Thursday, March 23, 2017

Heritage Apples: A Day on the Farm

This weekend we focused on the orchard.  I am not quite done pruning but decided to go ahead and spray the orchard with dormant oil.  All the trees are in such a hurry to bloom, I needed to get the spray on.  It was already too late for apricots and plums.  I will eventually finish up the pruning.

My hubby getting the spray ready.

Planting Some Heritage Apple Trees

Every year while pruning I regret having so many trees, but I quickly forget when catalogs come.  I ordered 3 more heritage apples to add to the orchard.  So I have 25 total fruit trees.  I will say you need to be committed to produce good fruit. These trees require a lot of care and attention.

I like purchasing bare root trees rather than potted.

I love the history behind heritage apple trees. I already have a Black Arkansas and Ashamed Kernel.   The Black Arkansas originated in 1870.  Ashamed Kernel is at the top of the list of the apple connoisseur for best tasting apple.  It has a drab russeted appearance and is from England around 1720.

I planted 3 new trees:  Spitzenberg, Yellow Newton Pippin, and a Belle de Boskoop (Don't you just love that name!).  I am so excited to add them to the orchard.

Known to be one of two of Thomas Jefferson's favorite apples.  He planted 32 of these at Monticello.

Yellow Newton Pippin.  A pippin was Jefferson's other favorite apple.  It originated in 1700 and was also George Washington's favorite dessert apple. I'm prepared to entertain the Founder's who were also avid gardeners.

When planting fruit trees, dig a hole big enough to accommodate the roots. Do not amend the soil.  Spread out the roots and cover.  Do not bury the graft union.  Fruit trees (scions) are grafted onto root stock and you can see the were they were grafted.  Water that is all that needs to be done the first year.  If you plant dwarf trees they will need to be staked in windy areas.

With all the work that needs to be done in early spring, don't forget to enjoy the beauty of the season.  Below is a Nanking Cherry I pruned as a small tree.  I have 3 of them and they are so gorgeous!  They are early spring bloomers and produce in June small tart cherries I juice for jellies and syrups.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pruning, Planting, & Prepping: A Day On The Farm

Busy weekend pruning, planting, and prepping gardens.  Sunday of course is always a day of rest. Thankful for that.  ( This is last weekend I posted it late.)

I love rhubarb!  An early spring treat!  So I am planting more.  Rhubarb is a perennial.  When you purchase rhizomes, which are dormant,  be sure to open them immediately.  If they are mushy they are no good otherwise keep them moist and in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant.  Rhubarb is known as the pie plant and makes delicious desserts, lemonade, jams, and syrups.

Next project of the day was cleaning out the garden.  Below is sorrel which is a perennial green.  Great in omelets and mixed salads.  

The picture below is Mache.  I let it go to seed last year and it is coming up.  Cant' wait for my first salad.

Next I removed some row crops over  cabbage I was trying to overwinter.  I planted these cabbage last fall and just covered them with a medium weight row cover.
Ruby Perfection

Savoy Cabbage

I'm liking the look of my soil.
Each year I experiment with a few grains.  This year I am trying spelt and Red Fife wheat.


I also overwintered some fall planted lettuce.  It frozen down but has come back and looks great.

Merlot my favorite red loose leaf lettuce

Bronze Arrowhead a beautiful oak leaf variety

Fall planted garlic

To finish off garden chores, I planted some spinach and peas.  

The rest of the time was spent in the orchard pruning, pruning, and pruning.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Where Does the Fruit Grow? Identifying Apple and Pear Buds


Flowers of Apples and Pears

Early spring means pruning season. Pruning is probably one of the least understood aspects of maintaining a home orchard and the most difficult to learn. I decided to start with apples and pears because they should be the first fruit trees you prune and they have similar flower and bud development.
Recognizing where the flowers and fruit develop on the different fruit trees is important. The location of buds and bud developments will determine how that tree is pruned.

There are two types of buds on fruit trees- terminal and lateral. Apples and and pears flower and fruit for the most part on terminal buds. A terminal bud is located on the tips of a shoot and is also called the apical bud. A lateral bud develops at the base of a leaf along the shoot.
Buds in apples and pears can develop on the ends of terminal shoots longer than 4 inches or on shorter shoots less than 4 inches which are called spurs. Spurs only grow a very small amount each year. They are slow to develop taking two years. Fruiting the second year. 

In the first year the bud is formed as either a lateral or terminal bud. If the bud is terminal, it may or may not flower . Lateral buds formed the first year may produce a flower, but the fruit that develops is usually small. Normally, the lateral bud thickens and grow only a small amount. It is on its way to developing as a spur. Those spurs then produce buds and fruit the second and third year.
Spur and terminal buds of both kinds can have both flower and vegetative parts with the bud. What that means is that the bud produces both flowers and leaves. Buds can produces any where from 5-8 flowers and a similar number of leaves.
Pruning will affect the amount and type of buds that form on fruit trees. The goal of pruning is to encourage the tree to produce fruiting wood. Trees can be over vigorous due to improper pruning or over fertilizing both of which will result in fewer flower bud developing and less fruit.

How to Identify Apple and Pear Fruit Buds

Being able to identify buds will enable you to prune to achieve an optimal harvest. It will also enable you to determine how that particular cultivar can be trained, espalier etc.
Fruit trees produce two types of buds: 

Fruit buds contain flowers that when pollinated become fruit.
Wood or growth buds develop into new shoots and leaves but no flowers. Growth buds finish developing after the developing fruit.

Being able to identify fruiting buds will ensure you do not prune off the fruiting wood and thus have no harvests.

Fruit buds

By November a plump, round bud will have formed which contains the flowers that will appear the following April and May. The bud scales on fruit buds are soft and fuzzy on apples, pears, peaches and nectarines. In summer, fruit buds are often surrounded by a cluster of leaves.

Wood or growth buds

Wood or growth buds which carry leaves but no flowers are slender, pointed buds found in a leaf axil. These buds are usually much smaller and more less noticeable than fruit buds.

This is a good picture of the king bud on an apple tree.  All the flowers have the potential to become fruit.  If undamaged the center king bloom is usually the fruit left on the tree after thinning because of its potential to develop the largest fruit.

Tip Bearers versus Spur Bearers

Apple and pear cultivars fall into three categories according to where the fruit bud is produced. They can be spur-bearers, tip-bearers, and partial tips bearers. The majority of pears are spur bearers. Apples can be tip or spur bearers.

    • Spur-bearers produce fruit buds on two-year-old wood, and as spurs (short, branched shoots) on the older wood. 

    • Tip-bearers produce very few spurs. Fruit buds are found at the tips of long shoots produced the previous year.
    • Many apple cultivars are partial tip-bearers, producing fruit on the tips of the previous year's shoots and also on some spurs. 

     So head out to your orchard and look at each apple and pear tree.  Identify the fruit buds and growth buds.  Identify the spur bearers and tip bearers.  If you are able to do this you are ready to prune. 

    Thursday, March 2, 2017

    Starting Tomatoes: A Day on the Farm

    Beautiful March day with sun shining and small breeze.  I can just feel spring wanting to come.  So today I started my tomatoes  and annual flower seeds indoors and cleared out the front flower bed.
    Tulips making their appearance.

    Starts of onions, leeks, celery, artichoke, kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce are already up.  Once the seedlings are up I put fan on them to strengthen the stems.  It's also important to keep the light 2-3 inches above the plants.  

    Once the seedlings make their appearance it is time to thin.  Thin out each cell so only one seedling is growing per cell.  Do this with scissors instead of pulling out the seedlings so you don't damage the roots of the one you want to keep.

    The first leaves that appear are cotyledons.  Until the true leaves appear there is no need to fertilize.

    Tomatoes are one of my favorite crops to grow.  There are so many varieties, colors,  and shapes.  I have my favorites I plant every year and then I always plant new ones.  

    Here is a list of the finalist that will have a spot in my garden in 2017:

    Paste Tomatoes:  Amish Paste, Sheboygan, Principe Borghese, Hungarian Heart, Martino Roma

    New Paste Tomatoes:  Black Icicle, Orange Icicle, Hungarian Grushork

    Cherry and Salad Tomatoes:  Sungold Select, Chocolate Pear, Nyagous, Ivory Egg, Green Doctor, Topaz Or Huau U, Fourth of July

    New Varieties of Cherry and Salad Tomatoes:  Yellow Currant, Red Currant, Pink Tiger, Green Tiger, Pink Bumble Bee

    Slicing Tomatoes:  Paul Robeson,Caspian Pink, Taxi F1, Green Zebra, Ananas Noire, Blue Beauty, Pineapple, Celebrity F1

    New Slicing Tomatoes:  Rose De Berne, Golden King of Siberia,Amana Orange,Carbon, Cour di Bue, Dixie Golden, Kentucky Beefsteak

    Flowers:  Nictotania, Stocks, Snapdragon, Impatiens

    My does enjoying the sunshine.

    These two does are due within the week.