Apples are the main focus of our farm. As we are starting a brand new orchard, it requires a huge amount of patience to get
the trees established and growing well. What we are trying to accomplish with our orchard is a bit off of the beaten path as
well, which takes an extra element of Zen-like belief that it will all work out well. In a nutshell we are trying to establish
an organic orchard growing heirloom variety apples in a vertical axe system. Don't worry if some of this sounds strange, it
did to us at first as well. For those who are curious to untangle this, read on!
The concept of organic apples is fairly
straightforward. We are growing our apples by the
USDA National Organic Program standards. We don't
use synthetic chemicals or fertilizers. We don't put
anything on our trees or fruit that is bad for you or
the earth. One of the most frequent questions we get
is "How can you raise apples without spraying?" The
answer is we do spray our trees. The spray arsenal for
organic orchardists has grown considerably in the
last few years. One of our primary applications is a
product called Surround which is a kaolin clay
product, the main ingredient in Kaopectate. It masks
the young fruit from insects looking to damage them.
It also sticks to the insects and makes them very
unhappy, so they prefer to move on.
One of the great things about organic farming is that it is for the birds, literally. Because we are not spraying dangerous
chemicals, and we are encouraging beneficial insects such as pollinators, lady beetles and the like, the live feeding birds
such as bluebirds, wrens and swallows find a happy and bountiful place to raise their young. In return for providing them
a happy home, we get the benefit of having them eat all sorts of insects, help fertilize the plants, and of course provide
beauty to our farm.
|This is what got us hooked on doing the apple trees
second bloom for some of the first group of trees that we
planted in 2008. We have really enjoyed spring blossom in
absolutely wonderful. The trees are abuzz with activity
from our domestic bees as well as the local wild
You can see the basic concept of the vertical axis system
in this picture as well. We grow primarily dwarf trees that
don't get more than 10 feet tall or so. The dwarf trees
require support as they are not as sturdy as a semi-dwarf
or full size tree. We provide the support in the form of
trellising, poles strung with wires in between that the
trees are clipped to. One of the advantages of this system
is that it is easier to work the trees with sprays, pruning
and harvest. We can also plant the trees very close
together so we can get more variety in a limited space.
As wonderful as spring is, there is
winter as well. Here is our first row of
trees during the big snowstorm in
December of 2009. While it is chilly to
go out in this sort of weather, it is
important to keep an eye on the trees
during major weather events.
The row of black tape on the polls is a
deer repellent system that we found.
The tape is a simple nylon that you put
out at approximately the nose level of a
deer. You spray it once a month or so
with a mixture of putrid egg solids,
mint and other aromatic herbs. It
doesn't smell great at the time of
application, but after an hour or so we
can't smell it any more. The deer
however can smell it for weeks to come.
We have had very good luck with this
system, except for the baby fawns who
just duck under the tape without even
Many of the trees that we grow are heirloom varieties, that is, varieties that have been around for years, and sometimes
centuries. Most of the apples that you see in the grocery store are relatively new, most of them having been around for
50 years or less. As a result, many of the types that we are growing are a lot less familiar (for a complete list of what we
have, please check our Apple Variety page). We are hoping that you can share in some of these long forgotten tastes and
will love them as much as we do!