Friday, March 14, 2014

Winter Time

 Just a peak at our apple orchard in the winter.  
The picture below looks pretty lovely for winter time. 

 We just got done with pruning the trees a few days ago. It has turned into a bigger job the last few years because we prune it all by hand now.  For several years there, we had a machine with round spinning blades come in that buzzed the new growth off the top and lightly pruned the sides.  Then all we would have left was to prune the branches on the inside and fine tune the outside.  
It cost us about $5000 to prune last year!

Why do we need to prune our trees anyway?
Well, not everyone prunes like us.  Since our trees our u-pick, we like to keep the trees really short so you don't have to use ladders.  Every year we cut off the tops of the trees in the same spot.  Instead of growing the trees taller, we like the trees to grow out parallel towards each other...more like a trellis.  The goal is minimal wasted space between the trees eventually. 
 Another important step to reduce pruning is the tree you choose to plant to begin with.  Trees come with different roots (rootstock)....we like the rootstock that keep the trees smaller.  (Most apple trees are grafted so you can choose the rootstock size and the type of apple on top).
When you are out in our orchard this next summer, take a look at our Granny Smith tree rows compared to many of the other rows.  The Granny Smith rows have a bigger rootstock on the bottom so they are a much larger tree.  In fact, it is no fun driving a gator or tractor down those rows because you get smacked in the head with the branches too often!

There are several other reasons we prune too. 
The more branches we leave, the less light that will penetrate the tree's middle.  Less light, means apples won't turn their pretty color we all like to see.  Have you ever noticed when you pick certain apples, that one side is the pretty coloring we are use to and the other side is just plain green?  The green side didn't get the sunlight, and the other side did.
Also pruning in the winter helps create less work in the springtime.  The more branches we leave on, the more apples we have to thin (remove).  If we left all the apples that the trees produce, the apples would all be very small. (We do this when they are about thumb size) Each year we have to remove tons of apples, so the ones left on the tree have enough room and nutrients to grow!

And thirdly, pruning makes picking easier for you guys!

After we prune, then we rake the branches out into the grass row to mow them up....getting many flat tires in the process :)

Next project: we need to spend time replacing posts that are rotted and broken, move some of the wire trellis to better support the trees and tie trees to the wire to keep them growing straight, instead of leaning over from the wind and weight of apples.

So these trees are 50+ years old!  We experimented (which happens frequently on our farm!), cut the old tops of the tree off severely and tried grafting Honeycrisp branches on top.  Well, it worked, even on these old trees.  The little branches you see growing straight up now will bear Honeycrisp apples!

And this is just a fun picture of when it snowed here back in February!  My dad had fun and toured around on his snowmobile! 

Has everyone used up their apples by now?!  
I finally had to buy my first apple at the grocery store the other day.  It was a hard thing for me to do!  :)