Waterside Farm, 8.17 Acres, Cider Orchard in West is close to Stithian’s Reservoir in an area of heathland the unmanaged top-soil pH is 5.5-6.5 and lies in a dark brown almost black layer some twelve
inches to 48 inches deep. Without the enrichment and management, the pH is just below neutral, a slightly acidic granite schist soil. The topsoil was formed from years of wildflower meadow with short periods managed for cattle and horses.
To introduce four acres of woodland and orchard trees the pH was raised to a slight alkalinity by the addition of crushed lime and bone meal where this was preferable to the trees being introduced.
Large areas along the
Cornish hedges bounding fields where cleared of Bracken and brambles. Cleared areas were quickly taken over by the wildflower meadow away from the hedges. Cornish hedge is made of two inclined granite sides filled with soil and these are occupied
by any number of smaller plants which flourish as brambles are cut back.
Approximately 24 cubic metres of compost is created a year, and this provides feed for a hundred and fifty plus cider apple trees producing
currently between one and two thousand litres of cider a year, and three hundred native woodland trees still small saplings.
Making the compost
Bracken is cut with a scythe using
a ditching blade, the cuttings are raked into heaps. Left for a week these heaps shrink and can be lifted by fork and make up the composts in each orchard.
The first of the new year’s bracken is laid onto bare
soil to which a shovel or two of the previous years compost added.
These are enriched with uncooked kitchen waste, grass clippings from neighbours and the addition of crushed lime and bone meal at about
1lb (500 grams) per cubic metre of bracken.
Brambles, blackthorn and hawthorn pruning’s are burned, the ash added to compost.
Use of compost
in the orchards are mulched as bracken is cut and are fed three times a year, composted bracken is applied at the rate of two to three shovels per tree in February, this suppresses growth near the tree, provides early feed that worms incorporate into the soil
before buds open, and provide an insulating layer through the early spring.
The second feed is given as the leaf buds open but before blooms open, acting as a mulch to supress growth of other plants over the roots.
A third feed is applied in August as fruit that are set are beginning to swell, this feed is of three to four shovels per tree.
Any remaining compost is reserved as a starter or accelerator for
following years compost heaps. .
Case Study submitted by Andy Borman, Waterside, Carnmenellis
Scythe training and supplies by Kevin of Skygrove, Herodsfoot, Cornwall www.Skygrove.co.uk