We beekeepers like to think about what our bees will need in terms of forage (food), and look for both nectar and pollen rich sources.
Native fruit trees are great, as they provide an early source of food for bees when the colonies are building up in the spring. Many of these native varieties are a bit rare these days because it’s not always economical to grow a wide variety if you are selling in bulk.
Every year, for the past few years we have done a tree grating course with Alistair Robinson of Honest Graft http://www.honestgraft.org , to provide fruit for ourselves and forage for our bees.
It’s an addictive hobby, and some of our beekeepers come year after year. You can create your own fruit trees and grow them on rootstocks which will confine them to different sizes. I have a small garden, so I put mine on a small rootstock. Some people have a larger bit of land and are planning orchards.
What we’d like to do over the next few years is to find local people in Central Gateshead who would like to join in creating a “River of Forage” for our Saltwell Park bees. Whether you have a small backyard or a large garden you can find room for a fruit tree. Imagine picking your own fresh apples, plums, pears….
First time grafters soon learn the skills with simple tools, a sharp knife and some stretch tape. Our librarian, Darran Green had never done it before, and here he has grafted two “scions” of a plum onto one rootstock. They are destined for his allotment garden.
Some people travelled a long way to be with us. One even came all the way from Penrith !
A big thank you to Jayne Calvert of Gateshead Council for letting us use the Training Room in Saltwell Park. It was a lovely light, warm venue with views out over beautiful Saltwell Park.
Alistair is creating a “library” of trees, and seeing what grows best in our Northern climes. Why not join us next year and contribute to saving this wonderful collection of trees for posterity?
“Honest Graft is a small, privately funded organisation, established and run by enthusiasts in Newcastle upon Tyne who work with a wide range of local groups, community orchards and individuals, teaching people the age old technique of clonal reproduction known as grafting, and in so doing introduce to them the many thousands of varieties of top-fruit; apples, pears, plums, gages, quince etc which grow in the UK.
We access these varieties through the National Fruit Collection based in Brogdale, Kent. This collection of varieties has been established and passed down through generations, and in some cases over centuries, but it is not just a curiosity. It is a legacy of inestimable value bequeathed to us, and it is incumbent upon us to nurture this inheritance and ensure it is available for the benefit of our children and grandchildren and the countless generations beyond them. “