Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter Mulch for Strawberries

   Over the weekend I applied winter mulch to the strawberry field.  Strawberries got their name because the plants need to be protected from winter cold by placing several inches of straw over them during winter.  The straw insulates the plants from fluctuating soil temperatures that would cause repeated soil freezing and thawing, which can cause strawberry crowns to heave out of the soil and die.  The mulch keeps the soil from heating up so much during the day, and helps it retain more heat at night.
I had mulched the back of these strawberry beds, while the front hadn't received mulch yet.  This mulch will stay on top of the plants until mid-March, protecting them from winter cold.
   Strawberry leaves are semi-evergreen, and don't turn brown until mid-winter.  Mulch needs to be applied while they're still green, about mid-Dec. in our area.  Remove the mulch in spring when new leaves start to grow, about mid-March in our area, and place it in the aisles between the strawberry beds to provide a soft, clean area for picking fruit.  Residual mulch left around the strawberry plants keeps ripening fruit off the soil, greatly reducing fruit rots.
   A couple weeks ago Bill applied the fall copper spray to our peach orchard to prevent leaf curl disease.  He's now winterized the sprayers.  A couple weeks ago I placed white tree guards around the young peach trees to prevent winter damage to the trunks from heating up so much during the day, then freezing at night.  I also put black mesh guards around them to protect against deer and rabbit feeding.
Our young peach trees have white tree guards around them to prevent winter damage to the trunks, black mesh guards to protect against deer and rabbit feeding, and buckets with holes in the bottom to water the trees during dry spells.
   We've now sold out of all 'GoldRush' apples and all #1 'Enterprise' apples, but we still have some nice #2 'Enterprise' apples in our new cooler, which keeps them in good condition.  We'll be selling them all Dec. and into Jan.  Call 620-597-2450 if you want to come buy some.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Propagating & Ordering More Fruit Plants

   Since I finished harvesting apples on Nov. 16, I spent most of last week propagating more 'Triple Crown' thornless blackberries.  Our 'Triple Crown' planting had sections of another thornless blackberry variety, 'Navaho' mixed in.  'Navaho' was the first upright thornless blackberry variety released and tastes good, but the fruit are smaller, and many customers complained about that.
   So Bill cut off all the 'Navaho' canes with a weedeater a few weeks ago, and I herbicided the stubs to kill the plants.  Then last week I carefully dug up the tip layers of 'Triple Crown', where the long side branches arch to the ground and send out roots, and transplanted them to the spots between the stubs of the removed 'Navaho' plants.  I'll transplant more next spring to replace those that get killed over the winter.  The new 'Triple Crown' plants should start bearing fruit in 2013.
I dug tip layers from arching 'Triple Crown' side branches that rooted at the tips (back row), and transplanted them (small green plant at left) between killed stumps of 'Navaho' blackberries (right).
   I also put tree guards around our new peach planting and noted what trees need replacing.  The new peach planting contains all varieties from a private breeding program in Michigan, called the Stellar peaches, because all have "star" in their name.  These peaches are very cold-hardy, resistant to bacterial spot and bacterial canker, and produce large, flavorful, freestone fruit that hang well on the tree and are slow to brown when cut.  Hopefully we'll start harvesting some 'Glowingstar' in 2012, and the others starting in 2013.  They'll include 'Redstar', 'Blazingstar', 'Starfire', 'Coralstar', 'Allstar' and 'Autumn Star'.
'Glowingstar' peach, from the Stellar peach series website.

   Over the last few days of rain and extreme cold I've been investigating new strawberry varieties, and have decided to try 'Galletta' and 'L'Amour'.  I still love 'Earliglow' for flavor and fruit rot resistance, but these varieties have larger fruit and 'Galletta' escapes most anthracnose fruit rot. So I'll put in a small trial this spring.
   We've ordered some new scab-resistant apples and fire blight-resistant pear varieties that we'll plant in spring also.  We still have many #2 apples in our new cooler, and will have them for sale all during Dec. and into Jan.