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What Will I Do Without Apples?

May 11, 2010

The apple orchard (before)

The orchard is gone (after)

For the past nine years, we have had more apples than we knew what to do with. When we bought our house, it came with 200+ very small apple trees, almost all grown as a cordons.  We ate all the apples we could, often three or four a day each, five months of the year. We gave apples away. We made cider, applesauce, apple maple jam, apple chutney, cranberry apple relish and dried apples. Then, after three or four years, we started selling apples, but we still had more than we knew what to do with. This year, however, will be different.

You might remember one of my big projects for this past winter was to decide what to do with our apple orchard. The support system needed to be replaced and I knew the trees had a disease problem (anthracnose), though I wasn’t quite sure how bad it really was. I wanted to do some research, find some apple experts, and make a plan for the orchard. It took a while, but I finally came to a decision: the orchard had to go and we would start all over again.

Three rows gone, two to go

It was not an easy decision. I like to be sure I am doing the right, best thing. To be sure about the orchard, I  wanted someone who knew more than I did to help me figure out what was best.  That did not happen. Throughout this past winter I was reminded, over and over again, that there is rarely only one solution to a farming problem. Someone else might choose something different, but I could make a plan that would work just fine for us.

Steven gets some help from one of the Reds

Several things helped in the decision making process. The first was to read The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips. What an amazing book! It helped give me the bigger picture of healthy apple orchards and how I can approach the new orchard. The next thing I did was contact the Oregon State University Agricultural Extension Tree Fruit and Nut Crops Working Group, to get confirmation that the trees did have anthracnose and ideas about spacing in a compact/high density orchard. I did a lot of other searching and reading on the internet, though I didn’t come up with any specific answers to my questions.

My final contact was with a neighbor, who is an arborist. I wanted to know how bad he thought the anthracnose was…beyond repair? By the end of the hour or so we spent in the orchard talking about the trees, my decision was made. It was all coming down.

One row left

Last week, Steven took the week off work, to work with me on the orchard. It was not the perfect week we had a year ago. This time it rained quite a bit, but the last few days were nice and warm and we got the job done…at least the main part. The trees are gone and Steven is working on getting the roots out. The plan is to give the space a rest from trees for two years, while using the space for vegetables and at the same time work on building the soil with cover crops. We will plant the new orchard the third year.

The newly grafted apple trees

We started grafting new apple trees last year, when we thought we would be replacing some trees. This year, we grafted more, knowing we would be replacing the whole thing (we won’t have so many trees though, because we will do things differently). I am excited to experiment with a fairly new rootstock, called Geneva 30, for some of the trees. It is harder to graft successfully, but so far it looks like most of our grafts have taken. We lost a few of last year’s new trees to the cold winter, but we will just graft more as we need them. These trees will give us a head start when we are ready to plant again. The varieties we have so far are: Belle de Boskoop, Winesap, Spitzenberg, Newtown Spitzenberg, Liberty, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Honeycrisp, Hudson Golden Gem, Ashmead Kernel, Golden Russet, Northern Spy, Fuji, Mutsu, Newtown Pippin, Rubinette,  and Elstar. I am still looking for an Arkansas Black (and it is still not too late to give us your requests). They are a mix of heirloom and newer varieties, with a mix of harvest seasons and uses.

It will be a bit of a wait, but I am looking forward to our new apple orchard.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. bonnie permalink
    June 9, 2010 6:38 pm

    loved the picture of Steven and the RED . I enlarged it and it was more fun to look at!!!!!

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