Today we pruned the trees in our home fruit orchard. Thirty trees altogether, there are apple, cherry, plum, and pear. Most of the trees are apple of which we have several varieties. These include cortland, honey gold, haralson, honey crisp, and macintosh. We had some other varieties – supposedly hardy to our area, such as liberty, winesap, and sweet sixteen but none have survived. Even though we are horticultural zone 4b, our winters can be harsh. I also believe the area in which we have the orchard is a micro-climate so that might be influencing which trees survive and which do not.
Most of the trees were planted fourteen years ago when we first moved to this house. We enjoy harvesting, eating, and preserving the fruit each year. The trees need some regular care and maintenance and my husband usually provides that. But, this year I offered to help. In celebration of this, he even bought me my very own Stihl brand pruner. This small, very sharp tool, will take care of many small branches that need to be cut away, providing an opening for light and air to reach to center of the tree and all the growing fruit later in the season.
In an hour, we accomplished a hard prune on some of the older apple trees. The plums and cherries did not need much. And, one pear will have to be cut down, as it is diseased.
Besides pruning in the late winter, in early spring we spray our trees with dormant oil before they bud. And, later in the season, after pollination by bees and the flowers are gone, we use an insecticide on a regular schedule to prevent too much pest damage to the crop. My husband stops spraying well before our projected harvest days. So, our fruit is not organic. But, it is also not as heavily sprayed as some commercial growers. We do not need our fruit to look pristine, and it usually doesn’t. But, it sure is tasty. And, we make sure to wash it well before eating or processing.
There is a wonderful children’s book by Gail Gibbons called The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree. I am reminded of it each year as the apple trees come out of dormancy and start to bloom. It’s a great time of year to share this book with your class if you live where apples grow.
I was happy to be able to help prune the fruit trees today. In the next month, we’ll be seeing some buds form and then have flowers after that. While we like our 60 degree whether, we are relieved to see it go and have a return to “normal” seasonal temps. Too much warmth, too quickly, fools the trees into thinking that they should bloom. But, flowers without bees do not produce apples you see!
Today is day 13 of 31 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thank you to the TwoWritingTeachers.org for creating and hosting this challenge!