Archive for May, 2009

Baby Apple Trees
May 30, 2009

SeedlingsThis is a tray of apple trees sprouted from seed, Pink Lady to be exact.  Usually apple seeds need a period of damp refrigeration to sprout, but Pink Lady has the odd habit of sprouting inside the apple after sitting a while. 

I’m raising these to bud graft for some applications where I need a vigorous, rugged tree.  Some are going up to a Boy Scout camp in the mountains, some are going to a friend’s field, and some may end up going to Africa.  I’m experimenting with seedlings in an attempt to produce apple trees in the “off” season, as in Africa the planting season is dictated by the long rains, which differ all over the continent. 

I can buy seedling rootstock that’s already 3/8″ caliper quite cheaply, but its only available in a dormant stage.  Next year I may try sprouting seed in January in order to bud graft by May and send overseas by September.  Just another way to play with apple trees.

Annoyingly Productive
May 26, 2009

Lord Lamborne

With some apple varieties, you hope you’ll get something each year.  With others, you wish it would quit already.  This is Lord Lamborne, an English apple popular with backyard gardeners.  You can tell why; the branches explode in blossoms and each blossom sets a fruit.  This is annoying to the commercial grower, because it means he either has to thin these all by hand to one per cluster, or spray a chemical to make it self-thin.  Either way it is an expense to him.

If you don’t thin, the tree can revert to Bi-Annualism.  This is when the tree overbears one year, producing a large crop of tiny apples.  The next year it is so tired out that it produces almost nothing.  And of course, the following year after that it’s all rested up and produces a huge crop of tiny apples, etc. 

The way to avert this is to thin savagely.  It is dismaying to some to see all the tiny apples at your feet, but it is really the best for the tree; you’ll end up harvesting more pounds of apples this way than if you left all the tiny apples on.

Dorsett Golden
May 23, 2009

Dorsett Golden

The apple trees in this photo are all the same age and rootstock, but the maniac on the left that is three times the size of the others and loaded with apples is Dorsett Golden.  Not only is it loaded with apples, it is shooting out branches all over the place that will have fruiting spurs growing on them by the end of summer.  Just for good measure it will bear a second crop of apples in the fall.

Dorsett golden grew from a seed in the Bahamas, and is quite content to fruit with no chilling at all.  It is reported to have been a seedling of Golden Delicious, but the University of Florida, who imported the variety into the USA, suspects that this is false.  They surmise that it grew from an apple that somehow made it to the Bahamas from Kibbutz Ein Shemer in Israel, where Abba Stein was busy crossing a local Arab crab Red Hadassya with Golden Delicious, which resulted in another wonderful variety called Anna.  This offspring may have resembled Golden Delicious, which would account for the confusion.

Regardless of the origin, it is wonderful quality; crisp, sweet, a bit of spice, and holds up OK for baking.  We like it chopped up in home-made ice cream.  It is popular in the tropics, both in it’s own right and as a pollinator for Anna.  It is strange that here is an outstanding apple that can feed half the world, but traditional apple growing regions cannot grow it; it blossoms in January and is invariably blossom-damaged by frost. 

We grafted a couple on seedling rootstock and planted them at schools, where they are bound to provide enough apples to feed the entire student population.  The tree is a lesson in giving; it explodes in blossoms, sets a heavy crop of fruit reliably each year (twice a year in fact), and still manages to gain two to three feet of growth each year.  It is a gift from God that we hope to send to many more places on this earth.

School Orchard
May 19, 2009

Gravenstein

This spring I grafted trees for another elementary school orchard.  The school is preparing the ground now, and we’ll run the drip irrigation tomorrow and then the kids will  spread shredder chips over the whole area during recesses.

It’s important to incorporate child labor into these projects, as it gives them a sense of ownership and teaches them the value of hard work.   Some silly parents look at this as cruel, but the kids have a blast and are hurt if they don’t get  a chance to work.  They literally bust with pride  when the trees start bearing apples and they remember that they had a part in it.