Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture’

Spring Haircut

With the official start of spring only a week away, we got to work this week giving the apple orchards their annual pruning. Ramon has been hard at work and has all the trees surrounding the nectar garden, stage, and back side of the winery road all done…on to the back orchard!

We always get a few calls every year with all kinds of questions about care and pruning of apple. Many inherit an old tree on their property that has been neglected, so here’s a brief guide to keep you on track. Remember that apples will grow on wood produced the previous year, so always leave around 50% of the previous year’s growth–you can always go back and trim more off if necessary, but you can’t put a branch back on. Wise words right?

Before Pruning

Old neglected tree

Old neglected tree

Timing

Prune newly planted young trees immediately after planting. Cut off any side shoots and trim the tree to 24 to 30 inches tall in order to promote low-growing branches. Do most of the pruning for apple trees during the dormant season when the leaves have fallen off for the winter. We prune every mid to late March after the coldest winter days and before and new foliage begins to show.

Thinning

In order to get fruit to grow abundantly on the lower branches, focus thinning out branches towards the top of the tree. Trimming towards the top of the tree allows sunlight to reach the lower branches, helping fruit production. It is also important to thin out the center, or scaffold, branches so that they are not overly crowded so sunlight and air penetrates the center of the tree. This allows foliage to dry and helps reduce disease pressure. It is also important to prune branches that cross and rub on each other.

Making Cuts and Removing Larger Branches

To prevent apple tree diseases, use sterilized tools to trim trees. A diluted bleach or alcohol solution will kill harmful fungal spores or bacteria. Make trimming cuts just above buds without leaving stubs behind, this will encourage the correct kind of future new growth. It is also important to avoid flesh cuts on remaining branches. When removing a branch or twig, leave the collar around the base of the branch rather than cutting into the branch or trunk from which it grows. Roughly a 1/4″ collar left where the branch connections to trunk will allow for a new branch to form.

Branches to Remove

Apple trees produce abundant fruit on new branches for several years, and they produce less fruit on old branches. Therefore, it is helpful to trim old branches once their fruit growth slows down. It is also helpful to remove diseased, damaged or dead branches. Ideally, branches grow at an upward 60-degree angle from the trunk. Prune branches that grow dramatically upwards or that hang down too much. These types of branches are often prone to splitting or breaking later on, especially in bad weather when laden with fruit.

After Pruning

Pruned and Rejuvenated

Pruned and Rejuvenated

Strawberries vs. The Robins

Patience has paid off, today we picked 2 overflowing flats of strawberries!! We had hoped to pick the first strawberry flat of the season on Monday, but it seems Mother Nature decided to take a break from spring, and go back to winter. Anticipating the snow, we were able to get all the strawberries covered and the garden plants inside the greenhouse. Snow actually provides good insulation for the berries so our worries were minimal at first, but the heavy wet snow today draws concerns over too much weight pushing down on the delicate blossoms.  It is still too early to judge how much the recent weather will affect the coming crop—till then we just have to sit back and enjoy a story from Ramon with a glass of strawberry wine and few (or more!) of the juicy-sweet berries.

Ramon, our chief berry picker, stopped in to share a humorous story about covering the fields the day before. If you have ever seen the rare sight that is Ramon laughing, you know it is something special. For the past few days, he was getting increasingly irritated at the Robins hopping up and down the field taking little pecks at the almost ripe strawberries. Having enough of their antics, he scared the birds away and decided to cover the berries early on Sunday afternoon. Checking on the fields a few hours later, the Robins were back, naturally, but the covered rows caught them completely off guard. They were hopping and bobbing around trying as hard as they could to figure out where the berries had gone—the wind blowing waves through the covers sending Robins tumbling. We gave the birds a little credit for determination, but could not help laughing! Ramon – 1, Robins – 0.

Picking - The First Phase of Wine