New orchard planting with 30 London and Surrey apples

Volunteers plant 30 new apple trees in the Kitchen Garden

This autumn the garden team are starting to plant a new orchard in Ham House’s Kitchen Garden with a selection of 30 London and Surrey apples. The new area will provide shady spaces to sit, spring blossom, autumn fruit, a feast for pollinators and re-introduce the rich history of fruit growing to this area.

 Why an Orchard? 

The historical precedent for an orchard at Ham is overwhelming: we know that from 1609 an orchard was on site. We have records of 163 apple and pear trees grown here from 1653. Locally John Rocque’s map London and the country near ten miles around (1746), shows several orchards near Ham House and along Ham Street.

Volunteers dig planting holes for the new trees
Volunteers dig planting holes for the new trees
Volunteers dig planting holes for the new trees

The wildlife value of an orchard is equally compelling

All trees capture carbon, stabilise soil and enable water retention. Apple trees provide pollen for insects and nesting and food sources for birds: in spring blue tits look for codling moth caterpillars and wasps tackle aphids. The meadow grass around our orchard is planted with 2500 early flowering crocus and will be managed as flowering meadow for diversity. No herbicides or pesticides will be used.

What's happing in winter 2019 to 2020? 

Having spent time choosing our apple varieties to best represent the locality, provide a long blossom and fruiting season and to give us a mix of heritage and modern varieties, we have been keeping the young trees – ranging in age from 1-3 years – in plant health quarantine. This gives us a chance to observe them and monitor their health before introducing them to permanent planting in the garden.

Apple trees in the plant quarantine area
Apple trees in the plant quarantine area
Apple trees in the plant quarantine area

The trees will be planted in a simple row pattern in 1m-wide planting holes, adding our own compost and additional mycorrhizal fungi. We will support the trees using hard wood lengths.