Oak Glen Orchard Inspection

I spent the morning Friday walking the orchards at Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen with Tom Spellman from Dave Wilson Nursery and a friend, along with the farm manager, Jeff Hammond.  Tom and I are actually competitors, but it doesn’t worry either of us; Dave Wilson Nursery has annual sales in excess of two million trees a year, and I’m lucky to get out 1,000.  I don’t think Dave Wilson is interested in carrying 100 varieties of apples either.

We inspected the older orchards, diagnosing some fireblight problems they had and recommending irrigating and mulching the older trees to boost production and prolong their useful life.  We sampled a Westfield Seek-No-Further apple from the 4-year old heirloom orchard that was wonderful, saw the heavy-laden Granny Smith crop, and remarked that it was good to see a grower planting more apples instead of tearing them out.

In a low-intenisity cultivated orchard like this, it became obvious that the best strategy for planting new benchgrafts is to start them the first year in a pot.  This allows close monitoring and watering, and also protects them from deer damage.  The next winter they can be planted out in the orchard as time and weather permits, avoiding the spring rush. 

We capped the morning with a wonderful lunch in the Hawk’s Head Public House tavern, the best post and beam colonial tavern in Southern California (OK, the only one in Southern California?)  Patrick Henry (AKA Jim Riley) came and sat with us a while and out the window I saw schoolkids dying (locked in a mock battle with Redcoats, AKA “bloody lobsterbacks”.  All in all a wonderful day.

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