Monday, July 27, 2015

Working in the orchard. Too much fruit

We have a big crop of apples this year.  I was not paying attention.  The June drop was not sufficient to keep the fruit load from breaking branches.  This does not bode well as most of these apples will not be ripe for another fifty days, in which time they will easily double in weight.

Liberty apples.  Bird damage on two apples on left side of picture.  Broken limbs in upper right corner.
The fix is to thin the fruit via shaking, picking and pruning.

Compare the color of these apples to the color of the ones in the first picture.  These apples are about half the size of the red ones in the first picture.

The fruit that is inside the canopy is smaller and greener.  It will never have the quality of the apples on the outside of the canopy, the ones that are supported by leaves that have an uncontested "look" at the sun.

Bottom portion of picture shows branches that have been pruned from the tree.  Nearly all of these trimmings were from the bottom, i.e. the shady side, of the tree.

They are dead weight.  The easiest way to thin those apples is to prune the branches.

One flaw that Liberty has as a variety is short fruit stems.  There is not enough room for multiple fruit to ripen.  The expanding fruit will cause a significant amount of early drop.

Shaking the branches can help thin the fruit although it tends to dislodge the largest, most advantageously placed fruit.

This picture shows a couple of different ways to support branches.  One thing I like about the "X" frames is that I can drop lines from the top part of the X to support specific branches.  They also adjust well to the heights of the individual limbs, one simple scissors the legs together until the center of the X is at the desired height.
Another X frame.  If you look closely on the left arm, about eight inches from the top there is a line of baling twine dropping down to support another branch.
Modern apple orchards are getting away from "limbs".  They are training apple trees almost like gardeners train tomato vines.  The energy that would have gone into growing wood becomes available for fruit growth.

This man is Ron Perry.  He is a displaced California guy.  This is the rootstock guru at Michigan State University.
This system is capital intensive because of the number of trees per acre and the cost of the support structures.

I think most home orchardist will stick with traditional trees.

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