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Diary Article No 19

As I was wandering round the car park, a few weeks before Christmas, I noticed an awful lot of Acorns were falling and then something else caught my eye as I saw some larger, rounder nuts on the ground. Only when I picked a few up did I realise that they were Walnuts – a bit on the small side compared to shop bought ones, but they should still have nuts in them. Managing to crack one, or two open I found that the edible Kernels were still moist and not as dry to the mouth as shop bought ones. Scouring round, to my delight, I found a couple of hands-full of this lovely free bounty. After putting them in my car, to take home and eat later, I looked up at the tree that had supplied my unexpected harvest. I was later told that it had been planted soon after Oak Tree Farm Rural Project had been set up, but the tree was still only some 20 feet tall. According to growers the Walnut, or Juglans Regia, can reach up to 100 feet here in the UK and is not a reliable fruiter with our cold Winters, so that little tree still had a lot of growing to do. As a full grown tree it would be too big for most back gardens, but there are grafted specimens available that will mature at a smaller size, although I don’t know if that one is.

Thinking about the Walnut tree made me realise what a variety of nut bearing trees there are at Oak Tree. Only the other year I planted another nut tree in the little Orchard, an Almond, that isn’t fruiting yet, but will in a couple of years. The one I planted was grafted onto a semi-dwarfing rootstock so should only grow to some 10 to 15 feet in height. Like the Walnut it needs a mild Winter followed by a good Summer to produce nuts, but it is self fertile so will hopefully fruit occasionally. The blossom is quite attractive anyway, even if it doesn’t result in nuts.
Recently I wrote about how some types of Acorn that are grown on the site can be eaten as well, but apart from these I have planted several Hazel Trees around the grounds that will yield yet another popular nut.

Apart from all the nut trees, there is quite a range of fruit trees at Oak Tree. In the little Orchard there are a Medlar tree, Crab Apple, Cooking Apple, Cherry and there are Wild Plums dotted around in the hedges along with a lovely Yellow Plum. Earlier in the Winter, David asked me to see if I could get up some of the suckers from the Plums to grow on so that they could be re-planted in hedges elsewhere at a later date. The leaves had dropped and the trees were dormant by the time I did it, so being rough with the young plantlets shouldn’t have hurt them. I took them home and potted them up and with any luck most of them will shoot when the Spring comes.

Another thing that I am going to be experimenting with in the new Season, is the old Heritage Apple tree called Ladies Fingers, that they have on the site. The tree is in very bad shape, but I intend to take some cuttings and try grafting, or budding with them onto some cheap Apple trees bought from one of those discounts shops. If the grafts take it will mean the centre can plant a couple of healthy new trees in place of the old and diseased stump that is there at the moment thus saving an old variety.

There are other fruit trees of interest at oak Tree such as the Asian Pear tree by the Café that seems to be settling in nicely and has put on some growth already since planting. It has a strange shape to the tree though, with a long bare upright stem above the lower branches that don’t grow out straight, but have kinks in them! I don’t know if it will ever fruit, but it looks interesting and everybody can see it where it is, and finally there is the little Fig at the back of the Café that can’t be seen so easily, but it is in a South facing spot so it should be happy there. 

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