Natures Cruelest Joke

OK, not really anywhere near the cruelest, but certainly a mean practical joke.

I’ve been developing my orchard for 30 years and this season promised to be the most exciting one yet for tasting the wide range of apples I have brought to my property by individual trees and many grafts. I thinned and thinned and sprayed for pristine fruit- a total of 7 sprays, with five just for beauty and to prevent rot and corking of a few susceptible varieties.

So by the first week of Oct. many varieties like Jonathon, Kidd’s Orange Red, Ashmead’s Kernel, and Cox Orange Pippin are at peak ripeness, and they are dropping off the tree ripe, but our monsoon season has stopped the trees from putting nearly adequate sugar into the fruit.

I have hundreds and hundreds of pounds of beautiful apples that aren’t sweet enough to make even gifting them pleasurable.

Stonefruit wasn’t a washout although certain parts of the season left trees of fruit worthless, but plums were pretty good and I got what I needed of decent nectarines and gave away a lot of peaches along with the nearly tasteless ones I let rot.

There are times when growing fruit in the humid region bears more despair than joy.

Oh well, we’ll get 'em next year.


We do hope.

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My AI orchard is doing well.


I read that as Al, as in Alabama, and when I scrolled down to the picture I was like “aw hell naw, there’s no apple tree in all of Alabama that healthy and productive.”

The fakeness of the image took a few seconds to register, and in the meantime I was just shaking my head.


Thats nothing compared to my AI strawberry vines


If you’re interested, I would purchase some fruit from you to make cider with. I’m on Long Island and would happily come to you. No pressure, but I find that even on low brix years, you can make some interesting ciders that lean into more “herbal” characteristics as opposed to fruity ones.


Im south of you, monsoon season this year cracked most of my sweet liberties as well as my apple-pie workhorse Macs. Apple butter it is!

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I hate that there is only a heart button here… I clicked only to acknowledge the post, obviously not that I love it.

I don’t know what qualities make for a good juicing apple, but I’d imagine it is worth trying some of them.

At least you can freeze juice.


Just got back from sunny Albuquerque. The bucket by my trees shows 6 1/2 inches of rain while I was gone. Also plenty of cloudy and wet weather during most of September. Picked a few Hawkeye and Gala. They where not great but at least they were edible. Picked the remaining Korean Giant pears that where crunchy and very juicey but mild taste. If we get some sun perhaps some of the Oct ripening apples will be better.


I’m complaining before the jury has reached a verdict… it’s a good thing to be able to enjoy complaining when you are an obsessive fruit grower in the NE, but there’s still time and I just picked a Spitz off the ground and it was pretty good and the crop might keep improving for a couple of weeks.

While I enjoy complaining I will much more enjoy it if I can say by late Oct that the apple crop is not too bad because my latest and most important apples ended up OK.

Yeah, that Spitz was pretty good! And the seeds were still only light brown.


I imagine it’s healthier to gripe a bit in this forum than to those around you?

When I was a teen I went on a duck hunt in TX. My father had a friend who went with us into the sunken blinds in the marsh and bayous. He was armed with a camera instead of a gun.

He was more interested in the beauty around him abss the process than the result you could say.

You see I’m conditioning myself for ‘failure’ in coming years…


My apples hav sooty blotch but not as bad as Euro pears. Your and my weather patterns are similar. I can commiserate. I just ate my favorite apple, Crunch A Bunch aka early Gold Rush. Crunchy and juicy and enough tartness to wake me up but little sweetness.

My Korean Giant pears are giant. Same pattern, crunchy, juicy with little sugar. I did not have peaches or nectarines to speak of. That could be good. Why have too many lousy (taste-wise) fruit in one year?


@alan What type of soil do you have? I picked pretty good Gala and Rising Sun Fuji from a local orchard last Sunday. My Magness pear that I picked in the second week of Sep had a brix of 17.5 and was very delicious.


I am not sure who you asked, Ahmad.

If it’s me, I have the same soil since I move here. It is ok soil for about 6” and the rest is yellow clay hat the builder used to fill up the plot.

Fruit that were good in a normal year (moderate rain) severely lack sweetness/sugar this year. These include all apples (i tend to grow apples with more sweetness than tartness) and Harrow Sweet pear.

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Sorry, I meant to ask Alan (as I have asked you that question before).

My soil is sandy loam and my trees mostly get dusk to dawn sun, with good spacing in between (10x15’), this year I had as much rain as you and Alan got, but the handful of nectarines that I got from a few second and third leaf trees trees were sensational, even after episodes of heavy rain, which makes me think that the combination of good sun (on sunny days), good soil, good spacing and good variety selection, can adequately compensate for a lot of rain close to harvest.


My trees are mature with expansive 111 root systems, plus I get afternoon shade and am surrounded on all sides by air trapping forest trees. I tried to increase evaporation by not mowing for much of the summer under my orchard trees, but the roots had too much access to water and the cells ballooned up making great big fruit, so of course it is going to be watery. But even fruit that remained small (inexplicably) such as Ashmead’s and Jonathon tend not to be very good. Some of my Cox have been good- those on the south side of the tree.

For some reason plums don’t respond to excess rain in the same way most other fruit does. Brix is only down a couple of points and not even all of them. I’ve had some perfect plums this year- quite a few of them. Foraging, I had plenty of good peaches and nectarines as well, but on most of the trees I have to bite into them to find out if they are good. The fruit is very inconsistent.

At any rate, when I first started doing this I spoke to a lot of commercial growers and I heard it said more than once that the best fruit comes on droughty seasons.


Of course, there is no doubt about that.

The apple trees that I picked were on G935, and were 6-7 years old.

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My trees are almost all at least 20 years old and very vigorous, and though my soil is a droughty loam, all my orchard trees are near nursery trees that receive wood chip mulch so it takes a lot of drought to reduce their access to water.

However, I believe that brix is as affected by grey skies as by the rain and that it is a difficult to sort out
how much either factor is influencing brix. I manage a lot of orchards grown in irrigated sod which allows me some sense of how the two factors are of influence. Apples grown where the soil is always quite moist can achieve good quality, just not the very best quality, but they are less subject to biennial bearing. This year I’ll be happy to settle for good quality.


Who thot dem grew in Alabama…

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Are you doing this for commercial sale or to sell at a farmer’s market, or is this for yourself and to share with friends and family?

Two thoughts.

One is that the fruit is like French wine vintages. Some seasons are better than others, but if you are “into” wine, wine is wine, it’s just that you have a remembrance of when it was better.

The other thought is that how do some of these apples respond to cooking or baking? Are these apples tart but not sweet, or are they starchy? Cooking can convert starches into sugars.

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