Saturday, April 17, 2010


I just got back from a class, offered by our county cooperative extension, on Fruit tree pruning. Our new home has a dozen assorted fruit trees which are more than a decade old. I wanted to learn about how to take care of them so that we can make the best of what they have to offer. The cooperative offers many low cost or free classes...just perfect for the frugal homestead. About 75 folks attended today's class.

It was held at the commercial orchard that we go to every fall for our apples.. I love this orchard because he has a great variety of apples. They have a big sign hanging outside of their shop that tells the potential picker what sort of apples are ready at what time of the season. The sign also tells the picker what is the best use for each variety of apple. We often make several visits during apple picking season depending on what we are making or putting up. Their dog Rascal follows our car as we drive to our chosen variety for the day and then follows us back to the shop as we weigh our pickings. The man who presented the information was the owner who has owned the orchard for 60 years.

The class covered basic pruning of fruit trees from 1 year old trees to old overgrown trees that one might want to bring back to production. He lightly touch on Integrated Pest Management and how he employs it on his orchard. He discussed the management of deer. Apparently, they will only be deterred from an orchard and whatever aversion the farmers uses;until they are used to it. Then the farmer must try something new. He discussed how the different limbs of the tree should be managed in order to produce the most apple. Fruit bears on new growth. We went to the orchard and pruned various trees at different stages of growth. Most old trees need 5 years of pruning before being fully restored.

Alas, as the class was winding up our presenter shared that this year was the last year for the orchard. As with so many other farms, this farmer wants to retire. After 60 years who can blame him. If someone does not buy the farm then he will close it. Sure there are plenty of small orchards in my region of the state. And if the attendance at todays class is any indicator, many folks are hoping to provide more fruit for themselves. But when we lose one small farm, it means it is one less farm. For me, it feels like a tear in the fabric of my local food system.


Wendy said...

I hate to see those small farms just disappear. We had one near us with the best produce around go out of business a year or so ago--I still miss it.

Ellen said...

Fruit tree pruning class, that is on my wish list as well. At the moment we have 4 small fruit trees, as we live on a very small urban homestead (i.e. a terraced house in the suburbs :)) and I prune them the best I know how, after reading about it.
But since we hope to move to the country in a couple of years, I hope to take a class in the not to distant future.