicious and versatile fruit. Good news for foragers on two or more legs!

It is however sad to see that some human foragers apply unnecessary force and rather shortsightedly use destructive methods when picking fruit. Some branches are torn and twisted, broken off and some trees left damaged and vulnerable to infections. Apart from lasting damage to trees, we also witnessed an eager forager falling from a tree. The young man got away without apparent lasting damage, but we were sure this was a close call.

The rule for picking fruit is quite simple: if it doesn’t want to come off very easily with a small twist or light pull, then it does not yet want to come off and is not yet ready for picking. There should never be a need for force, but you might want to bring a pole, a walking stick or a telescopic fruit picker to extend your arm’s reach without dangerous acrobatics.

Please use care and consideration for private land, nature, the law, other foragers and the very tree you are harvesting when foraging so that everyone can enjoy these resources in years to come. Oh, and take good care of yourself 🙂

Volunteers ‘R’ Us

DSC_0404Volunteering at the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail just became so much easier!

Check out the new Volunteer page from the menu on top of this page. You can view planned work and status of all sites, and you can join the active volunteers with our dedicated volunteer email list.

We hope this will help to keep volunteers better informed, and keep more volunteers informed. We also hope that it helps keeping us better informed: as you spot a problem or another noteworthy status update, or as you finished some guerrilla weeding perhaps, let us know through the volunteer email list so that we can update our records.

With all that technology in place, don’t you think it time to leave it all behind (after having checked the volunteer schedule page for last-minute changes) and come join us over by the canal?

We sincerely hope to see you soon.

Fruit Tree Care in Desperate Times

IMG_20170506_112350012_HDRWe liked this article about KEEPING URBAN TREES HEALTHY DURING DRY TIMES. It states that the

mortality of urban landscape trees frequently reaches 30% in the first year after planting, sometimes rising to 70%, with both lack of water and sub-optimal soils usually to blame.

Lack of water? Check!

Sub-optimal soil? Check!

Mulching? Check!

Our fruit tree mortality rate is approximately 1%. Yes, one percent. An additional two or three percent thanks to vandals. Not even the rabbits accomplished that much even though we all know full well that they were trying!

We must be doing something right, and we are a tiny little bit pleased about that.

We’ll be mulching today at Osterley Lock Orchard.  Why not come over to join the fun and help keep that mortality rate down? You’ll find us right here from 11:00 today.

Bring wheelbarrows or digging forks for mulching if you can, buckets for watering or scythes, slashers, gloves and secateurs for weed control. Or just bring yourself! No experience necessary; full training given right there and then in under one minute.

Did I just hear another record being broken?

Meadow Mulching Extravaganza

Please join our

Meadow Mulching Extravaganza
Today from 10:00.

We’ll be moving and applying woodchip and straw for mulching all across the Hanwell Meadows and, headcounts permitting, the Piggeries. Mulching suppresses weed growth, helps preserve moisture and composts down into nutritious food for the tree.

We can take any help we can get!

All you need is wear sensible clothes and sturdy shoes. Bring gardening gloves, digging forks, buckets or wheelbarrows if you can. Bring a friend, a packed lunch and a bit of sunshine. We’ll be done in time for the Hanwell Hootie!

Meet with us at 10:00 in Jubilee Meadow by the railway crossing (map), or find us at any time somewhere in the meadows.

Update 09-May-2017: Here are some photos, thanks to James:

Suntan Studio, Gym and Social Club

IMG_20170411_191954Did you know there’s still plenty of opportunity for everyone to get that suntan, to join our very own free-of-charge outdoor gym and social club in Hanwell’s Grand Union Canal corridor? Join us for your chance to explore Hanwell’s most beautiful hidden gems on your very own hands and knees!

A small yet determined taskforce met for last Saturday’s Piggeries informal opening, mulching and weeding. We entertained ourselves with the removal of many bramble roots and pulling of horsetail shoots, applied woodchip mulching and top-soil to hedges and rockeries. The hedges were weeded and watered, even more rubbish found and removed, stones and rubble collected. We spread meadow seed to boost growth. Glorious sunshine was enjoyed by all, with a celebratory slice of cake or two.

Every Tuesday evening and every first Saturday in a month present perfect opportunities to come out and join in the fun. We always have a variety of tasks for all abilities and ages, whether you can spare an hour or an entire day, whether you have a green thumb or two left hands. No experience necessary!

Please check the sidebar for details (bottom of the page for mobile phone users).

Happy Easter!


Spring Dates

tttThe events are rolling in for the Spring 2017 season; please mark these dates for fabulous opportunities to be involved. It’s never to late to make new friends, meet the orchards or to take it out on some brambles and nettles!

Sat 8-April 10:30 – 15:30, Piggeries Celebrations

We’ll be pulling more weeds and digging more brambles, apply woodchip for mulching the hedges along the fence and the back wall, and sow the meadow and wetland areas with native grasses and flowers.

We’ll also celebrate the opening of the Piggeries Orchard with a slice of cake and a speech!

Sat 6-May 10:00 – 14:00, Meadows Mulching

Mulching in the beautiful Hanwell Meadows, with an early start and finish on account of the Hanwell Hootie. This is the first event in our new Saturday Orchard Love series, and we need every hand we can get with this one!

Sun 14-May 12:00 onwards, Spring Orchard Picnic

The big event in every local orchardist’s calendar, the popular spring orchard picnic in the heart of the Hanwell Meadows by the sheep! Bring something to eat and drink to the sharing table, bring a smile, a child, a friend and join us for a relaxed social event in the centre of this most beautiful hidden treasure.

1st Saturday in each month, Saturday Orchard Love

Starting 6-May at 10:00, normally at 11:00. Your regular opportunity to apply orchard love in varying locations along the trail. See the right sidebar on our web site for details of every event (at the bottom of the page for mobile phone users), or follow our Twitter.

Every Tuesday evening, Tree Tending Tuesday

Tree Tending Tuesdays are back! A grand reason to finish work and get out into nature, apply some general tender love and care to the orchards, the orchard trail and its surroundings, and (optionally) finish with a refreshment at a local public house.

As always, be sure to check our web site,  Facebook or Twitter for details or last-minute announcements and changes. See you soon!

Canalside Housing Project 

dscn2870_kindlephoto-114942900Have you heard of the new canalside housing project in Hanwell yet?

18 new homes are now available at discounted monthly rates of naught and nothing to couples and young families of tits, robins, finches and other small birds. The new homes are located in several trees surrounding the Osterley Lock, Elthorne Waterside Terrace, Elthorne Waterside (Trumpers Way Entrance), St Margarete’s Open Space and The Piggeries orchards.

Another 13 similar flat-pack homes will be installed across the Hanwell Meadows and beyond the Three Bridges monument soon.

Tree #73 has been moved away to a sunnier location, the hedges at St Margarete’s have been mulched, a bucket or two of bramble roots were dug out.  Not bad for a Saturday morning!