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Fruit and Cider Talk from Calais, Vermont. Maintained by Terry Bradshaw, fruit guy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Midseason notes from Lost Meadow Orchard

Compiled here are some general notes from my home
orchard. The bulk of
the trees were planted in 2004, a mix of varieties on a
mix of dwarfing
and semi-dwarfing rootstocks:

1) Wet spring. This spring brought record-setting rains
which made
spraying difficult and irrigation unnecessary. Sprays
were tough to time
between the rains, day job, and caring for an infant.
Still, scab was
fairly low in the orchard save for Blue Pearmain and
Binet Rouge which
have moderate foliar scab. I stopped spraying
altogether after the first
petal fall spray, more on that later.

2) Precocity. These trees are in their third leaf, and
as can be
expected the most dwarfing bloomed the best, with
Keepsake/B9, Spitzenburg/B9, Hubbardston Nonesuch/G16,
Kernel/B9, Pomme Gris/G16, Newtown Pippin/M9, and Sweet
blooming fairly well, in descending order. Semidwarf
trees with bloom
include Dabinett/GG30, Kingston Black/G30, St Edmund’s
Russet/G30, and
Tremlett’s Bitter/G30. Blossoms were hand-pollinated
Memorial Day
weekend with purchased pollen (
<>). Fruits set on nearly
all pollinated trees.

3) Funny set and bloom on Wickson. I have two
Wickson/B9 trees from the
same nursery, planted at the same time, side-by-side.
One bloomed
prolifically and set many fruit, the other nary a blossom.

4) Plum curculio. With my early halting of sprays I
expected quite a bit
of PC damage, but little was seen except on the Wickson
that set many
fruit, where each fruit had 4-5 scars. This tree is at
the edge of the
orchard but with only a half-acre surrounded by woods
all of the trees
should be in the edge zone. Thoes Wicksons did bloom
and set earlier
than everything else so my guess is that they were ripe
for curc attack
while everything else was still blooming and I was not
insecticide. I removed every fruit and drove over them
in the driveway
to prevent pupation in the orchard.

5) Tree death. One tree, a Kingston Black/M26 did not
leaf out at all,
and was pulled in late May. Upon inspection I found it
dead at the graft
union, living below. An autopsy found the dreaded round
headed apple
borer larvae right at the union. My guess is that
bugger weakened it
enough for our hartd winter snap in January to kill it off.

6) Grafting. Had decent take (~75%) of new stock on M26
that was grafted
this past spring. Last year’s B9 grafts are doing
great. Those that
didn’t take last year as well as a couple of G30’s were
regrafted this
spring right in the field using whatever method that I
could use to get
the pieces together; whip and tongue, cleft, and side
approach. All took
well and are growing nicely.

7) Tree mixup? I have three Foxwhelp in a row, all
purchased from the
same nursery. The two outer ones look identical with
fairly weak,
upright growth. The middle on has very different,
spreading, almost
droopy growth. This one has one fruit on it, but I am
not familiar
enough with Foxwhelp to ID it by the fruit. I know
there has been
question about the ID of Foxwhelp stock in the states,
but I would
expect these trees to be the same. I did grow these
trees out in a
separate nursery row for a year before planting my
orchard, so there
were many opportunities for mixing them up, so we’ll
just see what comes
in the future and try to ID it then.

8) Phytophthera. Looking in the orchard just yesterday
I noticed a Pomme
Gris/G16 looking a bit pekid. Poking around at the base
I saw the
telltale orange, spongey bark at the soil line of
phytophthera crown
rot. I have probably irrigated the orchard a little too
much, and this
tree may have had its summer mulch a little too close
to the trunk
allowing for infection to develop. G16 is supposed to
be crown
rot-resistant, but this goes to show that resistance is
not absolute
under trying circumstances. I’ll nurse the tree along
and see what happens.

9) Tree training. My orchard is planted very close and
I use a sort of
vertical axe/minimal pruning system to try to contain
the trees to their
spaces. The conduit poles they are tied to are not yet
tied themselves
to a trellis, so I am trying to limit height without
pruning. This year
I tried to bend the leaders in a sort of spindle-type
training system,
but in most cases I waited too long both in terms of
tree age (start
before year three) and seasonal timing (do it before
the wood hardens
off) and broke a few leaders in the process.

All in all I’d say I’m having a successful year in the
orchard. I’ll
harvest a few fruit, but look forward to next season as
the first real
crop. Similar trees planted a year previous at my work
are now bearing
nicely and will present me with a good cider crop. The
deer fence still
has yet to be penetrated which has allowed for the
success that we are