Archive for January, 2011

More Zambia Photos
January 22, 2011

We received another update photo from a commercial farmer in Zambia that we shipped apple benchgrafts to last spring.  The trees are developing a pretty good caliper and you can certainly tell the direction of the prevailing wind.  These M111 rootstocks will anchor well however and will resist blowing over with a full load of fruit.

This photo was in December and I advised them that it is about time to strip off the leaves by hand, triggering next season’s growth.  The farmer is pretty well set up with irrigation ponds, but it looks like they get decent water anyway.  It will be exciting to see if they get any fruit this season (I think they will).

Fall and Spring
January 16, 2011


This photo was a week ago, when the apple trees were finally looking like it was fall.  Since then the temperatures shot up into the 80s, wind blew all the leaves off, and today Dorsett Golden and Anna started to swell and show red tips on the terminal ends.  This caught me by surprise and I cut all my Dorsett Golden scionwood and now it’s packed in wet sawdust and safely in the freezer, where it will sleep for a couple months until we’re ready to graft.

 Keeping it frozen between 24 and 28 degrees has been tougher than I thought.  Most freezers, especially the new ones, will not get that warm, and the new refrigerators absolutely will not get that cold.  However my 5-year-old Franklin Chef dorm room refrigerator holds that temp quite nicely, and I’ve kept a carton of water frozen for a couple of weeks as a test.

It may be warm and dry for the rest of the month after getting a record wet and cold December, and so we can expect full blossom on both trees within a week or two.  I raid a neighbor’s Anna tree for scionwood, and so I’ll have to go over there tomorrow to see if there’s any yet that hasn’t sprouted (there usually is).  It will join the Dorsett Golden in the freezer awaiting that big day in March when our rootstocks arrive and they both go on a ride to tropic parts of the world.

Scarlet Sentinel Columnar Apple
January 9, 2011

When I bought Scarlet Sentinel, it was marketed as a “columnar” tree, a single pole without any branches that would bear apples.  It turns out you have to prune it to produce this habit, so I let ours do what it wants.  The result is this tree, still quite compact with short, stocky branches.  In our climate it seemed to top out around 6 feet tall.

It spent the first couple years in a black nursery pot in the middle of the yard, and the soil temperature must have hit 120 degrees in the hot sun.  Neither this nor the 113 degree summer days seemed to phase it, and it is still very productive, giving two crops annually.  This is the second crop that ripened around Christmas, as we’re still occasionally munching on them as we pass by the tree (they remind me of little Christmas Ornaments.

This is how the apples look for the early fall harvest.  They’re very aromatic, sweet, crisp, and juicy.  They’d probably get bigger if I thinned them out some, as the tree overbears.  It also blossoms very late, well after the leaves come out on the tree and you’re just about to think you won’t get anything that year. 

I first passed off the columnar business as a gimmic and didn’t have high hopes for fruit quality.  However its grace in the heat, decent flavor, and productivity have won me over and I endorse it for someone without much room.  It is pretty trouble-free; bugs and disease don’t seem to both it.  It would be good for windy areas as there’s not much to catch the wind, and the tree is very sturdy.  It is still patented so I don’t offer it from my nursery, but it is readily available online.