Veganuary in the Countryside

We have written about veganism in mainstream media here on The Hills before, and many of you told us on social media that you were interested in the idea of trying to go plant-based, but struggled to find the inspiration, time or ideas. Well, if you hadn’t noticed, Veganuary is here and it is ALL about inspiring people to try vegan!

Veganuary in the Countryside

Veganuary is a charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year, and so far over 250,000 people have downloaded their free cookbook to try their recipes. The charity says ‘There are so many reasons people decide to try vegan. For most, a love of animals is the catalyst. Some people want to feel better about themselves and the impact they make on the world. Others would like to set themselves a challenge, and many combine Veganuary with their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and see trying vegan as the healthiest start to the year.’

Research shows that health is now the second biggest driver towards people opting to try a vegan lifestyle, and more and more people are ditching animal products in order to combat specific health problems such as high cholesterol and diabetes. For others, they say they have more general improvements in energy and vitality, and exclaim they’ve ‘never felt better’. Approximately 30% of the UK population have high blood pressure and studies show that vegetarians, and vegans in particular, have lower blood pressure than meat eaters! Additional cholesterol levels, a high risk factor for coronary heart disease, is still one of the biggest killers in the west, and by adopting a vegan diet cholesterol levels are lower in vegans than in the standard population. The British Dietetic Association even confirms: ‘well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages’.

As stories of successful vegan athletes and sports stars are on the increase, there seems no time like the present to give it a go. Take rural football team Forest Green Rovers, for example, the (almost) 100% vegan football club. The team has just been promoted for the first time in their 128 year existence and for club’s owner Dale Vince, a eco-warrior millionaire who made his fortune by selling renewable electricity to the national grid, the move towards a completely vegan ground in 2015 couldn’t have been better! Since 2011, when the team initially banned red meat, it was clear their talents were improving on and off the pitch as their Qpie - a Quorn and leek pie made with soya milk bechamel – just won a podium spot at this year’s British Pie awards!


But it's not just health benefits that have us ditching the builder’s tea - going vegan is the ‘single biggest way’ we can reduce our environmental impact, according to Oxford University researchers.They say that eating a plant-based diet can cut our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution and water usage, prevent deforestation and save wild animals from extinction worldwide. A huge amount of land is needed to graze animals and to grow the grain to feed them. In order to create enough farmland to cater for the global meat demand, ancient forests and other precious natural habitats are razed to the ground, and predictions show that if we keep cutting them down at the current rate, the world’s rain forests will be gone in one hundred years. To put it into perspective - we are currently losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year, equivalent to 27 of Forest Green Rovers’ beloved football pitches every minute!

We have mentioned the impacts of veganism on our local farming industry before, and as the The Vegan Society suggested - modern agriculture is suffering in its current form, and so a move to more agricultural farming is an indication that the growth of veganism is simply sparking ‘the beginning of a new future of farming’.

Unfortunately, there exists some media scaremongering and subsequent public misconceptions which can cause people to worry about going vegan, and so I would encourage you to do your own research about whether a decrease in animal products will work for you and your lifestyle. I recommend this myth archive as a great place to start!

For me, a move towards a sustainable environment, rural farming industry and all round healthier lifestyle is a difficult set of positives to ignore, and so this January I am pledging to cut down on my animal products, and explore the wonderful world of plant based recipes. I am hoping to get out there and discover some local growers and am especially looking forwards to finding some ‘pick your own’ plots to get stuck in!

As veganism is gaining more and more mainstream popularity, we have seen the likes of Marks and Spencer and even Gregg’s add plant-based fare to their shelves this month, and I am excited about discovering these new options, as well as fabulous new independent vegan cafés like  The Jaunty Goat who are opening their first completely animal-free vegan café! Of course, you don’t have to go out to try some vegan options - hunt out some vegan recipes and get started in your own kitchen!

Are you trying Veganuary this month? Or maybe just a general move towards less meat? Please come and share your views and experiences with us in the comments or over on our Facebook page!

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

Dry January - Why Missing Out is About Enjoying More

We’re a week into the new year, and many of us are attempting to uphold resolutions to eat healthier, use less plastic, save more money… etc. For me, the act of resolution-making is an act of becoming more mindful when it comes to making decisions, and noticing the patterns that have become habits over the previous year.

Dry January - Why Missing Out is About Enjoying More - the Hills countryside blog

Each year millions of us participate in new year charity campaigns or make a personal resolution to lay off the tipples for a month at the start of the year, with an estimated 4.2 million people planning to take part in Dry January, a campaign set up by Alcohol Change UK, this month.

At first, you might feel you are ‘missing out’ - after a festive period of excess, when we have been used to eating, drinking and sleeping much more that we usually would, sudden abstinence can come as a shock. But let’s reframe this, if ‘wine o’clock’ has become a habit rather than a treat, taking a month off really can bring a plethora of health benefits. Participants regularly report better sleep patterns, healthier, brighter looking skin, higher energy levels and less snacking. The combination leading to steady weight loss and a better sense of wellbeing.

Come February, although it is lovely to pour that first drink for a month, you are noticeably more aware of your actions. They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit so going ‘cold turkey’ for a solid 21 days, the act of concentrating on NOT doing the activity, means that when we do decide to relax our self-restraint, it becomes a conscious act and one which we savour, enjoy and appreciate.

Research suggests that this month off can result in longer term changes in drinking behaviours, and Dr Mehta’s says “at six to eight months after Dry January, the proportion of participants drinking at harmful levels decreased by about 50%. It may be that participating in Dry January allows individuals to ‘reset’ their relationship with alcohol.” Additionally, Ian Hamilton, Lecturer in Addiction at the University of York states that “overall, Dry January is a good initiative as it prompts people to think about not just how much they drink but what their individual relationship with alcohol is. For example, if you often drink to relax, it might get people to think about alternative ways to relax rather than relying on alcohol.”

Taking Dry January as inspiration, how can we apply this month of restraint to create better habits and mindfulness towards our countryside?

Maybe you can commit to buying only plastic-free veg for one month, or source your meat from the local butcher, taking along your own containers. Can you vow to walk to work via the scenic route every day, or visit a local independent coffee shop each weekend instead of your regular chain? It’s not a matter of giving things up forever - just like Dry January, we don’t intend to never drink again! We are simply embracing a period of habit forming activities, to create more mindful patterns.

By promising to break a habit, we are also committing to creating a new one. One which will ultimately enrich our lives through healthy living, ecological benefits on local industry and community.

I would love to know - what are your resolutions this month, are you making or breaking a habit?

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

How To Reduce Your Household Waste - Without The ‘Zero Waste’ Pressure

Recycling is having something of a renaissance. ‘Zero waste’ as a concept is everywhere, from the headlines to the high street. Costa, Starbucks and Pret now offer free water refills to anyone who asks after Keep Britain Tidy revealed that 70% of customers would feel uncomfortable asking for a refill without buying something - aren’t we British a funny lot? Napkins have vanished, single-use plastic cups are disappearing from water coolers and plastic straws are being replaced with recyclable options in bars and coffee shops. How many little changes have you noticed?

How To Reduce Your Household Waste - Without The ‘Zero Waste’ Pressure


Remember when the 5p plastic bag charge was introduced in Wales in 2011 and then in England in 2015? Well, in 2016-17, the 7 biggest retailers reported issuing 83% fewer bags than in 2014 and £66 million pounds was raised for good causes by 168 retailers from plastic bag sales. Little changes or big, they all add up to a huge impact. And bigger changes are coming. In October 2018, Defra Minister Michael Gove unveiled plans to ban drinking straws, stirrers and cotton buds within a year.

Personally I find the ‘zero’ in zero waste a little daunting - almost like I’m setting myself up for a failure before I begin. But the more I read about concept, the more I understand that zero waste isn’t actually about achieving ‘zero’; it’s about making good choices, pausing to think before purchasing and, most of all, creating a lifestyle that’s not only sustainable for the planet, but also sustainable for you. After all, if you abandon your zero waste lifestyle two weeks in because it proves too difficult, what was the point of starting in the first place?!

So how to take the next step and bring zero waste principles into your home? Here are my top tips:

  1. Do your research. I’d highly recommend Bea Johnson’s book (she of @zerowastehome fame) Zero Waste Home for a good grounding in the basic principles and some guidance. It’s a revelation that striving for zero waste at home isn’t just about helping the environment - it also helps you feel more organised, in control as well as saving you time and money!

  2. Refuse whatever superfluous items and single-use plastics that come your way. Do you really need another free pen/travel-sized bottle of shampoo/keyring? Every time you pick one up, you reinforce the demand to produce more. You can also register to receive less junk mail at https://www.mpsonline.org.uk/ - it takes seconds!

  3. Reduce clutter at home. Have a Marie Kondo-style clear out and revel in feeling organised. Taking unwanted items to a charity shop feels fantastic on a personal level (look how tidy the house suddenly is!) as well as from a community viewpoint.

  4. Reuse what you can. We’re all in the routine of taking shopping bags to the supermarket - well, most of the time - but what reusable items could you introduce at home? Think simple swaps - handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues, refillable bottles, using rags for cleaning etc. You could try the local whole food or farm shop with your own reusable containers to buy items like vegetables, rice and lentils while avoiding more plastic bags and unnecessary packaging. Instead of Tupperware (don’t the lids always get lost...or is it just me?), you can buy Pyrex dishes with silicone lids. They’re amazing - you can use them in the oven too. You can even make your own natural household cleaning products - no chemicals and, of course, no plastic! - take a look at this article for more information. But remember - do only what works for you in the first instance to keep things sustainable.

  5. Recycle. Often we think of this as the best environmentally-friendly option but really it should be one of the last. Always ask yourself ‘Can I refuse/reduce/reuse?’ first. Remember, recycling as a concept also includes buying secondhand where possible - it’s not just about putting more recycling back into the system, but taking some out!

  6. And finally, to conclude my list of Rs, ROT - yes, rot. Do you have a composter at home? Lots of councils issue small kitchen compost bins, or you could always buy or build your own. Find out what composts - for example, did you know that fluff from your tumble dryer can go in there? - and make sure the whole family is geared up to use it. You’ll soon have compost galore to keep your garden looking beautiful year-round.

Are you making moves towards becoming zero waste at home? Or is reducing your rural business’ carbon footprint important to you? As always, we’d love to hear your views.

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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

Cymru - Cider Country!

Well, here we are in autumn, with its velvet-soft mornings sharpened by cool, still air - a reminder that winter is on its way. This is the celebrated ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’; the time for harvesting summer’s bounty from our trees and hedgerows and I feel that arguably one of our most popular fares, the British apple, is worthy of a blog post today.

Cymru - Cider Country!

Now that we have joined other European nations as wine and Prosecco drinkers, it seems to me that we largely overlook the production and associated traditions of our own native drink, cider, which has been made in this country for millennia – indeed, when the Romans invaded, they found that the locals were already old hands in fermenting apple juice to make this delicious drink!

Yet springtime orchards in blossom are things of great beauty rivalling (and surpassing, in my humble opinion) any vineyard, and artisan cider is made with the same attention and devotion as any fine wine.

Although cider production might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you consider what North Wales has to offer, among the soaring mountains, rolling hills and glittering seascapes, that’s exactly what you’ll find: passionate, small-scale producers extracting the sweet, golden juice of our native fruit to produce their heady blend.

From ciders made from just one or two apple varieties, to those which are a blend of many, each one is lovingly crafted using methods and techniques, and of course, fruit, peculiar to each artisan, ensuring that each one has its own distinct personality.

With all this in mind, I decided to discover a little more out the tradition of artisan cider producers here in North Wales…

DEE CIDERS

Dee Ciders in Flintshire is run by father and son team, Richard and Scott Johnson.

On his retirement back in 2010, Richard had a cherished dream of whiling away his quieter years with small-scale cider making, and planted some apple trees, choosing the varieties either by their vintage or the glorious silliness of their names (Broxwood Foxwhelp and Brown Snout, for instance!). He planned to make himself a simple basket press and produce enough cider to see him through the year.

Unfortunately, the first year of pressing was missed due to Richard having an argument with a chisel when making his press, resulting in a 3 day hospital stay and a prolonged period of being unable to walk!

Things improved the following year though, and a bumper crop resulted in over 350 litres being produced. Inspired by watching BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’, Scott took some samples of their cider to The Bluebell Inn, Halkyn (CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year winner), who agreed to stock them. This gave the pair the confidence to continue, and they now deliver their cider and perry to many hostelries and restaurants across North Wales and beyond.

Richard and Scott’s aim has always been to produce the highest quality pure juice cider and perry, using fruit carefully picked and processed by hand with no water or concentrates added. Several years of hard work in planting new orchards and bringing old ones to life have literally borne fruit, and the amount of cider being produced continues to increase.

Retirement – what retirement?!


JASPELS, ANGLESEY

After spending many memorable weekends together on the beautiful island of Anglesey, there was only one choice for husband and wife team, Janet and Ade, when they decided to relocate for a change of lifestyle in 2013.

However, they soon noticed that the fruit of many apple trees on the island was largely going to waste, and having previously produced cider on a small scale as a hobby, the couple hit upon the idea of harvesting this fruit to produce a commercial Anglesey craft cider. They put out an appeal on social media for donations of unwanted Anglesey apples and pears, and were overwhelmed by the response, with offers of fruit coming in from all over the island, from single apple trees to orchards! They now have a growing network of ‘Apple Donors’, who in return receive samples of cider the following spring.

Jaspels Cider is made from the freshly pressed juice of these apples and pears, which is extracted using a handmade traditional-style hydraulic press, and allowed to ferment before being blended to produce ‘a true taste of the island’, in the words of Janet and Ade.

They also produce a damson fruit cider and a mulled cider, which they serve at food festivals.

The couple are particularly keen to graft from old and interesting Anglesey trees, and to establish many more orchards across the island, firmly believing that Anglesey has the landscape and climate to become a prime cider producing location.

Jaspels produce 5 unique craft ciders that they sell in their own shop in Amlwch, as well as through stockists across Anglesey, North Wales and Cheshire.


ROSIE’S CIDER

Rosie’s Cider can be found in the rolling countryside of Llandegla, and was founded thirteen years ago by Steve Hughes, whose first serious attempt at cider making from his own crab apples blended with other locally sourced apples gleaned a gold medal at his very first show, the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Bottled Cider Competition in Reading back in 2006.

There are three award-winning ciders in the Rosie’s stable: Triple D, Wicked Wasp and Black Bart, together with a Perry (pear) cider – however, Steve finds it difficult to find enough fruit to make much of this, so if you have a productive perry pear tree, let him know!

Steve now grows 860 apple trees made up of 69 different varieties, and all Rosie’s cider is made by pressing fruit with no concentrate, water or ’fruit flavours’ added, to give a 100% full-juice cider, which is ‘super slow fermented’ over the winter months, and is usually ready by the end of May the following year.

Rosie’s sell cider from their own farm shop, which is open from 10.00 am – 6.30 pm weekdays, and from 9.00 am – 6.30 at the weekend, as well as to local hostelries. They also attend local food fairs and country shows.

In Steve’s words: “Good cider isn’t cheap. Cheap cider isn’t good…”

With these words in mind, and in the name of further research only, I took myself off to the Bluebell Inn, Halkyn, which serves both Dee Ciders and Rosie’s, to conduct a taste test and to chat to the friendly landlord, Gary Jones. It was a busy evening, but I managed a quick word with Gary, who took over the running of the pub 18 months ago and has carried on the tradition of selling only ciders from Wales, which, he tells me, continue to be popular.

After perusing the ‘cider blackboard’, I plumped for the Dee Ciders ‘Richard’s Dry’. It was a different experience for me, as although I do drink cider, I’m used to the widely available carbonated varieties. However, although this cider has a more complex taste than I’m used to, I did enjoy it and found it dangerously moreish!

In the interests of avoiding a hangover I decided not to try any more, but was assured by one of the locals that Rosie’s ‘Wicked Wasp’ was like ‘drinking nectar’ - in fact, he will only drink it while his wife is with him, as she keeps an eye on his intake!

I was keen to find out how this year’s challenging weather has affected cider fruit crops, and in turn, their business, so I managed an early morning chat with Janet from Jaspels Cider in Anglesey. She told me that the apple crop was slow to get started, but when the rains finally came in August there was a surge in growth which produced apples with a higher sugar content than in previous years, and although the harvest was 3 weeks early and the physical size of the fruit was smaller overall, the yield was greater.

Jaspels enjoys a steady and plentiful supply of fruit from their ‘fruit donors’ and the business is continuing to grow, with 100 new donors coming forward this year alone. Janet and Ade are continuing their search to pinpoint suitable sites for orchards across Anglesey, and they have been approached by local farmers, some of whom are already donors, who would like to work with them. She was keen to point out that comparing craft cider to commercial cider is like comparing a house wine with a fine vintage, with commercial cider only having to contain 30% pure apple juice (the rest of the flavour coming from apple concentrates and syrups). This is compared to a craft cider, which is 100% pressure-pressed pure juice, and then fermented, like wine – definitely not brewed!

Thankfully, with the advent of the ’slow food movement’ and the growing public appetite for small batch artisan food and drink, awareness of craft ciders is greatly improving, and cider production is on the increase in North Wales. Once they have established an orchard, Jaspels are also looking to reintroduce the ancient tradition of ‘Wassailing’ (from the Old Norse ‘ves heill’ meaning ‘good health’).

A crowd of people gather in the orchard for this night-time event, usually in January, and make lots of noise to scare away any evil spirits lurking in the trees (sometimes referred to as “howling”). Slices of cider-soaked bread or toast are then hung onto the branches, and cider is poured onto the roots of the trees. This ceremony is said to “bless” the trees to produce a good crop in the next year. Cider is passed around the company and drunk from a Wassail Bowl, an intricately made and decorated wood or clay bowl. Beautiful and highly decorated pottery Wassail bowls continue to be made to commission in both traditional and contemporary styles by Gwili Pottery in Carmarthen. This is an exciting development and will be an excellent new tourist attraction for Anglesey - I wonder where the nearest B&B is, because I’m in!.

CRAZY FOR CIDER?

If you are interested in finding out more for yourself, head over to Erddig Hall, Wrexham, whose own orchard contains 180 varieties of apple, where they are celebrating their annual month-long Apple Harvest until Sunday 29th October this year.

This is one of the largest Apple Festivals in the UK, featuring apple tree talks and walks, storytelling, live music, a Welsh Cider and Perry exhibition, and cider press demonstrations – amongst many other things!

Head Gardener Glyn Smith has been instrumental in the planting of a museum orchard at Erddig as part of the ‘ModernStory of Orchards and Cider Making in Wales’ Project, in conjunction with the Welsh Perry and Cider Society. He says that the project will be a real step forward in maintaining the heritage of cider apples and perry pears in Wales.

As part of the same project, 2017 saw 43 new varieties of apples believed to be found only in Wales, being discovered during research carried out jointly between the Society and the University of South Wales: “It’s incredibly exciting for us. The project has unearthed far more unique varieties than we ever expected – fruit that is probably only in Wales, and which has never been recorded. For cider lovers with a patriotic streak, it could be just what they’re looking for!” said Jayne Hunt, the Society’s Heritage Project Manager.

I hope all this has whetted your appetite to seek out our local producers and sample some of their delicious ciders and perrys, and that you will join me in raising a glass or two to this great Welsh cider revival! In the words of Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw: “Having lost its ancient tradition completely, Wales is now back on the cider map with a BANG!” – World’s Best Cider Book

 
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Sonia Goulding

Sonia lives with her other half, Jon, and her two gorgeous dogs Alfie and Seren, in the pretty hill village of Cilcain, in the glorious Clwydian Hills. She is passionate about rural north Wales and enjoys researching and writing about the people she meets and the beautiful businesses on our doorstep. Sonia and Jon consider themselves very lucky to be able to live and work in such wonderful surroundings, counting their blessings every day!

Caring for your fruit trees – a seasonal guide

Picking fresh fruit from your own garden is the very epitome of country living but, like most glorious garden bounties, fruit trees require year-round care and attention in order to keep them at their very best.

Pests and diseases can all ruin your eagerly anticipated harvest, so it’s important to stay on top of them year-round and nip any potential problems in the bud (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

So, whether you’re planting a new young cherry tree or caring for a mature apple tree, here’s our season-by-season guide to caring for your fruit trees and ensuring a bumper harvest all round!

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Spring

Good spring maintenance of fruit trees ensures that you start the growing season strongly and will reap the rewards later in the year.

Fruit trees are usually pretty self-sufficient and should only require regular fertiliser if they grow in poor quality soil. Need a quick way to tell if your tree needs a helping hand? If the previous year’s growth was less than 15 inches apply fertiliser; if it was more, don’t worry so much.

If you do need to apply fertiliser, aim to do it just before the buds and leaves really start to emerge. Starting about one foot from the tree’s trunk, spread the fertiliser in a ring extending one foot beyond the tree canopy. Rake the fertiliser into the soil thoroughly and water generously.

Spring is also the best time to get a head start on pests and potential diseases. Rake up and remove fallen leaves and other debris around your tree’s base and consider spraying a dormant oil to kill any overwintering bugs and their eggs.

As the warm weather increases, your tree will break from dormancy and begin to grow - hurrah! However, any weeds around the base of your tree will start to do the same - boo! Weeds compete with your tree for water and nutrients from the soil so be sure to clear weeds as they emerge to give your fruit tree the upper hand.

A 1-2 inch layer of mulch will help to decrease weed growth and reduce moisture loss from the soil. Be sure to keep the mulch at least 5 inches from your tree’s trunk to prevent the bark from rotting.

Whilst most pruning is done in winter whilst your tree is dormant, new spring growth will make it clear which branches are productive and which are dead. Go ahead and remove any dead branches but prune sparingly and only in dry weather.


Summer

Hot, dry weather brings with it the need to water your fruit trees. Daily water isn’t necessary; instead, aim for a generous weekly watering. During wetter weeks you can skip watering.

If it’s particularly hot, you might need to consider white washing the trunks of young trees to protect them from sunburn. To make a whitewash for your tree mix equal parts white latex paint and water.

Keep on top of any fallen or rotting fruit as removing it quickly reduces the risk of attracting pests. Also continue to remove weeds from around the base of your fruit tree. The more nutrients your tree can draw from the soil the better its growth will be.

Speaking of growth, if your tree has gone a bit wild-looking with all of the care and attention it’s been receiving, now’s the time for a little gentle pruning to remove excessive suckers and rubbing branches.

By the end of summer your fruits should be sizing up nicely. Keep a close eye, checking it for signs of disease and pests; it’s easier to control problems as they’re getting started than after lots of damage has been caused.

If your tree is in good health, it’s likely that it will produce more fruit than it can support. Some fruits it will shed naturally, but it’s a good idea to remove some fruits from branches that look in danger of breaking. Start with those with any signs of rotting or insect infestation.


Autumn

Remove rotting windfall fruits regularly - as well as helping with disease prevention, this also helps to ensure your garden doesn’t becomes haven for rats and mice on the lookout for a quick and easy meal.

You should also remove all rotting fruit from the branches of your tree. Not only are they an eyesore, but they will encourage pests and the spread of disease.

Most fruit trees are deciduous and begin to drop their leaves in autumn. Rake up fallen leaves and broken twigs regularly as they could be harbouring insect pests. Regular maintenance and weeding around the base of your tree will also help to remove hiding places for insects that might be looking for a place to hibernate as it grows cooler.

Towards the end of autumn it’s a good idea to stop watering your trees and using any fertilisers, even if they haven’t quite lost all their leaves yet. This helps to smooth the transition into the dormant winter stage. Over fertilised trees may continue to grow into the winter and any fresh growth will likely be damaged by the cold.

This is also a great time to give the ground around your tree a quick rake to expose any grubs and insect eggs. These will be quickly gobbled up by local birds.

Winter

After shedding their leaves for the winter, your fruit trees will become dormant - but this is no time to neglect them. Pull on your wellies, coat, mittens and hat: it’s time to give your tree a winter health check!

Start by looking the tree over for any unusual growths, bumps, discolouration and cracks in the bark that are weeping sticky fluid.

Prune back diseased, dying or dead branches early in the season to give your tree time to heal before the spring rains arrive. Don’t forget to clean your tools regularly if you’re working with an area of diseased wood; bacteria is easily spread between trees and branches via your tools and clothing.

It there frost on the way? Consider adding a layer of mulch around the roots of young trees to protect them from the cold. A good 2-4inch layer will also slow down the growth of new weeds and lock in moisture to the ground below.

Heavy snowfall can break cold, brittle branches so use a broom to gently brush away the snow or shake it off carefully. No accidents, please!

Whatever the time of year, there are no excuses for sitting idle; your fruit trees may require plenty of care, but in return they promise a plentiful supply of delicious home-grown fruit year after year. Sounds like a fair trade to us!

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 17. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.