Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Asparagus, Apples & Pecans for Sale

   Asparagus harvest is going strong, and goes until early June.  These are nice thick spears, and I snap asparagus off where it breaks easily, so almost the entire spear is tender and usable.  Asparagus is sold harvested for $2.78 per pound + tax.  Phone 620-597-2450 to order asparagus, and leave a message on the answering machine.
I snap off these thick asparagus spears where they break easily, so almost the entire spear is tender and usable.
  We still have many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale.  These apples taste much better than any sold in grocery stores, and are great for baking as well as fresh eating.  I give taste samples.  We also still have cracked 'Kanza' pecans for sale.  Scroll down 2 posts for prices.
   Strawberries should ripen about May 10 to 31, and are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only.  Picking strawberries will be harder this year, due to excess strawberry runners and clover which invaded the strawberry field.  The price is the same as last year, $2.55 per quart + tax.
   To make an appointment to pick strawberries, phone 620-597-2450 a week or so ahead, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and about what time you want to come pick, and how many quarts you want to pick.  Also state your phone number (it's not recorded unless you state it).  I will get the message and return your call to confirm.

'Natchez' (right row) and 'Ouachita' (left row) blackberries have started blooming, so it looks like our thornless blackberry season will start in early June this year.
   Blackberries have started blooming, so it looks like our thornless blackberry season will start early this year, about June 8.  Raspberry season should be about the same as usual.  We've been very busy pruning, mowing, mulching and controlling weeds in the blackberry and raspberry plantings, and there's still more to do.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Pruning & Breeding Apples

   We've had two more frosts since my last blog post, for a total of 6 frosts during peach and pear bloom.  One frost got even colder, to 25 F, and it now looks like most of the peach crop was lost.  We should still have some late-ripening peaches, about 30% of a normal crop, as there are still a fair number of young fruit on 'Intrepid', 'Contender' and 'Glowingstar' varieties.  These should ripen from about July 20 to about Aug. 20.  Almost all fruit on the early peach varieties were lost, so there will be only a very few peaches to sell before about July 20.
   Pears were hit even harder by the frosts.  It looks like we'll have about 10% of a normal European pear crop this year, and about 25% of a normal Asian pear crop.
Last Saturday, our workers Tim Epler (left) and Tre Maxton (right) helped prune apple trees, using pneumatic loppers, while trees were blooming.
   Apple trees have been blooming for the past 10 days, and we've been very busy pruning them.  We should have a full apple crop this year.  We're also still pruning raspberry and thornless blackberry plants.  These berries bloom later, and we should have great crops of both raspberries and thornless blackberries.
   Apple bloom is also the time I make controlled crosses for my apple breeding program, which takes a lot of time.  When apple flowers on the trees I'll use as parents are in the bud stage, I remove anthers, petals and sepals from them, leaving only the pistils.  I pick out the anthers containing the pollen, dry them, and store the pollen in vials in the fridge.  Then I use a small artist's paintbrush to hand-pollinate the pistils on the female parent tree with pollen from the male parent tree.
Here I hand-pollinated pistils on 'Sun Giant', the female parent tree, with pollen from 'GoldRush', the male parent tree.
   When the apples ripen, I can tell my crosses because they have no sepals, the small green leaves at the calyx end of the fruit.  So I save the seeds from those fruit, stratify them over winter, plant them in pots next spring, and plant the potted trees in the field in fall 2017.  After 8 or 9 years, these trees start to bear fruit that I can evaluate.  Promising selections get numbers, and if very promising are named and later propagated.
Bill just grafted 'Sun Giant' to this rootstock, as mature trees of 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' bloom in the background in our main apple orchard.  In a few years, this tree will bear fruit identical to the original 'Sun Giant' tree, a selection from my apple breeding program.
   Last week Bill grafted some selections from my apple breeding program onto rootstocks in our main apple orchard.  I especially like 'Sun Giant', a cross of 'Sundance' and Coop 34.  I made that cross in 2003, selected it in 2014, and named it in 2015.  Last year and this year I used 'Sun Giant' as a parent in making controlled crosses.
   We still have many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale.  These apples taste much better than any sold in grocery stores, and are great for baking as well as fresh eating.  I give taste samples.  We also still have cracked 'Kanza' pecans for sale. 
   Asparagus harvest has just started, and goes until late May.  These are nice thick spears, and I snap asparagus off where it breaks easily, so almost the entire spear is tender and usable.  Asparagus is sold harvested for $2.78 per pound + tax.  Phone 620-597-2450 a few days ahead to order asparagus, and leave a message on the answering machine.
   From Dec. 1 to May 31, we're open by appointment.  That means to phone 620-597-2450 a day or so ahead, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and about what time you're coming.  I do not need to call you back; I will get the message and meet you in the sales building when you come.  (The phone rings in the house, so if you wait to call until on your way here, I probably won't get your message before you come, since I'm working outside or sorting apples in the sales building.)
   Strawberries will be very limited this year, as many plants that I planted last year died from excess rain, and I didn't have enough time last summer and fall to control weeds in strawberries.  Strawberries are blooming now, and some early blooms were killed by frosts.
Some early strawberry blooms were killed by frosts, such as the 3 flowers with black centers in the middle of the photo.  Healthy flowers, with yellow centers, will develop into fruit.
   Strawberries should start ripening in early May, and are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only.  Picking strawberries will be harder this year, due to excess strawberry runners and clover which invaded the strawberry field.  After this strawberry season, we will retire from growing strawberries for sale, after providing pick-your-own strawberries to this area for 13 years. We'll still grow and sell 10 other species of fruit crops, plus pecans and asparagus, which keeps us extremely busy!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Peach & Pear Crops Survived 4 Frosts

   The peach crop and the pear crop have survived 4 frosts so far, praise God, and we're still praying they'll survive any other frosts yet to come over the next 2 weeks.  This morning it dropped to 26 F again, so many peach flowers and pear flowers were killed, especially those low on the trees.  Some open flowers still have live pistils (the part that produces the fruit), and a few peach flowers and pear flowers are still in the bud stage, where the pistils are protected from frosts, so those should bear fruit.
These Asian pear blooms have many killed pistils, such as all the lowest flowers in the photo, but some flowers still have live pistils.
   Each mature fruit tree produces thousands of flowers, since they bloom early in the season, as insurance against loss of fruits to frost.  So light frosts provide some beneficial fruit thinning, as long as temperatures don't drop to 25 F or below, which can kill all flowers and eliminate the crop.  Each year we have to thin excess fruit to adjust the crop load to the optimum amount that each tree can support, to ensure good fruit size and minimize limb breakage.  During years with no frosts, we have to do a lot more fruit thinning.
These 'China Pearl' peach trees (with pink blooms) ant the pear trees in the background (with white blooms) still have good crops
   Right now it looks like we'll still have a good peach crop and a good pear crop, though we'll probably have fewer of the earliest-ripening peach varieties. The plumcot crop was all killed by frosts, since plumcots bloom very early, and tiny developing fruits are killed by frosts below 28 F.  Apple trees are just starting to bloom now, so the apple crop is in no danger.
   Our workers and I pruned more blackberries this afternoon, and I will be busy pruning peach trees and apple trees all next week.  We still have many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale, and cracked 'Kanza' pecans.  Phone 620-597-2450 a day or so ahead, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and about what time you're coming.  When I'm pruning the peach and apple orchards, I can't see or hear vehicles come in the driveway, so it's best to call ahead, but if you drop by, ring the bell on the sales building, which I can usually hear.
   Prices for apples, pecans and asparagus are listed in the previous post.  Asparagus should start about April 1 (later than I first thought, as we had cooler weather for awhile) and will be available until late May or early June.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Peach Crop Survived First Frost

   Early this morning it dropped to 26 F here, and most of our peach trees are in full bloom now.  When I checked the peach trees in mid-morning, many flowers had killed pistils (the flower part which produces the fruit), so no fruit will develop from those flowers.  But praise God, many other flowers still had live pistils.  The earliest-blooming peach varieties, such as 'Challenger' and 'Early Redhaven', were hurt more than later-blooming peach varieties, such as 'Intrepid', 'Glowingstar' and 'China Pearl.'
These 'China Pearl ' white peach trees had fewer killed pistils than the earliest-blooming peach varieties.
   Another frost is predicted for early Palm Sunday morning.  The predicted temperature of 30 F will not hurt the peach crop (or the pear crop) at all.  A 3rd frost of 29 F is predicted for early Monday morning, March 21.  So we are praying that temperatures here don't drop much below those predictions, and that the peach crop survives these frosts and any others yet to come over the next 3 weeks.
   Our workers and I pruned more blackberries this afternoon, and I will be busy pruning peach trees and pear trees all next week.  We still have many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale, and cracked 'Kanza' pecans.  Phone 620-597-2450 a day or so ahead, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and about what time you're coming.  When I'm pruning the peach and pear orchards, I can't see or hear vehicles come in the driveway, so it's best to call ahead, but if you drop by, ring the bell on the sales building, which I can usually hear.
This is the view of our peach orchard (in rear) from the house, with forsythia and flowering quince blooming under pine trees in the foreground.  The phone rings in the house, so you need to call a day ahead (or at least a few hours ahead) for me to get your message before you come.
   Our #1 apples, with no damage, sell just as fast as I sort them.  A 20-lb. box of #1 apples still costs $23.15 + tax ($1.15 per pound + tax), which saves $1.00 off the per-pound price.
   We have many 2nds apples, with small cracks, cork spots or other surface damage, so we've just reduced the price on these.  A 20-lb. box of 2nds apples now costs just $14.82 + tax ($0.74 per pound + tax).  When you buy two boxes, each 20-lb. box of 2nds apples costs just $13.89 + tax ($0.69 per pound + tax), so that's $27.78 + tax  for 40 lbs. of 2nds apples. 
   Pecans are still $15.05 per 5-pound bag + tax.  Asparagus should start about March 28 and is sold harvested for $2.78 per pound + tax.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pruning Blackberries, Pears and Peaches

   We're taking full advantage of this nice weather during our workers' spring breaks from high school and college, and we're getting a lot of pruning done.  We pruned pears last Thursday and yesterday, and started peach pruning this morning.  Each afternoon we're still pruning blackberries.
Brandon Ledford helped prune pear trees last Thursday while on spring break from college, using a pneumatic pole pruner.
   From Dec. 1 to May 31, we're open by appointment.  That means to phone 620-597-2450 a day or so ahead, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and about what time you're coming.  If you just drop by while we're pruning peaches, I can't see the driveway and can't hear vehicles over the noise of the air compressor on the tractor that powers the pneumatic pruners.
Ben Miller (right) and Tre Maxton (left) helped prune peach trees this morning. 
The pneumatic pruners are powered by the blue air compressor on the back of the tractor, and we place the prunings on the trailer in the background, and haul them to the burn pile.
   The phone rings in the house, and I check for phone messages several times each day.  If you wait to call until on your way here, I probably won't get your message before you come, since I'm working outside.  If it's cold or raining, I'm sorting apples in the sales building.  
    We still have many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale.  These apples taste much better than any sold in grocery stores, and are great for baking as well as fresh eating.  I give taste samples.  We also still have cracked 'Kanza' pecans for sale.  For prices, scroll down 3 posts.
   Asparagus harvest should start in a week or two, and goes until late May.  Asparagus details and price are in the previous post.
Peach trees are in full bloom now.
   Our peach orchard is in beautiful bloom now.  A 32 F frost is predicted for early Palm Sunday morning.  That temperature will not hurt the peach crop (or the pear crop) at all.  A freeze of less than 28 F would cause damage, so we hope that will not happen over the next month.