“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter.
Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.”
Cape Cod is bracing for another brutal winter or so it seems to me, a
misplaced Californian, who still hasn't gotten completely comfortable with the
absence of palm trees in my adopted New England
home. It's bleak out there today, a raw wind skates off the waters of
Buzzards Bay and the pale yellow rays from a wounded sun seemed to be scolding
me during a brief foray out into my backyard orchard. There
isn't much for an orchardist to do this time of year, all the fruit has been
harvested, all the leaves have fallen and the trees are tucked in beneath their
neatly placed blankets of mulch. Most of the outdoor work of the season is
done now and my Carhartt snowsuit is reserved for the occasional wood
I thought that sharing some of what I've learned about raising fruit trees
with you might be both a good way to pass the time. What you'll find below
is a year in the life of an orchard, delivered in the form a my orchardist's
journal complemented with parenthetical notes to round out the commentary and
provide the benefit of hindsight. I'm also taking advantage of our unique
medium to link up some ancillary writeups on specific subjects of interest.
This is sort of an experiment, like one of those weird Reality Shows only for nerds. So we'll see how it works.
Managing my little orchard has been an interesting journey and if I can impart
some of the pleasure and excitement I've experienced to you I'll call this a success.
Oh yeah, it's kinda long so you might want to
read it in bite sized bits.
I've always believed that everyone should grow a
little food. Maybe it's a throwback to my formative years as a junior
member of a hippie commune where everyone was expected to find something that
they were good at and pursue it with a vengeance. My two most readily
applicable life skills at that point were Volkswagen repair and vegetable
farming. I was fortunate in that the places I lived and worked had need of both
these aptitudes so, despite being young and broke and socially
awkward, I was accepted into the bosom of a community outside my family for the
first time. Looking back now, I can see that this was a major life lesson:
In any event, though I wish I could say that I learned from masters, in fact,
most of my new farmer friends were neophytes like me and we sort of figured it
out as we went. We weren't alone in this as it turns out. Across the
country young people were being drawn into the notion of going back to the land
and getting their hands dirty, playing a role in sustaining their own
lives. It turns out that living off the land is a pretty tough assignment
when you get right down to it. Human nature being what it is, we had lots
of volunteers for the medicinal herb garden but
relatively few who wanted to spend their days weeding the tomato patch, or
*gasp* executing the thieving raccoons in our corn rows. We ended up with
plenty of smoke but, at least for me, a permanent visceral distaste for Lima
Beans, our most prodigious crop. More than a few of us were busted
sneaking down to Mountain View for a cheeseburger and a cold beer.
In the end, time and restlessness took their toll and we all drifted back
onto our true life's path. For me that led to a career combining computers and oceanography which took me around the world many
times over. Whenever and wherever I settled I always ended up creating a
garden and growing some food, in fact it's a standing joke in my family that
once I got my garden all setup and working, something always seemed to come up
that resulted in a relocation. I've left gardens behind in three or four
states now, come to think of it, I left one of my finest efforts behind in
California when we moved to Cape Cod.
Perhaps it was in the hope of cheating the curse of abandoned gardens, that I
decided to try a different tack this time around. We were fortunate enough
to buy a fairly large property this time and I thought I'd try something new: a
fruit tree orchard. So it was that back in the Spring of 2002
that a friend and I scraped the bull briar and poison ivy from a sloped corner
of my property and planted a dozen or so dwarf fruit trees: apples, cherries,
apricot, peach, plum and pear. Since that time I've learned that much of
what I thought I knew was wrong and at least some of the rest was
My life as an orchardist has had many hard lessons, some embarrassing goofs
and a few precious successes and insights. I've put countless hours into
the project, but it has rarely felt like work. The orchard is where I go
when I can't stand to look at a keyboard any longer, and there's no surf, and
the fish aren't biting. My trees are like the best kind of pet, always
happy to see you, but unaffected by being ignored when you're busy. It
always makes me happy to be out among them.
It may seem obvious but one of the most important tasks in the orchard is to
periodically make the time to take a good long look at each and every
tree. It's sort of a cross between David Packard's "MBWA" philosophy and a Marcus Welby house call. Let's wrap
this up with an introduction to the orchard by making the rounds and considering
the stars of the show, the trees as they stood in February of 2007.
#1 Sweet Cherry: Planted in 2002 in the Southeast corner of the orchard next
to the stairway, grievously wounded by the dreaded and mysterious Cherry Sap
Vampires in the Summer of 2007. Time will tell if this old friend will life to
see another harvest. The harvest time for cherries is late June.
#2 Sweet Cherry: Planted 2006 as a replacement for the anemic Apricot that
succumbed to a late frost and never came back. This tree apparently liked its
new home and is almost the same size as #1.
#3 Keiffer Pear: Planted 2002 along the Southern edge of the orchard, this
tree has grown prodigiously but up until 2007 only offered up a single pear
which was tragically stolen the night before harvest by a morally bankruptcy raccoon.
Pears are one of the last fruits to be harvested, generally maturing in mid
#4 Blue Ribbon Plum: Planted 2002 along the Southern edge of the
orchard. Another healthy specimen that has yet to offer up much in the way
of a harvest. In 2007 we got one large, perfect and very tasty plum,
hopefully a foreshadowing of great things to come. Plums are harvested in
#5 Peach: Planted 2002, this has been one of the happiest trees in the
orchard. It's tucked down low along the Southern border surrounded by some
gnarly Cape Cod jungle briar, so it doesn't get much sun. For some reason
this little tree seems to thrive on that setup. Peaches are one of the
treats of mid summer with a July harvest.
#6 Jonathan Apple: A great little tree that produces an abundant harvest year
after year. I got carried away one year when it was still small and used
netting to keep the birds at bay. As a result, the young branches were
permanently bent horizonal like a wind blown Japanese woodcut. It actually
makes the tree much easier to manage for pruning, and picking and Jonathan
doesn't seem to mind. Planted 2002.
#7 & 8 Royal Gala Apples: Both of these trees were planted in 2002
and appeared to thrive in their new home. They occupied some prime turf in
the orchard, mid slope in an area of full sun exposure. They both produced
good crops of tasty pear-like apples beginning in their fourth season, then #8
started to weaken and finally gave up the ghost in the summer of 2007. Gala
Apples are among the first to harvest in late August or early September.
#9 Red Delicious Apple: A stout little tree that hasn't missed a beat since
being planted in 2002. Red Delicious isn't my favorite snacking apple, but they
make great pies. Planted 2002. Harvest is late September.
#10 & 11 Arkansas Black Apple: Planted 2002. An heirloom apple that I
grew to love on Palomar Mountain. The
Arkansas Black trees on Palomar were brought to California from Kentucky by the
Theo Bailey family in 1865. The twins, as I think of
them, seem to like Cape Cod as well occupying some prime full sun orchard
real estate. They are the largest and most robust trees in the orchard, but
thus far have only produced a handful of fruit. Hope springs eternal.
#12 Earli Red Delicious Apple: Planted 2002. This is a variety of red
delicious from Stark Brothers Nursery that has been specially bred for an
early harvest, early August. As a bonus, they also seem, to me at least,
to be better tasting than the classic version. This tree has always been
small and slightly anemic but every year it has produced a prodigious crop of
#13 Golden Delicious Apple: Planted 2002. One of the orchard stars! This
medium sized tree has produced giant wonderfully succulent fruit every
year. Last year it showed signs of attack by the apple death bug, as
you'll read below, so we're on watch for symptoms of weakness.
#14 Red Rome Apple: Deceased. This stout little tree produced a
single huge and perfect apple in 2002, the same year it was planted, then a few
more in the next two years. By the summer of 2005 it had visibly weakened,
and after delivering one last crop it gave up the ghost. The first of
several to succumb to an unknown tree killer. RIP.
# 15, 16 & 17: Almond and Chestnut trees: Nut trees are a whole
different ballgame than fruit. They can take many years to produce their
first crop and in the meantime, there isn't really much to talk about.
These were all planted in 2002 and appear to be growing happily. The nut harvest
is late September.
#18 Lodi Apple: Planted in the Fall of 2007, this little fellow was
added to the team to round out the harvest schedule. Lodi is one of the
first apples to ripen in late July. If you look at the harvest dates as a
whole, you may notice that the trees have been selected so that something is
ready to pick from late June through the end of October. This is by design
and it keep fresh fruit on our table all summer long. So far the newcomer seems
happy here and we're expecting the first crop in 2008.
#19 & 20: Thornless Blackberries, Chester and Triple Crown
respectively. Planted in the Fall of 2007, more as an experiment than
anything. The indigenous Blackberries of Cape Cod are monster plants that
grow like bamboo and have deadly thorns. More of a predator than a
fruit. I thought I'd try a couple of more domesticated varieties to see
how they did.
24 November 2007: Supplies order for next season:
- Japanese Fruit Bags, Nylon Footies, Tanglefoot, Permethrin, Start Tree
Pep, new pruning shears, 5 cu/yd woodchips, 1/3 cu/yd compost,
14 February 2008: While splitting some oak firewood today,
noticed a fat white grub just under the bark. They look like the worms in
that cheezy monster flick, Tremors, with a wide head, bulbous Michelin Man body that narrows to a small rounded
tail. About 20 - 25 cm long. They appear to be pervasive in the
downed wood around the orchard. A possible cause of last summers loss of
the Gala? A first look at the Virginia Tech indicated Prionus Borer, but this
needs more investigation!
18 February 2008: Bummer. They aren't Prionus Borer, too
small. Most likely Round Headed Appletree Borer, a nasty little beetle
that deposits its eggs in the bark of fruit trees. The larva develop into
the grubs, which eat their way around girdling the tree. They make a
pencil-sized hole in the outer bark on exit...just like the ones I saw on the
Rome Apple and the Gala! Damnit, this bug must die!!!
- Taped in the Journal is a grisly artifact, the black and moldy corpus
of a long dead borer grub, mummified for eternity in a vacuum-sealed postage
TFFG: "This pest can become a serious problem
in neglected or backyard apple trees..." Duh@! Not much guidance on
management, "An insecticide can be applied..."
Experimenting with the batch of grubs I've collected to see what works:
- Full strength Permethrin 2.5% as a liquid = definite kill. Whew! At
least I know something will kill them.
- .32% Perm as a heavy fogging, killed small larva immediately, killed adults
after 24 hours.
Inspected all trees: Golden Del Apple has an obvious borer hole at the graft
line. Pencil sized, punky wood inside Ack! Explored inside the hole with a
wire and found several tunnels, apparently up to 5" in length. Poked
aggressively to try and skewer the little fiends. Used a straw to force
2.5% Perm into all tunnels.
Same treatment to a smaller hole in #11 Black, couldn't tell if it were
really a borer hole or not.
Wish I'd caught this in time to save the Rome and Gala. I bet this was
also the Cherry Sap Vampire too. Apparently the beetles "Sting"
the bark when they're injecting their eggs and Cherry trees are total bleeders.
23 March 2008: Time for the first dormant oil spray.
They're predicting a very heavy Winter Moth and Tent Caterpillar infestation
again this year.
Air temp: 45 degrees, lite SSW wind, 5oz / 2 gallon batches. Five
gallons total for a heavy dripping spray.
- About sprays: I'm not a purist by any means, but I try to make
careful selections of useful chemistry for the orchard and keep it all to a
bare minimum. The general philosophy is called Integrated Pest
Management and it implies highly targeted applications of the least harmful
product at exactly the right time. This is considered a major change
from the rigid annual schedules of broad based pesticides used in many
commercial orchards. When the health of my trees is endangered however
all bets are off. See the individual writeups for details about the chemical
arsenal I use.
9 April 2008: Dormant Oil Spray second application
Air temp: 62 degrees, no wind, 5oz / 2 gallon batches. Four gallons
total for a heavy dripping spray.
18 April 2008: First Permethrin fogging, heavy dose full
Air temp: 68 degrees, NNE 3 wind, 16oz 2.5% by fogger on all trees and
surrounds. Special attention to every lower trunk and bud graft.
- The aerosol fogger is a wonderful orchard tool that lets you quickly
and efficiently apply a spray to the orchard. By atomizing the spray
into a microscopic fog, you can use a fraction of the amount of chemical
normally required while achieving an effective coverage. Permethrin in a
synthetic form of the naturally occurring Pyrethrin found in the
Chrysanthemums and Dasies. Permethrin is fast acting, has a
fairly short persistence, and low toxicity.
First buds appearing on most trees.
Some thin grey beetles sighted and captured, poss. Apple Borers.
- Insert another vacusealed mummy bug taped to the page.
- "Round Headed Apple Borer: Saperda Candida Fabr. The Adults are active
from ~ April to petal fall in June"
Perm appears to kill them. The beetles I've found look more like
Prionus Borers than RAB...
24 April 2008: Set out red sticky traps today for early
Apple Maggot Flies. After last year's success, I've substituted
store-bought apples for most of the plastic globes. They seem to work as
well or better, are much less expensive and compost well. Also sealed all large
pruning cuts with Tanglefoot glop.
- Sticky traps are used both to monitor for the presence of a particular
pest, like the Apple Maggot, and as a quick and dirty, very dirty, fly trap
that helps to control them. The original "patent pending" red
ball traps are these clunky and expensive plastic Christmastree ornaments that
you smear with a gloopity glop muck and hang in your orchard. Woe to the
sorry man or beast, or even pest, who chances to touch one though because the
secret sauce, Tanglefoot, is pretty much the most tenaciously sticky, greasy,
nasty and persistent stuff on the planet. I've gotten some on a favorite
hoodie and after seven times through the laundry it's still sticky!
Awesome. So, my innovation was simply to replace the silly balls with
cheap grocery store apples and a simple wire hanger. Takes ten seconds
to make, costs a buck a trap to make and even composts fine when you're done
with it. Classic.
13 May 2008: Good blossom set on all trees. Petal drop is
finished on Peach and almost done on the Pear, Plum. Sweet Cherry # 1
doesn't look like it's going to make it. Some small buds, but no leaves
yet and withering branches from the tips in. Very sad. A victim of
the Cherry Sap Vampires, AKA Round Headed Appletree Borer.
Lots of bugs in the sticky traps already but no sign of the Apple Maggot Fly
yet. Past years efforts paying off?
Rough pruning of all trees for sucker sprouts, crossed branches, vertical
wood and broken or damaged branches. Both Blacks need Vase shaping next
Spring feeding 17 TBS Start Tree Pep into the drip system, 3 runs @1.5 hours
- Drip system irrigation was invented by the Israelis to make the most
of limited water resources in a dry climate. It makes sense everywhere,
and it's not that hard to set up. My drip system has an
inexpensive liquid fertilizer injector that allows you to feed all the trees
at once. For $50 bucks worth of parts you get perfect delivery of an
organic fertilizer right to the root system of all your trees. No
26 May 2008: Caterpillars spotted on some Apple branches &
young leaves. Apply BT to all trees.
Air temp: 67 degrees, no wind, 5oz / 2 gallon batches. Four gallons
total for a heavy dripping spray.
- Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that has
the ability to control many insects including most caterpillars. It's one of
the 'wonder drugs' available to the organic orchardist. Plus it's fun to think
of giving these nasty bugs the flu. Mwahahahah!
27 May 2008: Some signs of aphids & powdery mildew.
Perm Fog application.
Air temp: 65 degrees, NNE 12 wind, 0.16% by fogger. Too windy, used
sparingly on Plum and Black apple only.
- Per the Integrated Pest Management best practices, Permethrin is
applied every 7-10 days from late May to the end of July for ongoing control
of the dreaded Apple Maggot Fly. In Washington state, this is mandated
by law because untreated orchards have caused infestations to spread over
large areas. I've battled the Apple Maggot since day one and am finally
(fingers crossed) winning the war.
9 June 2008: Beautiful apple blossoms this year, as though the
trees were as happy as I am to see the return of Summer!
Very heavy fruit set on all the apple trees this year. Hundreds of
gumball-sized green fruit are already weighing down the branches. Major
fruit pruning in progress.
- It seems counterproductive, but the best way to assure a good fruit
harvest is to cut most of it off! A properly pruned apple tree should
have one apple every 4 - 6 inches along the branch. Any more than that
and none of them will reach full size or flavor. Worse yet, if you don't
prune the fruit one year, you won't get much of a harvest the next year.
It's as though the tree only has so much energy and it wears itself out if you
Fruit pruning of course is relatively easy of course compared to the
architectural pruning that shapes each tree and helps keep it healthy and
vigorous. A well pruned tree is a happy tree! Efficient, and elegant
fruit tree pruning is almost an art form, and people spend a lifetime getting
the hang of it. Think Bonsai writ large.
Perm fog application as inoculation against the Maggot fly. Several
more beetles spotted in the sticky traps. No sign of caterpillar damage on the
fruit trees even though the surrounding oaks are getting mauled. Yea for
Big Whoop in the local news about the return of the 17 Year Cicadas. Brood XIV,
as it has been named has begun to emerge to the south of us and in nearby
Mashpee. You can wrap very small trees in a fine mesh, but the big ones
just have to stand there and take it. Elwood says the woods around his
house are full of the little screechy critters but so far I haven't seen a
single one here. I tried to net the Cherry tree but it just looks silly
and I can't believe that it will help if / when the locusts descend.
Air temp: 72 degrees, SW 3 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and
surrounds. Special attention to every lower trunk and bud graft.
14 June 2008: The cicadas are at their peak on the Cape, but so
far we haven't seen any here in Falmouth. Apparently they don't tend to
travel much once they emerge, so perhaps we'll escape.
- One of the strangest life cycles of all, Cicadas lay dormant
underground for 16 years at a time. They wake up in the early Spring,
while the ground is still soggy and soft, and dig a tunnel up to the surface,
then crawl back down and sleep for another month. When the ground warms
up in June, they emerge in mass, have a good satisfying screw with every other
cicada they meet, bite holes in all the defenseless trees around them while
laying their eggs, then roll over and die. The babies grow up a bit, dig
their little bombshelter tunnels and settle in for the Big Sleep. They
don't have any natural predators because by the time they emerge everyone has
pretty much forgotten they even exist. A wonder of nature.
Smallish black flies with an iridescent body spotted on the Black Apple
leaves. They appeared to be in groups and seemed lethargic, maybe
adolescents? What new horror is this?
Air temp: 72 degrees, SW 3 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and
surrounds. Special attention to the areas where the black flies were
seen. Didn't see any more
of them after that...
Bagging as much fruit as possible this year with a controlled test of
Japanese Fruit Bags versus Nylon Footies. After reading several
interesting reviews of this new technique I decided to give it a head to head
test. I have about 400 of the Japanese bags on hand, half of them used but
usable, and I bought 250 of the footies. Seems like enough.
So far we've done about half the trees, each one having about a third each of
Bag, Footie and uncovered. Should be an interesting science fair project.
- This is way too big a subject to do justice to here....suffice it to
say that I'm a devotee of a Japanese orchard technique that uses a specially
designed bag to cover each individual fruit. The bags are folded onto
the tiny fruit with a little origami twist and the little apple or pear or
whatever, grows inside the bag, protected from, well, most everything.
At harvest the apples are little Snow White albino apples, so you unbag them
for a few days until they take on a sweet little rose blush, like a sunburn on
a virgin's buttock!
The Blackberries are in flower & the new canes are about 3 feet tall
- Blackberries, like other brambles bear fruit on the previous year's
canes. So every year, you harvest from the old canes then cut them
off. The new canes go dormant over the winter then flower and bloom in
late summer. My thornless blackberries seem just as happy here as their
21 June 2008: Orchard Survey
#1 Cherry: RIP. Never produced a single leaf. Victim of the
Cherry Sap Vampires.
#2 Cherry: Healthy leaves and branches, good flowering and a handful of tasty
fruit that never even made it into the house. 5" diam trunk @ 12"
#3 Pear: Healthy leaves and branches, good flowering and a dozen or so small
fruit. 9" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#4 Plum: Healthy L&B, good flowering and fruit set but they all fell off in
the last 2 weeks. 8" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#5 Peach: Healthy L&B, good flowering and enormous fruit set. About 100
peaches left after heavy pruning. 6" diam trunk @ 12"
#6 Jon Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and huge fruit set. About 125
apples left after heavy pruning. 7" diam trunk @ 12" above
#7 Gala Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and huge fruit set. About 150
apples left after heavy pruning. 9" diam trunk @ 12" above
#9 Delicious Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and modest fruit set. About
30 apples left after heavy pruning. 10" diam trunk @ 12" above
#10 & 11 Black Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and moderate fruit
set. About 50 apples left after pruning. 14" & 11" diam
trunks @ 12" above ground. Some powdery mildew.
#12 Earli Red Apple: Moderate leaves & branching. Lacks vigor overall.
Leaves are olive green. Amazing fruit set, 115 apples left after heavy
pruning. 7" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#13 Golden Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and huge fruit set. About 220
apples left after heavy pruning. Borer hole poked and packed with poison.
11" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#18 Lodi Apple: Healthy despite bark damage by some animal, coon? Good leaves
& branches, 6 apples total. 3" diam trunk @ 12" above
19 & 20 Blackberries: Wow! Last year's canes are loaded with
fruit. Unless the birds or bugs get them we're going to have blackberries
coming our of our ears!
All fruit bagging is done. I didn't have bags enough by half, so all
trees are approximately 33% each Bagged, Footie and Uncovered. They say
you can just toss the footies into the wash at the end of the season and use
them again next year. I'll believe that when I see it, the force of
constant all day sunshine is incredibly powerful.
2 July 2008: Perm fog application as inoculation against the
Maggot fly. None found in the tanglefoot traps.
Air temp: 78 degrees, SW 3 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and
Like most growing things, fruit trees live on a timescale that is
simultaneously too slow to watch and yet surprisingly rapid taken in the
aggregate. The orchard can get away from you pretty easily if you let it,
accumulating modest tasks like weeding or pruning relentlessly until they become
unmanageable Sisyphean mountains.
10 July 2008: First signs of Sooty Blotch on the uncovered
Royal Gala Apples. Apparently it's a fungus that is fairly common in
orchards, and is exacerbated by...." close proximity to
Blackberries!" Classic, I've brought this new blight down on myself.
I've been pruning out the really badly infected fruit. It looks like only
the skin is affected, the meat inside looks and tastes normal.
11 July 2008: Perm fog application.
Air temp: 85 degrees, no wind, 0.48% by fogger on all trees and
24 July 2008: Perm fog application.
Air temp: 78 degrees, SW 2 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and
Squirrels or raccoons raided the Peach tree and took every single
peach! I'm too astonished to even be pissed off! In fact I'm a
little in awe of their persistence and....appetite. Those pinche chingada pendejos must have have gotten over a hundred huge,
perfect, and juicy peaches. They even struck at the absolute pinnacle of
ripeness too. The fricken Great Peach Heist of 2008! Bastardos!
Harvested two smallish sour apples from the Lodi who looks just plain
exhausted from the effort. That bark wound practically girdled the tree
and I can't see how it has survived this long. Live from Death Row.
8 August 2008: Big fruit losses on many trees from the tree
squirrels. They've been grabbing all the low hanging fruit, snarfing
down a couple of ugly bites and then leaving the rest to rot. They seem to
favor the Gala tree because it's almost harvest time.
This year I've got my Homeland Security-approved undocumented rodent
management plan in place. I've been catching them two or so a day and
forcibly deporting the little monsters down to Little Island in West
Falmouth. Just for fun, I paint their toenails with a blast of dayglo
paint, so I can tell if anybody every finds their way back here.
Brix Measurements: Blackberries: 7.0%, Gala 8.5%, Early Red 8.5%
- Brix is a historically interesting technique for establishing the
sugar content in fruit juice & wine. Most people now measure it
using a handheld refractometer. You basically put a drop of juice on the
surface of a little glass prism and measure it against a calibrated
index. The brix number is useful for several orchard tasks, but it's
most handy for monitoring the proper harvest time for each tree.
17 August 2008: Harvested the first Blackberries today.
About a gallon of large perfect fruit, mostly from the the Triple Crown bush,
#20. Brix 9.0 - 10.0%. The largest berries were about 25cm in
diameter. I didn't even make a dent in the total yield, think I'll let
them ripen a bit more before the next pick. Blackberry pie!
23 August 2008: Harvest Earli Red Delicious, #12. 30 apples,
avg. 9.5" in circumference, 10 lbs total. Estimated 30-40% harvest loss to
the tree squirrels, way worse than last year.
All of the uncovered apples and all of the Footie covered apples were covered
completely in Sooty Blotch & Flyspeck. All of the bagged apples were
uninfected. Just one datapoint, but it don't look good for Footies.
27 August 2008: Brix measurements Gala: 10.5%,
28 August 2008: Brix measurements Red Del: 10.5%,
Jonathan: 12.25%, Golden Del: 10%, Gala: 10
Another two gallons of Blackberries harvested. I gave a big bowl to
Augie, my barber and he acted like I handed him a bag of
11 September 2008: Take a minute to sit quietly in the orchard
and remember 9/11. Never Forget!
15 September 2008: Gala Apple #7 Harvest. 14 pounds, about 40
apples, 10" circ. Brix final 11.5% Est. 10% loss to undocumented
rodents. All of the uncovered apples and all of the Footie covered apples were
covered completely in Sooty Blotch & Flyspeck. All of the bagged
apples were uninfected. Two datapoints, and it still don't look good for
Footies. I found that even a light scrub with the rough side of a scotch
dish sponge and all the the blotch and flyspeck discoloration comes right
off. Too much work to do them all, especially when most are being peeled
for Apple Chips, but nice if you just want to snack on one.
Brix Meas. Jonathan: 12%, Black: 11%, Red Del: 12%, Golden: 10.5%
19 September 2008: Last of the Blackberries and all veggies
harvested. Warm in the day, cool at night. I love Indian
Summer. Jonathan 12%
21 September 2008: Harvest Jonathan Apple#6 . 25 pounds, 100+
apples, 9.25" circ. 12% Brix. Speck and Blotch on unbagged apples.
25 September 2008: Brix measurements. Golden 10.5%, Black: 10%,
Pears: 14% Brix !!!
1 October 2008: Harvest Red Delicious #9. 15 pounds, 25 apples,
10.25" circ. Blotch & soot on unbagged apples.
11 October 2008: Harvest Pears#3: 12 huge pears. 10 pounds,
12" circ. 14% brix. Sublime!
Harvest Golden Delicious #13: 75 apples, 20 pounds, 10.25" circ, 10%
Brix, Soot & Blotch on unbagged fruit.
Fall feeding 17 TBS Start Tree Pep into the drip system, 3 runs @1.5 hours
12 October 2008: Unbagged all the Black Arkansas apples and the
contrast between bagged and unbagged is shocking. There's a reason they
call them Black Arkansas! The skin of these apples is the most beautiful
deep dark red, like hundred year old Cabernet Wine, or blood on a day old
battlefield. Something ancient and deep. The bagged apples remind me
of veal calfs, innocent of the world's evil and ripe for the plucking by some
ravenous fruit eater...
20 October 2008: Harvest the Black Arkansas apples, #10 &
#11. 22 pounds, 80 apples, 9.25" circ., 12% Brix. Speck and Blotch on unbagged apples.
Whew, that's my story and I'm stickin to it. I hope I've entertained you
at least a little. The drama of the orchard is lost on some and
overwhelms others with a deep longing. If you fall into the second
category and need a little encouragement to get your hands dirty, drop me a
line. I'm not nearly as grouchy and they say.... at least to fellow
1 Stark Brothers Nursery: A reliable
and friendly source for healthy trees and some orchard products.
2 Tree Fruit Field Guide: The
compact Bible for New England orchardists. Published by NRAES 2006, ISBN