Thursday, October 27, 2011

Planting Shade Trees for New Sales Building

   Over the past week, in between harvesting literally tons of apples, I planted shade trees around our new sales building and replaced a couple young shade trees at our church that died in last summer's long drought.  My favorite shade tree is 'Autumn Blaze' maple, Acer x freemanii.  This is a hybrid between red maple and silver maple that has the rapid growth and drought tolerance of silver maple, and the stronger branches and good red fall color of red maple.  Several 'Autumn Blaze' maples that I planted around our new house 15 years ago are now about 40 feet tall and look stunning in fall.
These 'Autumn Blaze' maples (center, far right & far left), planted around our house 15 years ago, provide great shade in summer and fine fall color.
   Unfortunately all the nurseries were out of 'Autumn Blaze' maples this fall, but we got a good red maple, 'Brandywine', from Mike Shade at the Botany Shop in Joplin.  This red maple has a somewhat columnar habit, staying narrow for its height, which is important around our sales building to avoid electric lines.
I planted 'Brandywine' red maples (small trees in front with white tree guards) on the west, south and east sides of our new sales building.  The red-leaved tree in the background is an 'Autumn Blaze' maple.
   I've now filled the cooler in our new sales building with harvested apples, so we need to sell more to make room for more!  'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' keep well in a cooler or fridge for 6 to 7 months.
Our new cooler is now filled with apples.
   Our pick-your-own apple harvest season continues, with 'Enterprise' nearing the end of its harvest season and 'GoldRush' still going through most of November.  Kids love to pick their own apples, so bring them!
Customers enjoyed picking 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples last weekend.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dealing with Deer

   Deer cause a lot of damage in orchards.  The worst problems are bucks rubbing on branches of young trees in late summer and fall, to mark their territory and rub velvet off their antlers, and deer eating the bark off young trees in winter.  Both these activities can kill the young trees.  After losing several young apple and peach trees, we now place wire cages around all young trees to protect them for deer damage.
This young pear tree, which Bill grafted last year, is protected from deer damage with a wire cage.
    Deer love to eat strawberry plants, and will eat them to the ground, killing the plants.  The last time we planted a strawberry field, we placed a plastic deer fence around the perimeter of this small field, and it has eliminated the damage.
   Deer also love to eat peaches, pears and especially apples.  We lose quite a lot of low-hanging fruit to deer, especially this fall's apple crop since the summer was so dry.  Birds also peck more fruit when it's dry, to get the moisture, as wild fruits are far less plentiful.
   This fall I tried an old remedy that some say works for them, hanging bars of strong-smelling Irish Spring soap in the trees.  It hasn't seemed to reduce deer damage much.  Hopefully in a couple years we can afford to put an electric fence around the orchards.
This fall I tried hanging strong-smelling soap in our apple trees, but I haven't noticed any reduction in fruit knocked off or chomped by deer.
   Our son Michael is a hunter and helped reduce the deer herd in our woods for a couple of years, but he's away at college now.  Our neighbor's nephew, a bow hunter, just asked for and was granted permission to hunt in our woods.  We hope he gets a deer and scares away others.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

'GoldRush' apples & apple crosses ripening

   We started harvesting 'GoldRush' apples a couple days ago, and now have some harvested ones for sale and some for pick-your-own.  'GoldRush' was named for the rush of flavor you get when you bite into it, and it's the favorite apple of many customers.  'GoldRush' keeps for 7 months in the fridge -- I eat one fresh with my lunch every day until strawberries start in early May -- and the flavor gets even better after a few weeks in the fridge, as starches convert into sugars.
'GoldRush', our latest-ripening apple variety, has started ripening.
   Many 'Enterprise' apples are also still ripening, and we have lots of these harvested for sale and for pick-your-own.  'Enterprise' is also excellent for fresh eating, baking and cooking, and keeps 6 months in the fridge.
I harvest 'Enterprise' apples from the upper branches using a ladder.  Pick-your-own customers harvest fruit they can reach when standing on the ground.  We planted dwarf apple trees and keep them pruned low, so most fruit can be picked without a ladder.
   I've also been harvesting the apples from the controlled crosses I made this year, to save the seeds to grow in my breeding program.  This year I made crosses between 'GoldRush' and Coop 27 apples.  Both parents are immune to apple scab and have large, crisp, flavorful fruit.  Coop 27 has a flavor similar to 'Jonathan', and 'GoldRush' has flavor similar to 'Golden Delicious' but more intense, so I'm hoping some of the offspring may have a flavor similar to 'Jonagold'. 
The 'GoldRush' apple at left is one of my crosses, 'GoldRush' x Coop 27.  You can tell it's a cross because it lacks the sepals (tiny green leaves at the bottom of the fruit) of the apple at right.  I cut off the sepals, petals and anthers before pollinating the stigmas with Coop 27 pollen I'd collected, to ensure a controlled cross of the chosen pollen parent.
   I'll have to wait at least 6 or 7 years before I get to taste fruit from the offspring of this year's crosses.  This year, I've harvested fruit from some of the first crosses I made 6 and 7 years ago.  I have a couple of seedlings from 'Sundance' that have great flavor.  I've taken notes on these selections, and will watch them again next year.

Friday, October 7, 2011

'Enterprise' apples & 'Harrowsweet' pears ripe

   I've been harvesting lots of 'Enterprise' apples over the last couple weeks and so have our pick-your-own customers.  We'll keep harvesting 'Enterprise' for the next 6 weeks.  I've also harvested some Coop 27, an experimental selection from the same scab-immune breeding program, and give sample slices to taste of both of these apples.  We'll start harvesting 'GoldRush' in about a week, and continue till late Nov. or even early Dec.
'Enterprise' apples are ripe now through mid-Nov.
   A few of our last European pear variety, 'Harrowsweet', are still ripening.  I give sample slices of the pears too, and everyone loves it.  Our pear crop was greatly reduced this year due to last winter's cold, though, so pears are limited.
A few 'Harrowsweet' pears will be ripening for the next 7-10 days.
   The apple crop is big, but hail last June caused a lot of surface scarring and cracking, so we have more #2 apples this year and less #1's.  The #2's are just 2/3 the price of the #1's, yet usually 95% to 99% of the apple is still usable, so many customers like to get them.
Customers may pick fruit from the 'Enterprise' tree at left, now till mid-Nov.  The 'GoldRush' tree at back right may be picked starting about Oct. 15 to late Nov.