2015 Orchard Season in Review

The 2015 orchard season started with a fairly good spring followed by an abnormally wet early summer, then had an extended dry spell as autumn progressed. Insect and disease pressure was moderate and reasonably controlled by occasional spraying. European Apple Sawfly remains the primary pest but early sprays checked the damage.

The remaining quince tree (Pineapple Quince) seems to be falling for whatever killed the Orange Quince last year. Some branches grew well and prospered (though no fruit was set) while others rapidly died back to the trunk. Dead branches were pruned off, and then other branches elsewhere would die. It’s not quite dead yet, so I am leaving it to see what happens next year but have no real hope of a recovery.

The Kiefer pear put out several pears this year, all of good size and quality with no insect issues. The Moonglow pear has yet to produce, but has good growth.

The Bing cherry has finally grown out of the realm of primary deer nibbling danger and seems to be growing well, however it does have some pretty nasty scars on the trunk from being used as an antler rubbing post by a young buck.

The old cherry tree continues to struggle on despite all it’s woes. The raccoons managed to get all of this year’s crop before it was ripe for humans. The worst of the two trunks ended up having to be cut off as well, as it had become unable to support it’s own weight and was slowly bringing the other half of the tree down with it. When cut off, it turned out that only a hinge of about 3 inches in width and 1 inch in depth was still connected to the base of the tree and that the rest of the main trunk / branch was rotten and hollow all the way out to the tip.

Apples – by variety:

Arkansas Sweet – good growth, no apples yet.

Betsy Deaton – growth continues at a slow pace, no apples yet.

Bramley’s Seedling – the tree is still unbalanced, but very stable. Growth tends to be spreading rathar than vertical, and some pruning is requires. Apples were a bit earlier than usual and ended up ripening in a window when no one was around to harvest, however the later ripening ones were still available for apple butter and cider.

Cannon Pearmain – the tree is very stable, good production but a tad early and about half of the production ended up rotting on the ground before it could be used. What remained was excellent for all purposes and was a major component of this year’s apple butter.

Claygate Pearmain – the interior of the tree had quite a bit of young growth which will need to be pruned out, but otherwise a strong growth and production year. Unfortunately the apples ripened before anyone was ready to harvest and most of the crop ended up on the ground.

Cox’s Orange – the next to last tree to ripen, and picked in a bit of a hurry prior to the first freeze of the season on 15. October. A few more days would have been good, but the harvested apples were certainly edible.

Duchess of Oldenburg – as usual it ripened before anyone was really ready for it, but enough remained for a reasonably good harvest from one of the most solid trees in the orchard.

Foxwhelp – Not a great year for this one, the tree appears in good health but there were only a handful of apples.

Gala – No apples yet, but good growth. I anticipate a first harvest next season.

Golden Delicious – This tree is a standby as the earliest of my later season apples. It had a good crop, but was a week late for apple processing day so most of it ended up being peeled, slices, and frozen.

Golden Russet – I continue to be amazed at this tree. Having had it’s roots washed out, in 2007 and never really restabilizing, then having had several limbs break off and eventually falling over in 2013, being pulled back upright by a rope attached to my truck and then strapped to some fenceposts before having most of it’s remaining limbs hacked off, it’s now starting to stabilize again and had good growth as well as bore a good crop, unfortunately ripening in the window when no one was able to harvest it. A few later apples were available and were very good.

Old Fashioned Limbertwig –First harvest this year, and the latest apple of the orchard. As with Cox, a few more days would have been good but I liked what it gave.

Pitmaston Pineapple – This apple seems to be another that ripens well before anyone expects it, so most of the apples had already been visited by the local fauna before any got picked to eat. The tree seems to be in good shape.

Pomme Gris – Having been picked for the orchard based on a chance encounter in a grocery store in Portugal and then doubled after the first one died back to the graft union it’s first winter, this apple has rapidly become one of my favorites. Both of the trees are in very good shape and among the best in the orchard, and both are productive. One gets slightly more sun than the other and is notably more prolific. The apples seemed slightly bigger than normal this year, and I noted that several of them cracked open slightly if they hit something hard… like the ground. The apples are generally small and plentiful, so the easiest way to harvest is to spread out a tarp and shake the tree – but with over half of those collected this way cracking open it was a year to go back to hand picking. A bit too small and irregular for peeling so they tend not to make it into the apple butter or freezer apples, but excellent for cider and eating, and they seem to store pretty well.

Porter’s Perfection – This tree needed some summer pruning and didn’t get it, but it still yielded several bushels of the small tart apples… nearly all of which ended up in the cider press. I have started to develop a taste for them out of hand, but no more than one or two a day and only when I’m in the mood for something astringent.

Red Delicious – It just keeps going… The oldest tree in the orchard, it’s firmly established a reputation of good yield and flavorful apples. I’ve said it before, but don’t let the name fool you – this has nothing to do with the odd shaped, bright red things they call the same name at the grocery. This year it ended up in the apple butter mix as well as fresh and cider, but it’s not a preferred apple butter apple due to the way it keeps it’s shape while cooking which makes for a chunkier than desired and product. This tree does seem suspect to blossom blight, but also seems able to handle it relatively well.

Roxbury Russet- No harvest yet, but good growth. As with Gala I would not be surprised to find a first crop next year.

St Edmunds Pippin – Another early apple, and all were gone by the time I was able to get out to the orchard this year.

Vandevere – The tree that gives and gives and gives…. It’s my apple of the year for 2015, mainly because despite having lost much of it’s crop to the ground when no one was around to harvest, it still had enough left to be considered a full crop. It’s a good general purpose apple, and added well to cider, apple butter, canned or frozen slices, pies, and fresh eating purposes. It also ripens over time, so pretty much every day there were more of them to have.

Winter Banana – As noted in a previous post, this was the final year for Winter Banana. This variety didn’t work out for me both in terms of the fruit (never really had any that didn’t rot prior to harvest) and the tree (grew in an odd direction and interfered with maintaining other trees), so it was removed from the orchard.

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