Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Apple and Cherry Plantings

   Last week I planted 55 more apple trees, of 3 new varieties, and a small trial cherry planting of 10 trees, 2 each of 5 different varieties.  Since yesterday at noon it's been raining constantly (and we may have a flood), so the new trees are well watered and I have time to update this blog.
   We ordered our apple trees custom-grafted from Adams County Nursery in PA.  We choose scab-immune varieties (Galarina, Querina, and Crimson Topaz) grafted on Bud. 9 dwarfing interstem, which was grafted on MM111 rootstock.  The MM111 rootstock provides an extensive root system with good anchorage and drought tolerance, while the interstem keeps the tree smaller.  If the varieties were grafted just on Bud. 9 rootstock, the resulting dwarf trees would be less well-anchored so would need staking, and the smaller root system would need more irrigation and fertilizer.
   These 3-part trees have extensive root systems, so need large planting holes.  We start digging these holes using a tractor-mounted auger.  After Bill uses the auger, I follow up with a hand shovel to enlarge the holes and break up the sides which the auger left slick, so the roots can grow out without impediment.
Bill started digging planting holes with a soil auger.  Some of the trees to be planted are in the bucket, soaking in water to keep the roots moist.
   When planting, I set the interstem section about half above and half below the soil line, just slightly deeper than the tree was growing in the nursery, and spread out the roots in the hole.  After filling soil back in the hole, I tamp it down well to eliminate air pockets which could kill roots, and water in the newly-planted tree.  Then I prune back the branches, cutting off broken branches and trimming side branches back by about half, to match the tree tops to the roots which were already pruned by the nursery's digging operation.  This reduces stress on the new tree, better enabling it to survive transplanting and thrive during the coming growing season.  
   Our peach orchard reached full bloom on March 16, which is quite early, but no frosts are in the forecast so far.  We hope temperatures don't go below 27 F or so, which could kill all the young fruit as happened in 2007, but a light frost would provide needed fruit thinning.  Without one, we'll have to do a lot of hand thinning.
Our peach orchard was in full bloom late last week.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Preparing Planting Beds for Strawberries & Peaches

   We've been preparing raised beds over the last couple weeks, for new plantings of strawberries and peaches that I'll plant in a few weeks.  Both crops need well-drained soil to avoid root rots, as do blackberries and raspberries also.  Since our soil is a somewhat poorly drained silt loam, we build raised beds for all these crops before planting.
   Bill built two different tractor-pulled implements to make raised beds.  The strawberry bedder makes two raised beds on each pass, each 2 feet wide, with 2 feet of aisle space between them.  After each pass, he drives over the the second bed on the next pass to widen the aisles.  Our new strawberry field has 9 beds, and I'll plant it to 3 rows each of 3 different varieties.
Bill's preparing raised beds for our new strawberry planting, using a bedder he built.  We'll connect this new planting to our existing strawberry field at back right, by moving the deer fence & buying more fencing to encompass this new field.  Next week I'll take the winter straw mulch off the top of the strawberry beds in the existing field.
    Bill built the bedder he uses to make raised beds for peaches, blackberries and raspberries from a disc harrow. It creates beds about 3 feet wide, spaced as far apart as we want the rows to be.  For blackberries and raspberries we space the rows 11 to 12 feet apart, and for peaches about 22 feet apart.
   I'll start planting more apples late next week, after our tree order arrives.  We use apple and pear rootstocks that tolerate somewhat poorly drained soils, so we don't need to build raised beds for them.  We plant apples and pears directly into killed sod, minimizing disturbance of the soil.
   Early next week I'll take the winter straw mulch off the top of the strawberry beds in the existing field, and place the mulch in the aisles for a clean picking surface.  Meanwhile, whenever the weather's conducive, I'm still pruning peaches, blackberries and raspberries.  We've already applied a dormant oil spray to the apples and pears and a couple sprays on the peaches, and will apply the first anthracnose spray to blackberries and raspberries next week.
Thornless blackberry plants have broken bud, and new shoots are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, so it's time to apply a copper spray to prevent anthracnose disease of the canes.