Preparation for the 2013 season began in late 2012. Having identified the likely culprit in the attacks on young apples to be the European Apple Sawfly, the orchard area was given a dose in October 2012 of approximately 5 million nematodes (Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, sourced from Arbico Organics as “Nemaseek”) in essentially a trial application to see if they would do anything. Having had Quince-Cedar rust last year and observing some galls on a few volunteer cedars, a cedar clearing operation was performed and no reoccurrence of rust was observed.
The weather for once was fairly normal; a wet spring, moderately wet early summer then a general drying trend through the late summer and into autumn. Supplemental watering was required at times, but the extended summer drought conditions of the past few years was not encountered. It was cooler than the past few years in the spring, warmer in the fall. The last frost of spring was 13. May and the first frost of autumn was 22. October.
The cherry tree bloomed in mid April, followed closely by the apple, pear, and quince trees. The apple bloom was complete by mid May, and weather was conducive to the first full spraying right after petal fall. Between the nematodes and this spraying the sawflies were kept under control. Fireblight was nearly non-existent and scab was kept under control with minimal spraying. Having lost most of the crop to sawfly in the previous years we were somewhat lax with mid and late season sprays, and as a result had a fair bit of late season insect damage (mainly codling moth) which could probably have been prevented. Based on the success in controlling sawfly, and hoping that the nematodes did play a role in it, an additional 10 million were distributed after the apple harvest in hopes of further success next year.
In mid April a good amount of compost (mainly rotted horse manure and straw) was worked into the garden. By May the garden had been planted – crops included radishes, turnips, peas, cucumbers, bok choi, carrots, lima beans, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, broccoli, and peppers. The peppers, tomatoes, radishes and turnips thrived, but lima beans, broccoli, and peas fared very poorly, carrots and bok choi got lost in an abundance of weeds, and squash and eggplant underperformed.
The cherries were harvested on 7. June, they were not quite ripe but the raccoons were starting to find them interesting and it was decided that harvesting slightly tart cherries were better than none at all, and it protected the tree from the damage the raccoons invariably inflect on it.
In mid August some of the earlier apples began to ripen, and by early September there were significant windfalls on the orchard floor. The primary harvest occurred in mid September.
Porter’s Perfection was the most prolific variety with around 6 – 7 bushels harvested. The tree, formerly one of the most solid and straightest in the orchard, threatened to bend over under the weight and had to be supported with numerous props; despite a couple of broken branches it generally recovered post harvest, though the formerly vertical central leader maintained much of the gentle arch it had obtained in a long bend nearly to the ground and will likely be pruned away as it’s weight threatens to unbalance the tree. Although a bit too tart to my taste for eating out of hand (though I know some others who will beg to differ on that point), these small and juicy apples ended up being a major component of the cider blend and were the only apple this year to receive a non-blended pressing.
Golden Russet was the most problematic of the trees, finally giving in to it’s washed out roots and falling over, breaking some of its main branches in the process. After much deliberation the decision was made to heavily prune it after harvesting the half bushel or so of apples which somehow managed to survive, pull it back to a vertical position, and attempt to hold it up with stakes and webbing. So far that appears to be working, but it’s a gamble if the additional support will be sufficient to let the tree reestablish itself, or if it will break free in the first strong summer storm.
Cannon Pearmain was the surprise tree of the year. It was the most prolific tree for its size, yielding around 2.5 bushels of very juicy and flavorful apples. It was good enough to oust Golden Delicious from it’s traditional spot as the primary apple butter apple.
Arkansas Sweet made a substantial comeback from last year’s drought injury with a good amount of growth given that it died back to a single latent bud.
Although they flowered the pear trees did not produce a crop, which is fine as in my opinion they were still too small to do so. Both quince trees did produce small first crops and supported them well.
On the small fruit and nut side, the english walnut which was planted in the meadow a few years ago was finally given up for dead, while the hazelnuts are still struggling to gain a foothold against the established meadow grasses and the browsing deer. It was a good year for black walnuts, though as usual the majority were left for the wildlife. The elderberries are firmly established but remain small; it feels as if their growth is going into roots rathar than shoots at this point. The grapes had a good and productive year, though the local wildlife seemed to be the primary beneficiaries.
The beehouse was set out in a quiet section of the meadow and allowed to stay there all season, but aside from a small wasp nest and some spiders it remained uninhabited and so was moved back in the barn for the winter.