If you have planted apple trees this year then, now as summer reaches its peak, you should pay close heed to the following advice. Water well and water often. Making sure a young apple tree is not short of water and its first and second years is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure that trees long-term success.

In the first year and apple tree will be pushing out roots searching for water; if it encounters dry soil the tree will not prosper. You really cannot be too generous with your watering regime. Obviously if the roots are actually swimming in a permanent puddle then you have overdone it. But that aside you should water more often than you think. And when you water, water generously. A single small watering can full will simply soak the top inch of soil. Two big watering cans full are The minimum you need To get the liquid down to where the tree needs it.

About twice a week I pour on lots of water and let it soak it down. About 5 to 10 gallons goes in with the soil is dry. I am constantly looking out for leaves that lose their Sheen; early sign of drought.  Leaf drop is another more serious sign of drought stress on an apple tree.

In the years three and four you must still be very vigilant but perhaps can ease back ever so slightly without worrying. In year five and beyond the tree should do okay if left to its own devices and will probably not die from lack of watering. However for good cropping you do need to keep watering your trees.

Of course there is a flip side to this. It is possible to kill a young tree through overwatering. If the roots are sitting in a permanent capital they cannot get the oxygen they made and the tree beginning to rot. To avoid this don’t water every day but water as I said twice or three times a week but make sure you give your tree a good drenching. 

Use your fingers as well as your eyes. Touching the soil is a great way of understanding whether it needs watering. Trust your judgement and experience and listen to what the tree tells you it needs. If the tree looks like it needs watering it probably does.

if around mid summers day you find that your Apple tree is dropping lots of small apples don’t panic. This is known as June drop and is a perfectly natural phenomena. If the tree kept all of those tiny Apple fruitlets  on the branches then the tree will produce hundreds of tiny apples. Which would be very difficult to get a decent juice pressing from. Whereas if it drops those apples and just produces a small we number of fruits then these will be of a larger size and better for making cider from.

Other benefits of the June drop all that it may lessen the chance of Brown Rot and other pests and diseases forming on your Apple Crop. It also lessons the chance of branches breaking through over cropping.

In fact, if you don’t notice a June drop but the Appletree has set lots more little fruitlets than usual, consider removing some  by hand to prevent the problems that June drop resolves.

So in short if you see lots of tiny apples falling from the tree around June time there is nothing to worry about. The one thing I would say is clean those apples away don’t leave them lying on the ground to rot. However  they are good food for the wildlife in your garden so simply put them into a small pile somewhere in a corner and forget about them.

Last winter I put some insect grease bands around the base of my apple trees.

Then I forgot about them. This was fine since these sticky bands just sit there, discouraging various unwanted creatures from climbing the tree. 

However after 9 months they really need removing to stop the bark beneath them from rotting.

I remembered to remove the bands, but only just in time. The bark  beneath the strip where the bands had lain was soft and mushy and came away with a rubber of the finger.

Thankfully within a few days the bark had hardened again and the trees are fine. But it gave me a bit of a scare to say the least. One of the trees in particular (a Devonshire bred russet) was a gift from my departed  mum and so has a deep emotional importance alongside the obvious importance of producing fruit that goes into my annual cider production. As, I say, in the end there was no problem, but this does highlight how easy it is to mess up your tree care regime. 

 Despite my little accident adding grease bands is a really good thing to do as part of looking after your trees. Ants climb trees and stop insects such as ladybirds from eating aphids. The grease bands stop the ants from climbing which means the ladybirds eat the aphids and you don’t get and aphid infestation on your apple trees. But apart from ants, Grease bands  protect apple trees from winter moth caterpillars. Aphids are a nuisance, but winter moth can ruin a fruit crop.

I guess I really can’t stress this enough. Grease bands are a key part of any Apple growers care regimen.  Just remember to take them off after the allotted time. 

I got an email from Brazil this morning

“Hi , my name is Felipe . I’m from Brazil and I already do beer … I would first like to congratulate him for the web site , is fabulous.

I’m very interested in the process of making cider. I would, if possible , to send me a complete recipe for making cider. Ciders in Brazil are horrible and I would like to make a good quality and tasty.

I believe my experience in brew beer will help in the process.

Thank you for helping me.”

Well Pelipe, your wish is my command. I will get on to it this weekend and will try to produce something for you asap. Of course I will post it on this site for everyone to see. … Watch this space.

We are past the making time of year and into the drinking time of year. It is wonderful to finally discover whether your efforts have been for nought or worth it.

but don’t forget to compare your brews with other local cider makers. one of our local competitors has been experimenting with keeving, to produce naturally sweetened ciders. The first results were a mixed bag. the process is a bit involved, but basically stops fermentation before all the apple juices natural sugars have turned to alcohol.

If you have never tasted keeved cider before, you are in for a treat. It is nothing like shop bought sweet cider.

The question ‘when should I pick my apples’ is genuinely easy to answer.  The answer is ‘don’t pick your apples, pick them up’.

Wait until the apples are falling from the trees. When they fall naturally they should be perfect for use. Don’t worry if an apple has been sitting on the ground for a day or so either. In fact, many cider makers leave their apples in a pile for a week to let them start to break down before scatting and pressing. You get more juice out that way.

Obviously we don’t want mouldy rotten apples in the mix, but a little damage  or fresh holes where wasps have been munching are no problem and will not affect the quality of your cider.

According to the man on the radio, today is National Apple Day in the United Kingdom. We are celebrating all things apple based and what better way to do it  with a glass or three of cider.

I just got back from a visit to the very north of the country and was delighted to find some excellent local craft ciders for sale. We always think of  cider as  something that is famous in southern counties such as  Hereford and Worcestershire.  However the whole of the British isles are fine for growing apples and so pretty much everywhere that people live , people grow apples and people make cider.

… And that is something that deserves a day of celebration.

Collete asked if any water should be added added after her apples are pressed. 


My response is an emphatic "No, dont add water to pressed apple juice."  My advice is to stick to pure juice when making cider.
 
 However some people do take the used pomace (the pressed pulp), soak it overnight and then press it a second time.  This will produce a weaker juice and an inferior cider. So my advice is not to bother. Why go to the effort of producing something second rate.  Mind you, apples are plentiful around here. If you only have a small crop you might be tempted.  
 

We got an email recently asking about whether the mix in our reader’s garden was suitable for cider.

“I have 3 cider apple trees ,they are ellis bitter, tremletts bitter and yarlington mill. I also have a variety of eating and cooking apples including bramleys, jupiter, jonogold, lanes prince albert , lord lambourne and 2 crab apples. plus others. My question is:what would be a good mix for a good rich cider. hope to make about 5 gallon. many thanks . john”

Well, my response is that John is showing off.  What a  fantastic collection of trees to work with. I do hope the harvest is good this year as you will be spoilt for choice.

Ok, so you ask for a ‘rich’ cider recipe, but one man’s ‘rich’ might be another man’s ‘undrinkable muck’. Blending is an art form, not a science and even choosing the same proportion of apple varieties in a blend can result in a finished cider that tastes quiet different from year to year.

If you are set up for it, try brewing single varieties through to finished ciders and then blending them according to taste at the end of the process. This will give you an approximate recipe to follow next year.

If you don’t have enough fermentation vessels to be able to do that this year, then simply resort to this ‘old faithful’ recipe.

40% tremletts bitter
20%  yarlington mill
10% ellis bitter
10% lambourne
10% bramley
5% any others
5% crab apples

 

Then of you have more apples, try a completely different mix and see what emerges from that ( you probably wont be disappointed)  The key is to always record your mixes so that you can repeat the good ones. Writing things down is so important because drinking good cider does tend to make you forget stuff.  Happy Brewing.

I got an email asking how to add fizz to cider. Here is a (sort of) answer.

When the yeast is working it produces carbon dioxide which bubbles slowly to the surface. However if the cider is put into a pressurised container before the yeast has finished its work then the carbon dioxide diffuses into the cider where it stays until the pressure is released (the bottle is opened) and suddenly the bubbles rush to the top… ergo, fizzy cider.

Many cidermakers try and judge just how early to bottle their cider and get it wrong resulting in exploded bottles and sticky cider residue up the walls. This is why so many of us let the cider brew out fully to flat (no bubbles) scrumpy style cider before bottling.

There is another way to get fizz, and that is to inject CO2 into flat cider with a soda stream.. But frankly that is cheating and the big bubbles that produces are in my humble opinion a hindrance to the enjoyment.