Thursday, May 30, 2013

Harvesting Strawberries & Thinning Peaches

   Pick-your-own strawberry harvest began on May 23, and we were very busy over Memorial Day weekend and the next few days.  With rain today, I had to reschedule today's customers, and have time to write this blog.  Strawberry harvest should continue until about June 15 this year.  Raspberry harvest will run from about June 10 to July 15 this year.
Strawberry harvest should continue until about June 15 this year.  Call 620-597-2450 to make an appointment to pick strawberries. 
   Strawberries are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only.  Call 620-597-2450 a few days before you want to come harvest strawberries, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and time you want to pick, with your phone number.  I'll call you back to confirm.
   From June 1 to Aug. 31, we're open our summer hours, as the sidebar at left shows.  We're open Monday to Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 12 noon and 7 to 9 p.m., and Sunday 7 to 9 p.m. only.  We're closed Sunday mornings for church, and every afternoon from 12 noon to 7 p.m.  You need to call ahead to pick strawberries, and it's best to call to check on the first-ripening raspberries and blackberries, but once raspberries and blackberries are bearing heavily you don't need an appointment.
   Our 6 workers spent the past 10 workdays hand-thinning peaches, a total of about 420 hours, and have finally finished that job by May 30, right on schedule.  Hand-thinning of peaches took more time this year, since we never had a frost during peach bloom to kill some of the blossoms.  With no frost, we need to remove 90% of the young fruit, thinning the remaining peaches to about 6 inches apart on the branch, so they will grow to a large size and not touch, which could induce rots.  Fruit thinning reduces limb breakage, greatly reduces fruit rots, and produces larger, sweeter peaches.  Without thinning, many tiny fruit would develop that would be worthless.
Our workers (left to right) Ian Triebel, Rachael Triebel, Brandon Ledford and Daniel Rennie, plus three others not pictured, have been working hard thinning peaches for the past 10 workdays.
   Next our workers will be pruning and mulching blackberries, then they'll go on to follow-up hand-thinning of pears and apples.  Starting about July 1, they'll be harvesting peaches. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Thinning Peaches, Berries Developing

   Strawberry harvest should finally start late next week, and run from May 24 to about June 15 this year.  That's a full month later than last year.  2012 was a record early harvest, 3 weeks earlier than average, and 2013 is a record late harvest, 2 weeks later than average.
Strawberries are starting to gain size on April 17, but are still a week away from the start of harvest.
   Strawberries are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only.  Call 620-597-2450 a few days before you want to come harvest strawberries, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and time you want to pick, with your phone number.  I'll call you back to confirm.
   We also have harvested asparagus for sale by order, now till about June 15.  We still have lots of nice 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale, kept in top condition in our cooler.  There are plenty of large apples, both #1's and #2's, plus some smaller #1 'Enterprise' apples that I sorted for schools, which prefer the smaller size as they're perfect for kids' lunches.  With schools winding down for the year, I have a couple boxes of these smaller #1 'Enterprise' apples to sell to those who ask for them.
   We're still open by appointment until May 31, so call at least a few hours ahead and leave a message on the answering machine, saying what day & time you'll be coming to get asparagus and/or apples.  We're very busy thinning peaches now, and can't see the driveway from the peach orchard, and don't always hear people come in if they just drop by.  I'm also busy with weed control in blackberries, and can't hear cars over the sound of the tractor.
'Natchez' thornless balckberries are blooming heavily now, and should start to ripen about June 24 or so.
   We've almost finished limb shaking of peaches to thin them, and have just started on follow-up hand thinning.  Limb shaking took about 34 hours this year, and hand thinning will take about 220 hours total by 5 workers plus myself.  We'll be thinning for the next 3 weeks.
Rachael Triebel, our other workers, and I used pneumatic limb shakers to shake some fruit loose.  Now we're doing follow-up hand thinning.  

Bill applied nitrogen fertilizer to the peach orchard on May 15.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Strawberry Harvest Delayed by Cold Spring

   Strawberry plants are blooming well now.  Some blossoms were killed last week by freezing temperatures, so the crop will be reduced somewhat, and harvest will start a full 4 weeks later than last year.  Estimated strawberry harvest time this year should be about May 18 to June 10 or so.  I've been painting the new highway sign for strawberries on cold, wet days.
Strawberry plants are blooming well now. Some blossoms, such as the ones at far left and bottom right with black centers, were killed last week by freezing temperatures, but most blooms are still alive and will set fruit.
   Strawberries are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only.  Call 620-597-2450 a few days before you want to come harvest strawberries, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and time you want to pick, with your phone number.  I'll call you back to confirm.
   We also have harvested asparagus for sale by order, now till about June 15.  During the 3 days this past week when temperatures reached 85 to 87 F, I harvested asparagus twice a day, and sold a lot.  With highs in the 40's, it doesn't grow much, but it's supposed to get warmer next week.
   We still have lots of nice 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale, kept in top condition in our cooler.  There are plenty of large apples, both #1's and #2's, plus some smaller #1 'Enterprise' apples that I sorted for schools, which prefer the smaller size as they're perfect for kids' lunches.  With schools winding down for the year, I have a couple boxes of these smaller #1 'Enterprise' apples that I can sell to those who ask for them.
I used a paintbrush to pollinate stigmas of flowers I'd emasculated on this 'GoldRush' tree with Coop 27 pollen I'd collected, dried and stored in the vial, to create controlled crosses of  'GoldRush' X Coop 27.
   In between the cold spells and rains, I made controlled crosses of 'Enterprise', 'GoldRush' and Coop 27 blooms for my apple breeding program.  I'll harvest seeds from the fruit that develop from these crosses, stratify the seeds over winter in the fridge, then plant them in pots in spring 2014.  Next week I'll be planting seeds from crosses I made in 2012, then in fall I plant the seedlings out in the field.  Seedling trees from crosses I made 6 or 7 years ago are now blooming, and I'll evaluate the fruit this fall.  Since I use only parents immune to apple scab disease, all the seedlings should be scab-immune, and I'll evaluate for fruit quality and resistance to other diseases, such as fire blight and cedar-apple rust.  It takes many years to develop and test new apple varieties, but that is how 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples were developed.
Plumcots are pea-sized now, when I started thinning excess fruit.  I thinned off damaged fruit and double fruit, such as the one in the center of the photo, caused by cold temperatures during bloom and fruit set.
   I started thinning plumcots last week, during hot afternoons so I got some shade.  We have a good crop of plumcots this year, and with early thinning they should get good size and ripen in late June.  The peach crop will need a lot of thinning again this year, and it'll be time to start thinning peaches in about 10 days.