Tree care on the allotment
Tree care on the allotment
An increasing number of gardeners now plant trees on their allotment to cultivate fruit, nuts and blossoms. Elder are popular because of the use of the blossom for making delicious cordial and wine, and, of course, apple, pear and plum trees are commonly grown. Trees also provide habitats for insects and nourishment for birds and bees, they also contribute to soaking up carbon from the atmosphere. They are also useful for providing shade for those plant types that prefer it. Trees do require some maintenance however, so it’s important to know how to go about that. What should your priorities be when caring for your trees?
Every managing authority has different rules when it comes to allotments. Some only allow trees to be planted that will grow under a certain height, restricts the spread of branches, or won’t allow you to plant them near the edges of your allotment where they cast shadows over adjoining plots. Some don’t allow them at all unless they’re containerised, because spreading roots can cause problems for other gardeners or even for nearby sheds and walls. It’s important to be clear about the rules before you start planting. Don’t rely on private arrangements with your allotment neighbours because you never know when they might change.
Young trees need a lot more care than those that have had the time needed to get established. That includes regular watering for new plantings and perhaps some nutritional support will be required. if you’re unable to visit your allotment at least twice a week, or if you’re going away on holiday, it’s well worth asking another allotment holder to help with this.
If there are issues with rabbits or deer taking produce from the allotments, bear in mind that young trees can be vulnerable just as other plants are. You may need to fit wire guards around them in order to provide them with additional protection. They don’t need to be foolproof – they just need to make your trees less vulnerable targets than other nearby sources of food.
Over-spreading branches on larger trees can cause damage and may also reduce the amount of fruit produced because energy is going into foliage growth instead. Fortunately there are qualified tree surgeons in Ealing that are experts at dealing with this issue, and have both the skill and the specialist equipment needed to tidy up your trees while keeping them in optimum condition. They can take away severed branches for you or, where practicable, shred them down for mulching or composting. Having your trees looked after like this will also help you to maintain good relations with your neighbours because it will keep stray branches from overshadowing their plots and save them the job of clearing up fallen leaves in the autumn.
Avoiding tree diseases
People are always coming and going on allotments, bringing in new plants from different places, and that brings with it a disease hazard. The best thing you can do in response to this risk is to check your trees regularly for signs of damage to the leaves or bark, or signs of insect infestation. If you do spot something that worries you, seek professional advice straight away. It’s much easier to treat problems like this if they’re caught early, and doing so will also help to protect your neighbours’ trees. If you’re concerned about reinfection because they’re not doing their bit, contact your allotment supervisor.
If you’re introducing new trees to your allotment and they won’t be containerised, make sure you choose species that won’t poison the soil like black walnut and red oak (a technique they’ve evolved to reduce competition). When you introduce trees, or when you choose other kinds of plant to grow around existing trees, do your research to make sure that they’re compatible. Apart from the issue of unsuitable trees, you need to think about the balance of nutrients that the ones you plant will require from the soil. Growing beans and peas on your allotment is great because it fixes nitrogen in the soil, helping to nourish your trees, at the same time as providing you with delicious food. Avoid planting climbing plants that might ‘strangle’ your trees, no matter how pretty they might be.
When a tree drops its leaves in the autumn it isn’t just throwing them away. In nature, they’re usually absorbed back into the soil in roughly the same area, so that those nutrients that the tree didn’t manage to recover while they were still attached can be reclaimed through its roots. You should rake up drifting leaves each autumn and compost them to create useful leafmould for later use. If your tree is restricted to a pot or planter, you can top dress with leaf mould and don’t forget to water in dry periods even in the winter months.
If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself faced with a severely damaged tree, you’ll need to get in the professionals to take a look. Don’t give up on your tree straight away, even if it looks to be a lost cause. Even trees that have been struck by lightning are sometimes able to start growing again in the right conditions, but they will usually need to be aggressively cut back first. You shouldn’t try to cut back a damaged tree by yourself because it takes experience to know where the flaws in its structure are likely to be, and the last thing you want is it falling on you, on a neighbour or on somebody’s shed. A skilled tree surgeon can remove any dangerous parts and let you know if it’s salvageable, advising you on what to do next.
Although considering all these matters might make growing trees on your allotment sound like really hard work, in practice they will do well most of the time and as long as you monitor them regularly you shouldn’t have too many problems. In return for your efforts they can bring you a great deal of pleasure and lots of delicious fruit.