Good Morning Readers,
Orchard Ridge Farms’ Orcharder John gives us an update on the apple trees’ growing season. Read on to follow our progress!
After enduring some June storms that rolled through the area last week and enjoying a nice soaking, the apple trees have been growing quickly. On average, the apples are now about the diameter of a quarter, and boy, are there a lot of them! In fact, there are too many apples.
Apple trees naturally blossom in a pattern of five or six flowers. With good pollination, that single cluster could hold several fruitlets. If left alone, that cluster of fruit will stay small and unmarketable and begin to grow into each other, causing problems. That’s why we’re currently in the process of hand-thinning in the orchard. This involves picking the best looking fruit at each cluster, and cutting the rest off. If properly thinned within about a month and a half after bloom, that single fruitlet will become a large apple. Because we use organic practices and no chemical thinners, hand-thinning time also allows us to manually remove any fruit that has been damaged by insects, thus eliminating our need to spray insecticides.
Sometimes, the trees themselves know best, though. Apple trees also go through their own, natural thinning process at this time called “June drop”. Apple trees can sense when they have too many apples on their branches, and so they will select the largest to remain, and cut off nutrients from the rest. These excess fruitlets will shrivel and drop to the ground, generally during the month of June. The trees can also tell if insects have chewed on developing apples, and damaged fruitlets will be shed.
Most of our trees are only in their fourth season, and even the smallest ones are covered in apples. Making apples can be a demanding task for trees, and producing too much fruit too early in a tree’s life can stress out a tree and cause lasting harm. That’s why we must remove all the fruit from trees that are deemed too small, in order for that tree to save its energy to build leaves and branches, and to conserve energy for next year when we will allow a crop to grow. Cutting off all the apples, as you might imagine, seems counter-intuitive for an orchard to do. Making the cuts and seeing all those tiny apples on the ground can seem drastic. However, we must look to the future at each tree’s long term health and a lifetime of producing delicious apples.–John