Saturday, April 5, 2014

Plums Blooming, Peaches Hurt by Cold Winter

Plumcot trees (right foreground) are in bloom, with white flowers.  A few peach flowers are starting to open their pink petals on the 'Contender' peach trees behind the plumcot trees, but the other 15 peach varieties we grow lost all their fruit buds to mid-winter cold.
Plumcots and sandhill plums are blooming now, and we should have good crops of both this year.  'Contender' peaches are also blooming now, but unfortunately, the severe mid-winter temperatures killed all the fruit buds on the other 15 peach varieties we grow.  So almost all our peach trees have no blooms, and will have no fruit this year.  Peaches will be very limited this year, perhaps 4% of the crop we had last year, as only a very small crop of 'Contender' peaches should be ripe from early August to mid-August.
   “Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails … yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

Sandhill plum bushes are covered with white blooms now, and we should have a good crop of them this year.
    We still have cracked 'Kanza' pecans and many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale, kept in top condition in our cooler.  See previous post for prices.  We'll also have harvested fresh asparagus for sale from about April 14 to about June 10, at $2.79 per pound plus tax.
   We're open by appointment from Dec. 1 to May 31, so phone 620-597-2450 a day or so before coming to get apples or pecans, and leave a message saying when you'll get here, so I can meet you at the sales building.  (When I'm applying herbicide or we're pruning raspberries at the back of the planting, we can't always see or hear vehicles come in the driveway if people just drop by.)  For highway detour directions, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Older Posts".

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pruning Blackberries & Removing Winter Mulch from Strawberries

   Our crew and I have now finished the dormant peach pruning, and we're working on dormant pruning of thornless blackberries.  Blackberry and raspberry plants have perennial roots but biennial canes, so canes only live for two years.  First-year canes, called primocanes, are vegetative, growing only leaves.  Second-year canes, called floricanes, produce flowers which become fruits, as well as leaves.  After fruiting, the floricanes die.  So blackberry and raspberry plants need a lot of pruning.
Rachael Triebel prunes back side branches on floricanes of thornless blackberries, that will bear the crop this summer.
   We pruned out most of the dying floricanes last fall, after harvest.  Now we're removing any dead floricanes that remain, and shortening the side branches on last year's primocanes, which are now this year's floricanes that will bear the crop this summer.  Soon new shoots will emerge from the ground, which become this year's primocanes, and we'll pinch these shoots at shoulder-height in May and June to encourage branching.  We'll go over the planting several times in summer to trim back side branches from these primocanes, then cut out dead floricanes again next fall after harvest. 
   Over the last week, whenever the weather was conducive, I've removed the winter straw mulch from on top of the strawberry plants, and placed it in the aisles to control weeds and cushion knees when harvesting strawberries.  The winter mulch protected strawberry plants from extreme winter cold, and is the reason these berries are called strawberries.
I've just removed the winter straw mulch from on top of these strawberry plants.  The cool early spring temperatures have delayed growth, so the strawberry harvest season will likely be later than average again this year.
   The cool early spring temperatures have delayed growth of strawberries, so the harvest season will likely be later than average again this year, perhaps May 14 to June 5 or so.  Strawberries are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only, as our planting is small since there's so much stoop work with strawberries.
   Fruit tree bud development has also been delayed by the cool early spring temperatures.  I'm thankful for this, since temperatures here have dropped to 25 or 26 F for 3 of the past 4 nights.  Peach flowers have not opened yet, so aren't hurt by these temperatures.  It looks like peach bloom will take place about April 1 to 10 this year.  Pears will follow in early April, and apples in mid-April.  
   We still have cracked 'Kanza' pecans and many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale, kept in top condition in our cooler.  Cracked 'Kanza' pecans are $14.86 + tax for a 5.0-lb. bag with loose shells blown out.  Apple prices are still $1.00 less for each 20 lbs. than last fall.  Smaller amounts of harvested #1 apples are still $1.21 per pound + tax, but 20 lbs. #1's are now just $22.29 + tax ($1.11 per pound), and 40 lbs. #1's are just $42.73 + tax ($1.06 per pound).  Lesser amounts of harvested #2 apples are still $0.83 per pound + tax, but 20 lbs. #2's are now just $14.86 + tax ($0.74 per pound), and 40 lbs. #2's are just $27.87 + tax ($0.70 per pound).  You can also get the 40-lb. discount by buying 20 lbs. #1's and 20 lbs. #2's.
   We're open by appointment from Dec. 1 to May 31, so phone 620-597-2450 a day or so before coming to get apples or pecans, and leave a message saying when you'll get here, so I can meet you at the sales building.  (When we're pruning blackberries at the back of the planting, we can't always see or hear vehicles come in the driveway if people just drop by.)  For highway detour directions, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pruning Peach Trees

   This past week we've spent many hours pruning the peach orchard, and this will continue next week.  A couple of our workers helped with this big job last week due to college spring break, and other workers are off from school this week.  Peach branches can grow 6 to 8 feet longer each year, so peach trees need a lot of pruning to bear good crops of peaches.
Brandon Ledford used pneumatic loppers, powered by the air compressor on the tractor, to cut back peach limbs growing too tall, and cut longer fruiting shoots back to remove some excess fruit buds.
   First Bill goes over the whole peach orchard with a chain saw, cutting off broken and dead limbs, and heading back large limbs that are growing too far out in the aisles and would get hit by equipment or likely break from the weight of the fruit.  Then our workers and I use pneumatic loppers to prune back long branches that are too tall, too far out in the aisles, too low to the ground, or too dense.  We also cut longer fruiting shoots back to remove some excess fruit buds.  Finally, we use ladders to do follow-up pruning with hand loppers and hand pruners.
Abby Dominguez used pneumatic loppers to prune back long branches too far out in the aisles, too low to the ground, or too dense.
   Temperatures are expected to drop to 27 F early Monday morning March 17, but that won't hurt the peach fruit buds, which are just in the swollen bud stage now.  Full bloom will likely occur about March 26 this year, so we hope temperatures won't drop below 28 F from then on.
We still have lots of apples and pecans for sale, great for making apple-pecan pancakes, shown here, and many other goodies.  Recipes are posted as Notes on the Brenda's Berries Facebook page.
   We'll still have great-tasting 'Enterprise' red and 'GoldRush' yellow apples, and 'Kanza' and 'Pawnee' pecans, for sale for the next 3 months or so.  From Dec. 1 to May 31 we're open by appointment, so call or e-mail a day or so in advance and leave a message saying when you're coming to get apples and/or pecans.  The phone rings in the house, and I check for messages every few hours. When we're pruning the peach orchard, we can't see or hear cars coming in the driveway if people just drop by.  For highway detour directions, scroll down three posts.  For apple and pecan prices, scroll down four posts.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Healing Power of Love & Apples

   Today I read this great true story on the power of love and apples to sustain life and keep hope alive, so I've got to share it.  I found it in a book I borrowed from our Center Christian Church library, Night Light, A Devotional for Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson, published in 2000.  The Dobsons verified that this story actually happened.
   On a bitter cold winter day in 1944, a young boy named Herman paced in a Nazi concentration camp, trying to keep his emaciated body warm.  Then he saw movement beyond the camp's two barbed wire fences, with 20 feet between them.  Families were working in the field, and he saw a young girl near the outer fence.  Watching for guards, he hurried to the inner fence.
   She looked at him with sad eyes, so he asked if she had anything to eat.  She reached in her pocket and pulled out a red apple.  She looked left and right for guards, knowing if they caught her they  would shoot them both, then she threw the apple over both fences to him.
   The next day, Herman returned to that same spot at the fence at about the same time, and the girl  threw him another apple.  For seven months she brought him apples.  "She was feeding more than my belly, this angel from heaven," Herman wrote later.  "She was feeding my soul."
   One day Herman got news that the prisoners would be shipped to another concentration camp.  When he met the girl at the fence that day, he told her, and said not to bring him an apple the next day.  Months passed, all his family had been killed, and only the memory of this girl sustained him until the war ended.  Later, Herman immigrated to America.
    In 1957, Herman lived in New York City, and a friend convinced him to go on a blind date with Roma, another immigrant.  She asked him where he was during the war, and he told her he was in a concentration camp in Germany.  She looked wistful, so he asked about it, and she told him she grew up near a Nazi concentration camp.  "There was a boy there, a prisoner, and for a long while I used to visit him every day," Roma said.  "I used to bring him apples.  I would throw the apple over the fence, and he would be so happy."  Then she sighed and said she assumed he'd been killed like so many others, but she couldn't bear to think about that.
   Herman asked, "And did that boy say to you one day, 'Do not bring me an apple tomorrow.  I am being sent to another camp'?"  Roma said yes, but wondered how he could know that.  Herman answered, "Because I was that young boy."
   Herman proposed, Roma accepted, they married, and they were still happily married 43 years later.

'Enterprise' red and 'GoldRush' yellow apples keep 7 to 10 months in a cooler or refrigerator in top condition.
   We'll still have great-tasting 'Enterprise' red and 'GoldRush' yellow apples, and 'Kanza' and 'Pawnee' pecans, for sale for the next 3 months or so.  From Dec. 1 to May 31 we're open by appointment, so call or e-mail a day or so in advance and leave a message saying when you're coming to get apples and/or pecans.  The phone rings in the house, and I check for messages every few hours, but on warmer days I'll be pruning in the orchards or sorting apples in the sales building.  For apple and pecan prices, scroll down three posts.  For highway detour directions, scroll down two posts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pruning Apple Trees

   The warmer weather last week gave us a chance to get most of our apple orchard pruned.  Dormant pruning of apple trees is a big job, especially on varieties like 'Enterprise' that produce a lot of vegetative growth.
   First Bill makes any large cuts needed with a chain saw.  These include large broken limbs, or limbs that are too crowded.  He didn't have to make too many such cuts this year, since we'd thinned the limbs well last year, and didn't have much limb breakage from storm damage or overcropping.
I used pneumatic loppers to thin out crowded branches, and to head back vigorous new branches from last season.
   Next we use pneumatic loppers, powered by an air compressor on the tractor, to remove vegetative watersprouts that grow straight up the center of a tree, to thin out crowded branches, and to head back vigorous new branches from last season.  Our workers were here the last two Saturday afternoons helping with this.
The apple tree on the left has been pruned with pneumatic loppers, powered by the blue air compressor on the back of the tractor.  Daniel Rennie is pruning off the many long, upright branches from the tree on the right.
   Finally, we do follow-up hand pruning, with hand pruners and long-handled loppers.  We remove any diseased portions of twigs or fruit-bearing spurs, and cut back overly long spurs and branches so the fruit doesn't weigh these branches down to the ground.  We also cut back smaller branches that are still growing too high or too far out into the aisles.
Rachael Triebel does follow-up hand pruning with hand pruners, and holds long-handled loppers to use for larger cuts.
   We'll still have great-tasting 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples, and 'Kanza' and 'Pawnee' pecans, for sale for the next 3 to 4 months.  From Dec. 1 to May 31 we're open by appointment, so call or e-mail a day or so in advance and leave a message saying when you're coming to get apples and/or pecans.  The phone rings in the house, and I check for messages every few hours, but on warmer days I'll be pruning in the orchards or sorting apples in the sales building.  For apple and pecan prices, scroll down two posts.  For highway detour directions, scroll down one post.