Category Archives: Orchard Activity

Game on.

image40Bloom is nearly over and I’m catching my breath.

Just 5 weeks ago, we still had temperatures in the teens, and it felt like winter.  Since then, we have pruned all of the peaches, planted several orchards, installed thousands of feet of irrigation, fertilized dozens of acres of different crops, fixed numerous pieces of equipment, and done lots of other work that would probably bore most of you.

It has been a very busy month and I’m very happy with how much has been done.  It is rewarding to look back at all of the obstacles: the weather, the breakdowns, the lack of help at key times… and know that we worked our way through it.

And the orchard looks GREAT!

So how is the crop year shaping up?

The apricots took a huge hit in the freeze of April 15.  That freeze hit at just the wrong time for them.  But it also damaged a lot of the peaches in the Carolinas and Virginia, so our wholesale prices could be good this year.  The businessman in me will gladly trade a few apricots for higher peach prices.

The strawberries look good – somewhat to my surprise.  It took them a long time to get going, but they are growing fast now, and the bloom at least on the Earlyglow variety looks good.  We’ll see if the later varieties came through the winter as well.  The patch is in very good condition – probably the best it has been in several years.

Peaches look good so far.  Pollination has just ended, and it is too early to say how big a crop it will be, but I don’t see any problems.  A full crop will be very welcome in a year that others have had challenges.

Blueberries look outstanding yet again.  They are in full bloom today and look very healthy.

Cherries had a decent bloom, but I’m not sure that the pollination went very well.  The weather was generally cold – and when it wasn’t cold it was raining – and when it wasn’t rainy or cold, it was windy.  None of those are good for flying insects.  At this point, some of the trees look poor, some look fair, and some look good.  We’ll see.

The apple bloom is variable.  In general, the trees that were heavy last year (Golds) are down a bit this year.  The trees that were light last year (Reds) are very heavy.  And the trees that had a nice manageable crop last year look perfect.  If thinning goes well, it should be a good year.

There is one more fruit to talk about this year.  Raspberries!  We planted a lot of them this spring, and look forward to selling them next year.  They are located right across the dirt road from the blueberries, so they will be in a great location for pick-your-own.

Stay tuned to the website or Facebook for our opening information.  We may miss Memorial Day this year due to the late start.  Best berry picking will likely be early June.

The spring bomb finally went off!

Our apricot block on Tuesday 4/16.

Our apricot block on Tuesday 4/16.

If you had told me last weekend that we’d have peaches in bloom in 4 days, I wouldn’t have believed it.  The usual pattern of bloom in our orchard is pretty simple: apricots come first and last for a few days, followed by a few days of plums, followed by a few varieties of peaches.  But this year, thanks to a record high temperature on Wednesday (90!) we experienced the whole cycle in 3 days.  Apricots were in full bloom Tuesday, plums on Wednesday, and our first peaches were blooming Thursday.  Wow!

Bloom has a big impact on the orchard.  First of all, it means that it is time to be done pruning (we’re not).  It means that the trees are highly vulnerable to disease from any passing shower (we had a 30 hour wetting period on Friday causing us to scramble to provide protection).  It means that we have a very narrow window of opportunity to try to blossom thin our peaches in order to reduce the hand thinning work that will need to be done later in the season.  And it also means that anything we are going to plant needs to be in the ground very soon, which means we are spreading lime, fertlizer, and marking rows.  Throw in two flat tires, a broken drive belt on the sprayer, and a few other mechanical issues, and needless to say, it was a really busy week.

With all of this work going on, it is easy to miss the beauty around us.  I was thinning some peach blossoms by hand when it occured to me that… well, it was a really “pretty” job.  Heck, some people might even pay to stand in an orchard of blooms on a bright sunny day and run their hands across the limbs to knock off a few flowers!

The weather forecast calls for a little more seasonal weather this week, which is fine with me.

I’d like to stop — ok, maybe just slow down — and smell the flowers a little, before they are all gone.

Waiting for Spring

Today is March 24.  Last year at this time, I believe our peaches were blooming after the warmest winter in memory, and we were worried sick that a return to a normal weather pattern would bring a freeze that would surely wipe out our crop.  In fact, that is exactly what happened to our friends in Michigan, New York, and even just a hundred miles north of us.  Michigan lost something like 90% of their cherries, and almost all of their apples; it was the most impactful freeze in decades causing prices to spike and buyers to scramble for supplies.  So despite a short cherry crop for us, things turned out OK after all.  Dad always said it was better to be lucky than good.

But that was then.  This year has been abnormally cool, and strangely enough, most fruit farmers are OK with that.  It means that the odds are a little better in  our favor.  Because when things really do thaw, there is a lower probability of a cold snap while those blossoms are in a delicate state.

The cool weather has also given us a chance to finish pruning.  In the winter, we prune our apple trees to remove all of the growth that has occured in the “wrong’ places.  Apples grow best when exposed to sunlight and only by vigorous pruning can we keep them sunny.  We’re running a little behind this year and welcome the extra couple weeks of dormancy.  Once the buds begin to break, we’ll be on Mother Nature’s clock and will need to move quickly to the next phase of fruit production: thinning and disease prevention.  But I’ll talk about that later when we’re in that season.

For now, we’re thankful for the extra time off.