Archive for July, 2009

Rwanda Orchard Update
July 12, 2009

Banda 7.12.09An update on the apple trees we send to Banda, Lake Kivu, Rwanda.  A missionary group visiting took the above photo, and I’m happy to say the trees are doing WONDERFUL!  The growth is comperable to what I have here in my nursery.  Typically at the end of the long rains they would strip the leaves to trigger dormancy and blossoming, but I asked them if they would hand-water them through the dry season until the short rains in November-December, and then strip the leaves at that time.  If they’re able to do this, I think they will get some excellent growth on these this year.

Even if some animal breaks in and munches the trees to the ground, we’ve proven that apple trees can thrive in the jungles of Rwanda, and will start thinking about mass plantings.  I thank God for allowing us to be part of this.

Banda July 09


Goodbye for Now
July 11, 2009

Anna Dorsett

One last look at a couple of great apples- Anna and Dorsett Golden.  We picked the last of them this weekend, and they were heavenly.  The photo doesn’t do them justice either, as these two were humongous.   If all the apples of the world performed like these two do, nobody would be hungry. 

We’ll just have to wait now until either Williams’ Pride, Gala, or Hawaii ripens up.  The Nittany tree is loaded, and I sure hope it’s as good as it was last year; if so, we’ll have a wonderful newcomer to our Warm Climate Apple List.

How to Tell When an Apple is Ripe
July 5, 2009

Ripe SeedsSometimes its hard to tell by the outside of an apple if it is ripe or not.  The way to be sure is by the seeds; the seed on the left is ripe, and the one on the right still needs a week or two to be fully ripe.

However, some apples are best for baking right before they are fully ripe, and some folks prefer the tartness of a “green” (not quite ripe) apple.  Other apples are only at their best when they are completely ripe.

Commercial apple varieties keep the best if they are picked before they are ripe, and you’ll sometimes find the seeds looking like the ones on the right.  Unfortunately, none of these commercial varieties improve with age, and so you’ll never taste them at their optimum.  Just another case for growing your own apples!

Smaller is Better
July 4, 2009

Smaller BetterA rootstock supplier was having a 50% off sale to clear out last year’s stock, so I ordered some Antonovka apple rootstocks, a hardy Siberian seedling.  I ordered a bundle of 3/8″ caliper and a bundle of 1/2″ caliper, and planted then in the two rows you see above, with the 1/2″ on the left and the 3/8″ on the right.

The 3/8″ has about a 80% success rate, while the 1/2″ has about a 80% failure rate.  They are the same variety from the same supplier grown in the same place with the same irrigation; yet the smaller stock transplanted much better.

I don’t begrudge the nursery for this, as they warned it’s awfully late in the season the they cannot guarantee the stock.  But it is a lesson for when you are picking out a tree at a nursery and automatically gravitate to the largest tree you can find; often its the smaller ones that will grow the best.

Apples to Congo
July 3, 2009

Congo PermitI received an import permit this week from the Congo.  They want to plant apple trees not only for the fruit, but to also help with re-forestation of the land that has been stripped for firewood.  Wood is the main cooking fuel both for Congo and Rwanda, as they have no oil or gas and any imports of these have to be trucked in all the way from Mombassa, Kenya.

There is a joint project between Congo and Rwanda on Lake Kivu to tap the large methane deposits trapped deep in the lake.  This would allow industry to the area such as cement plants and icemaking plants.  Lake Kivu is one of the notorious “exploding lakes” of central Africa, where a disruption to the lake such as an earthquake or volcanic eruption can cause the lake to “turn over”, releasing trapped methane and carbon dioxide and at best suffocating thousands of people and cattle, and at worst detonating and flattening entire regions.  The little things we take for granted here- some of our lakes may be dirty, but at least they don’t explode.

I’ll be starting research for Congo to see the best time of year to ship, and how to propagate the apple trees to achieve this timeframe.  I think Kenya is in the works also, and Sharon is traveling to Rwanda again the end of July.  You can follow her travels at her blog