May is full of wonderful surprises and is always a welcome month after the rigours of winter and wet early springs. There is plenty to be getting on with, but there is also still just time to finish off the jobs that were not done at the end of April. One job, which should be done about now is "nicking" and "notching" in the apple orchard. Traditionally, apple trees were pruned more than once through the year and this is one of those jobs you can do alongside "rubbing". If you are not sure what I mean, then I shall endeavour to explain.
If you have a tree which is lacking or is sparse in bud then notching is your game. Simply cut a small triangle of bark above a dormant bud to stimulate growth.
If you have a tree with odd or no bud growth toward the end then nicking is your man. Simply cut a small triangle of bark below an active bud to prevent its growth and thus allowing sap to rise further along the branch.
Rubbing is the age old practice of removing flower buds from the over burdened branches. This will help the fruit form in a more healthy manner and allow for a larger fruit! You can do this by simply rubbing the flower off the branch with your thumb.
If your tree is still refusing to give any fruit, then you may have a problem with suitable pollinators. Check the Brogdale National Fruit Collections to see if your variety needs specific treatment. One last thing, remember the golden rule of all fruiting and flowering branches: Vertical promotes growth, horizontal promotes fruit!
-- Guy Deakins