2014 mid-season orchyard report

For the first time in several years the orchyard entered July with plenty of water. The trees and vines are green, the grass is green, and the garden is green (perhaps slightly too green thanks to rampant weed growth!).

Unfortunately this year seems to be an off year for apples after last year’s surprisingly large harvest. Porter’s Perfection, Canon Pearmain, and Golden Delicious, the production leaders last year, have 1 apple between them (on Canon). Porter’s, however, has made up for the discrepancy with an incredible abundance of growth probably triggered in part from last year’s broken branches and the associated “rebalancing” pruning carried out in the winter. Red Delicious, St. Edmund’s Pippin, and Foxwhelp only seem to have 5-10 apples each on the tree.

There are exceptions. Golden Russet, which split and fell over last year, has come back with a remarkable recovery and aside from requiring a stake is doing very well. Likewise Duchess of Oldenburg, Vandevere, Claygate Pearmain, Pomme Gris, Winter Banana, and Bramley’s Seedling have all set what I would call normal crops. Interestingly, all of these have heaver crops on the northeast quarter of the trees.

Old Fashioned Limbertwig and Kiefer pear have both set their first fruits and the remaining young trees are growing well. All aside from the regrowth of Arkansas Sweet (which died back to the ground in the 2012 drought) have reached the point where the deer guards can be removed, and it may be to that point by the end of the season.

Diseases have been relatively light. Scab does not seem to be a problem yet this year, and despite rampant growth fireblight has been relatively light and sporadic; Orange quince is the only tree I would actually say is suffering from it with multiple locations, the other trees which have had it were one or two small shoots. Winter Banana has been heavily affected by what appears to be brown rot, the first time I’ve seen that sort of rot on unripe fruit. Apple sawfly damage was present but much reduced from prior years, but codling moth appears to have stepped in as this year’s major pest, probably due to not being able to get out and spray a couple of weeks after petal fall due to unsuitable weather.

The grape vines are also having a light year, but that is in large part due to heavy deer browsing on about half the vines.

There have been some oddities this year, including a late spring cold snap with associated frost (which may account for some of the reduced apple crop). Both sugar maples appear to have been hit with a bout of Anthracnose and have lost over half their leaves, but the remaining leaves are in very good shape. Ironically this loss of leaves has allowed more light into the old cherry tree, which is responding with a flush of new growth (perhaps that is why for the first time in my tenure with it the cherry set a full crop but aborted them all when they were about the size of a large pea). Also, the roses around the barn, some of which had been there for 10 years, all died back to the ground but have come back with healthy new shoots.

The garden is growing well; broccoli and radishes have pretty much been fully harvested, the first tomatoes and squash of the season were harvested last week, and pretty much everything else is growing well.

The wild blackberries are in great profusion along the back fence, but they are jealously guarded by an army of chiggers so only 1 harvesting foray has been launched.

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