We Want To Win An Orchard – Help Us!

Hilltop Hanover Farm is still in the race to win an entire orchard.

Yes, some of these schools have pulled enormous leads, but we can still be one of the 17 winners if everyone remembers to vote EVERY day until August 29. Remember David and Goliath?

Even a small group can win if all their members continue to vote. HHF is now close to 800 votes—we’re still shooting for 1,000 before the official last frost date—May 15!

Every day, make sure to:
Click here and you’ll go to the Communities Take Root website www.communitiestakeroot.com

Register once or log in, if already registered
Scroll down the page and find “NY”—you’ll see Friends of Hilltop Hanover Farm—
Click Vote! Then collect your coupon for $1.00 off Edy’s fruit bars
Put “Vote!” in your Outlook, daily minder, or calendar so you don’t forget!

New varieties in apples…….In the last blog, we discussed the different heritage apples that were available—ones like Black Twig and Esopus Spitzenberg. A downside of some of these varieties is their susceptibility to fungal disease and insect predation. For many years, orchardists and farmers have been spraying apples with chemicals to battle these foes: arsenic, methoxychlor, copper sulfate, Imidan and many more. Some of these chemicals have been recognized as pretty toxic, and not something you would want to put on your food. So, where do we go from here?

We go right to our State Experiment Stations and universities, where horticulturalists have bred a number of disease-resistant apples, especially for home production. Liberty is one of the best known, and tastes delicious. Others are Williams Pride, Prima, Priscilla, Freedom, Nova Easy Grow, Enterprise, Red Free and Sir Prize. (There are many more than listed here.) These apples have varying degrees of immunity/resistance to the primary apple diseases: scab, fire blight, rust, sooty blotch and powdery mildew. That gets us half way to clean fruit—we still need to control the bug population.

Home growers, sustainable farmers and organic orchardists have generally relied on IPM, or integrated pest management to control insect infestations. This system utilizes advance warning traps and intimate knowledge of degree days and other environmental factors to specifically target damaging insects and not harm beneficial ones. It’s not easy to do successfully, but it does result in much lower chemical residue on the fruit and is certainly less harmful to the environment than the weapons-of-mass destruction approach of yesteryear. Now organic orchardists and homeowners have 2 new options in their war against the apple maggot, plum curculio, codling moth, aphids, and their brethren. These are powdered clay (the most popular brand is Surround ) and simple bags (yes, bags!). A very finely milled kaolin clay sprayed onto apple trees multiple times a season is highly effective in ruining the appetite and egg laying ability of these dastardly bugs. No spraying a couple weeks before harvest coupled with a splash in the sink, and you have very good odds of obtaining bug-free (or greatly bug-reduced) apples. The apples trees look snow-covered throughout the season, and that’s a little strange, but the results are what counts. Alternatively, if you own only a few trees, you can individually bag each fruit when it’s the size of a nickel. Paper bags, cloth bags and sandwich bags (with a tiny drainage hole cut out of the corner) all work. Again, it makes for a strange looking tree, but it works. This method is used in Japan on entire orchards; but then, extra fancy apples in Japan can fetch $6-$15 each. (Just think, you could tell your children they are eating a $15 apple from your tree!)

Next week we’ll discuss why size does matter for fruit trees, and what will work for the home grower and the orchardist—full size, semi-dwarf, dwarf, columnar, genetic dwarf and espalier. More to come, so stay with us………and vote!

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