Lessons from the orchard this year

I’ve been planting fruit trees and bushes at this house almost since we moved in 20+ years ago. It’s had its ups and downs, like 5 years ago when about 1/2 the fruit trees were killed in a wild fire. Up until this year the only protection for the trees has been concrete reinforcing wire cages around the trees. Those work well for keeping the deer off, but don’t do much to stop a bear. And since a bear’s idea of picking apples is to break the trunk and then eat the apples from the ground (happened a few years ago), I have been harvesting based on when the bears might think the apples are ripe and ripening them further in storage.

This year I put a fence around the orchard and garden (5’ wire horse fence topped with an electric wire). This has proven very effective for bears and 90% or so for deer (will need to add another electric wire or two to the top). As a result I had the option of letting the apples ripen on the tree much longer than I could before. So I experimented with leaving some of the varieties on the tree until their seeds were brown. Quite a difference. Wealthy fully ripened is a very good apple. Same with Summer Crisp (sorry that I harvested one tree of them too early). I also am looking forward to getting my first Honey Crisp, Mac, and Mantet apples from trees which were planted after the fire. All in all I am very happy with the orchard now that I can leave things ripen.

One other lesson came from the weather this year. We had an outrageously wet spring to early summer (for us). So wet that I could only put down the first of my usual 2 applications of fertilizer (due to streams running on the surface of the orchard), and had to skip several sprays due to constant rain. Well other than some additional scab, this was one of the best growth years in orchard ever. Makes it clear to me that water was the limiting factor for most of these trees, not nutrients/fertilizer.

All in all very enlightening. Had some ideas changed about what I need to do. Now if I could only find an effective means of bird control things would be great.

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How big is your orchard? Netting may be an option or fake hawks. Some people use streamers or pie pans to scare the birds away. I use target fruit such as mulberries planted in my orchard that ripen at the same time as my cherries and juneberries.sounds like you have a great plan by fencing your orchard , I had to fence one of our orchards due to deer years ago.

My biggest lesson was learning from Scott that after about five years your peach tree s will get brown rot, and mine did this year. Some peaches took a lot longer, but the humidity ruined pounds of fruit. Not a peach or two, more like fifty or more per tree. The humidity was absolutely miserable here this year. Hopefully next summer the air will be a bit more dry. The other lesson is that all in all patience really is a virtue. It has taken ten years for my trees to really produce and boy did they ever do that this year. Best fruit year ever!

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Mrs G,

What a joyous feeling. You deserve the fruits of your labors.

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I finally had to accept that lesson on my own some years back, along with learning that it gets worse each year if the issue isn’t addressed, and eventually gets all the stone fruit. :frowning: I’m glad you learned it relatively early. It’s probably the single greatest issue that compelled me to finally become a forum member so that I could get advice on turning that problem around. With help from experienced members here, (Olpea, Alan, Scott, and Appleseed in particular) I was finally able to overcome the issue and get an edible harvest again. I wasted too many years in between.

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My lesson was even with a dry summer you must spray captan to avoid the splotches on the apples. My apples are better this year, but I only sprayed the Captan twice and should of kept up the fight. The other lesson is not to plant any other fruit trees, I would never keep up the spray programs.

I’ve learned that in my area, it is very hard to grow peaches without chemical spray. Not only I have to fight serious insects, canker and brown rot does serious damage.

Like Muddy and Mrs,. G. said it is getting worse over the years.

For those new organic peach groweres in the humid east, be prepared.

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