Getting the orchard ready for spring
Mar/19/2014 01:36 PM Filed in: orchard
This has been a long, cold winter, and with the wind we get in our orchard we have been putting off pruning until reasonably warm weather. We are fortunate that we have such a small orchard, so we can choose not to be pruning when it is in the single digits outside. We have had two nice days with temps over 40F, and due to our new pole saw (think chainsaw on a stick) we have made really great progress. Given this new tool, we have been focusing on reshaping trees on more of a macro scale, which is healthier for the tree and promotes better regrowth patterns than cutting tons of small growth. We still have a lot of snow in the orchard, which means we can’t use ladders, so it’s great to have a tool that reaches up into the tree and means we don’t have to climb them (good for us and for the trees). Hopefully we will have a few more warm days soon so we can finish up. We had a lot of snow cover in late winter, which could mean risk of vole damage to our young trees. We can’t be sure of the extent of damage until we can see the trunks of the young trees, but we have found one young tree that was completely girdled when voles made it over the cage we placed around the trunk. Hopefully such damage is not too widespread.
This year, we have decided to start rehabilitating an abandoned orchard nearby. It is made up of overgrown standard sized, heirloom variety trees, and requires a great deal of work. The site has not been managed for over 15 years so we will be able to get organic certification for it quickly and easily. Our plan is to make the trees accessible and do some pruning to help them be healthy, but otherwise do little management and just glean what apples they grow for our hard and sweet cider. This will allow us to increase the number of apples we can pick while we are waiting for our young trees to mature. Of course, last year was a record year for apples, especially on untended trees, so we may have no apples at all this year at that site. As always, there is a lot of wait-and-see involved in farming. We are excited about having access to more fruit, on land we can certify as organic.