Thursday, February 27, 2014
Apple Tree Musings
Two more days until March is here and March always gets me thinking about trees. Checking to see if all my little ones survived the Winter. Seeing which areas I can open up and add more trees into. That sort of thing.
One skill I really want to learn someday is fruit tree grafting since I learned the hardway that a fruit tree planted from a seed rarely produces the same as it's parent, or at least the parent you know about which might be the real problem. I believe being able to graft your own fruit trees will be a highly sought after skill as things continue to slide but that is another post.
Overall I can't say my experiences with fruit trees to date have been totally encouraging to be honest. Getting them to live wasn't so hard after a few tips I learned here and there and some good advice from readers. I am sure I will do another post soon on planting new fruit trees and the method that has worked well around the Small-Hold.
No, getting them to take root and live so far seems to be a trick we have learned. The issue seems to be finding exactly what varieties actually do well and compliment each other around here and researching the types and varieties has not always produced the results promised. Maybe some of the trees were mis-labled or something but I suspect the real issue is that a number of the varieties respond to climate conditions in such a way that they do not always follow what the advertised normal says it should be. Particularly in their flowering/blooming cycle. I would say the number one cause for fruit failure we have is weather related, maybe. We get a warm stretch and it causes some trees to bloom or partially bloom and then a quick freeze or it is warm enough for one variety but not quite enough for the other and we get separate bloom periods for types that need a cross pollinator.
These problems have been something that has developed more the last few years than ever before. About five years ago we started losing our old fruit trees. The old varieties we had were obviously a mixture of types, not only of reds but a couple of green varieties as well. Up until about 2010 we were putting away gallons and gallons of apples every year and giving away more than that. We had so many apples they were a real pain to mow over and picking them up all the time. Yet slowly the old trees started dying out and production kept falling.
Now it could be that the problems we have been seeing are an issue of mature trees over younger ones and it may work itself out eventually. I can only say this same issue does not seem to appear with our nut trees but if that means anything I couldn't tell you. The part that bothers me is that the oldest of our replacement trees are hitting their 6th year here but actually produced well (for their size) in their second year and then stopped.
Another possibility hinges on the loss of one of my best apple trees that died during the drought of 2012. It never did bloom right that Spring and died before the Summer was over and it just so happens that 2011 was the last year we got any real apple production despite the appearance of blooms each Spring since.
Last year we did manage to have a small Peach and Apricot production but no Apples or Pears.
So as I see it there are several different culprits in running for why my trees are not producing. Either it is the weather by itself or combined with faulty identification or tree variety information. It could also be that the loss of my largest producer also resulted in the loss of my best pollinator or it could be that the Apple ecosystem itself needs to mature a few more years to begin producing once again.
If we do not get any Apple production this year it will be the third year of failure and I would like to figure out just what is causing the thing. If it is simply a maturity issue fine but the fact that the older replacement trees did produce in 2011 some seems to discount that being the actual issue.
I used to be a firm believer in fruit trees, especially Apple for a reliable source of food production each year but I am beginning to wonder if I just didn't have a very lucky accident. It would be easier if I had been able to identify the trees that were here originally but even going back and actually talking to people who lived here 70 years ago yielded up no information as to tree type or even age. I have no problem with continuing to try but at this rate I could be a very old man before I ever figure it out.
Or maybe it just needs some more time and better weather and I am just knocking my head against an imaginary wall?
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!