Everyone knows farmers bust their tail as soon as the sun stays out a little longer and the ground is able to be broken. But many think there is little to do once the harvest is done. That can’t be further from the truth – because fall and winter can be when some of the toughest, challenging work takes place.
Sure, apple trees do not need to be planted every year but they’re far from being maintenance free. They’re pruned in fall and spring so that the branches left put on a robust amount of blossoms then apples, but also so that ample sunlight gets through to color the apples – much like getting a suntan! Without that sunlight, an apple intended to be fully red, may appear mostly green.
So pruning comes first. Then there is maintenance of the machinery so that it is winterized to be ready to be fired up come spring. But sometimes there is an even more massive undertaking that can happen – prep for replanting.
Most apple trees can put on apples as long as they’re in the ground – but like so many things, after they age, their production will decrease. Therefore, farmers are better off by replacing these older trees – even though it will take another five years to get a steady, mature harvest – but that harvest on the new trees can be will often produce exponentially more apples than the older trees.
Plus, there have been leaps and bounds in agriculture innovation. Today’s trees aren’t always just grafted onto old root stock or planted from a small tree seedling. Many of us remember apple trees we like to call Angry Orchards. These thick-trunked apple trees grow up tall and branches twist all around. While they may elicit wonderful memories and make great family portrait backgrounds, they are not designed to be ladder-friendly for pickers and they’re not the best at putting on fruit.
Today, apple trees are grown closer together on smaller stock systems and many are grown on a trellis system. More to come in later blog posts about that. But for now, we’ve been busy in the orchard putting in drain tile so that when we plant in the spring, those trees will have wonderful drainage to go along with their new irrigation system. As soon as picking ended, the old trees came out. These older, lower-producing varieties are making way for varieties and strains that suit the 21st century taste buds, as well as pack out better so they’re able to store and look good (and taste great!) for upwards of a year.
When you pick up that bag of apples at your favorite retailer, know the tree and the farmer didn’t kick back at the end of harvest. They worked hard for your purchase! This new blog series will explore the background of apple production and we hope you learn something new.