We had a great crop of apples this year, in spite of the long wet spring. A lot of trees in the neighborhood got pretty scabby, and I had my first instance of fire blight that I have ever seen (in my vast 12 year experience with two apple trees). In spite of the disease pressure, the intense insect pressure (my neighborhood was formerly an orchard, and there are a LOT of old untended fruit and nut trees) and the cold spring we had a perfect weather window for pollination. The Prima apple, which has a tendency to bear biannually anyway, was loaded with fruit, and I thinned it 3 times. I still can’t make use of all the apples unfortunately, in spite of canning applesauce, freezing slices for future pies, and pressing 100 pounds for cider, I still have ground up 6 five gallon buckets worth of windfalls. The bunnies get apples every three days or so, and so did the chicken until I “passed the salt” last week to Square Peg Farm. It makes me wish we had a pig to finish. The Prima is a very disease resistant early-midseason (early Sept) apple that makes fair to middlin’ pie, sauce and cider. It is ok to eat out of hand, but nothing special, and it doesn’t keep for very long. My other apple is a mid season (mid-late September-early October) called Fall Russet. It is supposed to be an excellent eating and cider apple, though this is the first year it has borne any kind of harvest. The apple is small, homely, with a rough potato like skin, and it browns almost immediately upon cutting, but it tastes beautiful (which is why I planted this variety in the first place).
This tree is more susceptible to scab and other apple plagues, and my insect pressure is so high it is hard to keep apples for any length of time unless they have been footied to keep the apple maggots out or chilled to keep the bugs dormant. I footied a few, we will see how they do.
Of all the things I have tried to grow using organic methods, I have to say apples are far and away the hardest. The list of viruses, fungal infections and pests for this fruit are legion. It doesn’t help that there are a hundred trees within a few blocks that are acting as annual breeding sites for all of these pests….it is almost pointless for me to try to trap, spray, and keep my mini orchard free of windfalls.
The next generation only has to fly a few hundred feet to find my trees. That said, I love apples with all my heart, and can’t wait to plant a pie, winter keeper and cider-focused orchard! We keep visualizing our little farm….and are going to a big harvest party this weekend where we will spread the word about our quest to 150-plus fellow revelers. I will try to harvest the russets this weekend, and maybe press some more cider (and make my husband some birthday pie). The Comice pear also bore a small harvest, but the tree has gotten so tall and out of hand (I have not kept up on pruning it like the apples) that most of the fruit is out of reach of my pickin’ pole. For some reason, the bugs don’t really bother this winter pear, which is another reason to love it.
And now…bunny pics.