2013 Fruit Orchard Review

102413_PinkLadyApples

Hi everyone!

With the 2013 fruit harvest season behind us, hubby and I are gearing up for this year’s harvest starting mid-May.

Winter in the desert came early last year with an unexpected freeze in November.  Since then, we’ve had our share of chilly days and nights so I’m certain the accumulated chill hours are more than sufficient for this year’s upcoming harvest.  Though there are no visible signs of frost or freeze damage on my fruit trees, keep your fingers crossed that this remains true as my fruit orchard awakens from its slumber.  Sometimes freeze damage is hard to detect while the trees are dormant and can become quickly apparent when the new growth begins.

Typically, most trees here in the desert require very little in terms of frost or freeze protection with one or two exceptions. Citrus and avocados.  There are a number of options available to help protect these trees during the cold winter months, but everyone I know here who have been successful with citrus use either frost blankets or Christmas lights strung on the tree or a combination of both. The only person I know growing an avocado is growing it in a hoop house.

Now that I’m back from my unscheduled blog hiatus (sorry for my absence), it’s time to prepare for the upcoming fruit season. I find that it’s always best to start the planning process by reviewing what happened in the orchard the previous season.  So, I’d like to share my harvest numbers and a few lessons learned with you along with a few photos from our Pink Lady Apple harvest that took place in late October.

Keep in mind, most of our fruit trees were planted in 2011 and last year was our first harvest season. We expect our fruit trees to be in full fruit production this year and anticipate a very busy year of harvesting and preserving 🙂

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In the months of April and May, I will definitely pay close attention to thinning the fruit on all of my fruit trees since we anticipate more fruit this coming harvest season.

2013 Fruit Harvest Record

Fruit

Harvest Dates

Tl # Fruit

Tl Lbs

Aprium, Flavor Delight

5/18 – 5/26

332

35.25

Nectarine, Artic Star

6/2 – 6/14

220

104

Plum, Weeping Santa Rosa

6/14 – 7/3

147

11.5

Peach, Saturn White

6/27 – 7/15

38

5

Apple, Golden Dorsett

7/3 – 7/17

0

0

Pluot, Flavor Queen

7/26 – 8/4

65

17

Pluot, Flavor King

7/26 – 8/6

104

10.5

Asian Pear, Hosui

9/16 – 9/19

19

3.5

Asian Pear, Chojuro

n/a

0

0

Almond, All-in-One

n/a

0

0

Pomegranate, Eversweet

10/27

2

Pomegranate, Wonderful

10/27

5

Apple, Pink Lady

10/21 – 11/9

62

11.5

Fig, Black Mission
5/27 – 11/9
35
1.5
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The fruit on our two Pink Lady Apples had a wonderful apple scent as I picked them off the tree.

2013 Fruit Loss Record

Fruit

Tl Lbs Lost

Lost to…

Aprium, Flavor Delight

2

Leaf footed bugs

Nectarine, Artic Star

15+
Leaf footed bugs

Plum, Weeping Santa Rosa

9+
Mocking birds and finches

Peach, Saturn White

lots!
Leaf footed bugs, beetles, birds

Apple, Golden Dorsett

All
suspect calcium deficiency

Pluot, Flavor Queen

6
finches

Pluot, Flavor King

7.5
finches

Asian Pear, Hosui

0

Asian Pear, Chojuro

1
fruit drop

Almond, All-in-One

All
disease

Pomegranate, Eversweet

2
fruit cracked

Pomegranate, Wonderful

5
fruit cracked

Apple, Pink Lady

2
fruit drop
Fig, Black Mission
lots!
Mocking bird favorite
These little nylon socks did a great job protecting my apples from getting sunburn during out hot desert summer

These little nylon socks coated with Kaolin Clay did a great job protecting my apples from getting sunburned during our hot desert summer.  They were very easy to install and remove.

Replacement Fruit Trees for 2014

The following trees (see below) were planted in February 2013 and failed to leaf out.  We purchased these trees from Bay Laurel Nursery (who is an excellent source for bare root fruit trees) and they stand behind their product.  Because of their awesome guarantee policy, they will be sending us replacements this February. All we have to do is pay for shipping.

  • Apricot, Gold Kist
  • Nectaplum, Spice Zee
  • Peach, May Pride
  • Pluot, Flavor Grenade
  • Pluot, Flavor Supreme

We’re unsure as to what happened with this batch of bare root fruit trees… but all will be right come next month.

In addition to the trees above, we will be replacing three other fruit trees in our orchard.  Two of our cherry trees and our All-in-One Almond tree.

  • Cherry, Minnie Royal (semi-dwarf)
  • Cherry, Royal Lee (semi-dwarf)
  • All-in-One Almond

One of our cherry trees has extensive trunk damage and because two trees are planted 18″ apart in the same hole, it’s just too difficult to extract one and leave the other.  So out they both go 😦  We still have our two low chill dwarf variety cherries we planted last year and they are doing very well. I have to say that we’re very anxious to see how many flowers we get this year.

As for our almond tree, this will be our 2nd replacement tree. The first tree failed to grow well the first season and the second tree struggled through our early extreme heat wave last year (which occurred a couple of months after we planted the tree) and it did not recover. Instead of replacing it with another All-in-One Almond, we’ll be switching it up with a Garden Prince Almond.  Hopefully three’s a charm.

February will definitely be a “planting month” and we’ll also be fixing the irrigation in the front orchard!

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During harvest, I always record the total number of fruit as well as the total weight. A simple food scale does the job. Some day I’ll invest in a higher capacity scale, but until then, this scale does the trick.

Lessons Learned

Last year was our fruit orchard’s first harvest season.  As I mentioned before, we planted our trees in 2011 (mid-February to be exact), so our trees are still very young in their growth, but you’d never know it to look at them.  Thanks to our honey bees and blue orchard bees, we had more fruit than we ever could have imagined for our first harvest.  As a result, the volume of fruit and interest of both birds and insects definitely took us by surprise, so we jotted down a few tasks for this year’s harvest.

Pests

  • Put out traps early in the season and monitor them regularly to help determine when to address insects/moths
  • Follow a regular/consistent organic pest control protocol throughout the season
  • Check trees daily for insect populations throughout the fruit development process and address early before the insect numbers become out of control
  • Put up bird netting a few weeks before anticipated harvest to discourage bird damage

General

  • Thin fruit to fewer/higher quality fruit and to encourage flower set for the next season
  • Last year our irrigation schedule was interrupted when we installed our irrigation in the back orchard; this definitely affected our pomegranates and cherries.  This year will be better and much more consistent.
  • Install small nylon socks (coated with Kaolin Clay) on each apple versus a cluster of fruit.  I  fixed a few by removing the original sock from the cluster and placing socks on each individual fruit.  I left the rest to see what would happen. The result… a bit more challenging to harvest a fruit in a cluster (some unripe fruit were yanked off by accident) and there was some fruit damage as a result.

Preserving the Harvest

  • Plan, plan, plan!

These were just some of the main points.

As part of my record keeping, I note the "average" size of my fruit.

As part of my record keeping, I note the “average” size of my fruit.

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I keep record of my harvest on charts I created and store them in a binder – very handy when you’re in the middle of cleaning, weighing and sorting newly harvested fruit.

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Hope you found this helpful and interesting.

God Bless,

AG_Signature_Color_Transparent

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6 Comments

Filed under Harvest

6 responses to “2013 Fruit Orchard Review

  1. Lily in Texas

    I just started my front orchard in January this year. I have learned a lot from your blog. I really appreciate that you share your experience to the people who like to have their own orchard.

    I am very impressed in your record keeping for the fruit trees. I tried to search it on the internet, and see if I can find a similar one and buy it, but I can’t find it. I think, maybe you can make that fruit record keeping forms for some people who need them. Yes, if so, I would like to buy them from you.

    Thank you !

    • Hi Lily!
      That is so awesome that you started a front orchard 🙂 I encourage everyone to try and plant and care for at least one fruit tree. Growing your own fruit is so healthy for you. How many fruit trees did you plant?

      Thank you for the compliments on my record keeping. I’m sure after reading some of my blog posts you can tell I’m a little “detailed oriented” when it comes to my fruit orchard. Okay… I’m a little detailed oriented, period. I’ve been wanting to write a blog post (or two) on record keeping and share some of my forms with my readers. Anything in particular you would like to see that would be helpful for you?

      Again, thank you for the kind words and I wish you the absolute best with your new orchard 🙂 I’ll be here for moral support.

  2. Lois Zablockis

    Sounds like you are going to have a busy year. I’m sure this will be a great year for your fruit, Love your blog.
    Lois

    • Thanks for the compliment. Now that my fruit orchard is a bit more mature, the work involved managing 29 trees is a handful to say the least… but well worth the effort knowing that I’m feeding my family nutritious organic food right from my very own property.

  3. I always enjoy seeing your latest fruit and garden photos. They are so beautiful and ethereal looking.

    Wow, I’m impressed at how detailed your notes are. I am lucky if I get around to remembering to note annual chill hours, bloom time, and harvest date for my various fruits.

    I am sorry some of your newer trees didn’t make it last year, but that is great to know that Bay Laurel reshipped everything, especially since I recommend them to people sometimes.

    I don’t know if you have tried a Spice Zee fruit before, but my neighbor grows it and I have never tasted such a delicious stone fruit before. I bought one for myself on Friday because my kids couldn’t get enough of them last summer. You won’t be disappointed with that variety at all. If I was just starting out my garden and could only plant one tree, it would be Spice Zee.

    • Hi Lianne,
      Nice to hear from you. Thank you for the great compliments… it’s always appreciated. The record keeping… yeah, I’m a blend of artistic and analytical. Being a dedicated home orchardist, I make note of just about everything that happens with my fruit trees. I find it very fascinating to compare one season to the next. I created a few different charts/forms that I print out for each harvest season and keep in a handy binder. During harvest season, I keep it on my kitchen counter top with a pen so I can easily jot things down as I’m counting, weighing, etc. I keep my notes brief and to the point. Too much info can be unsettling even for me.

      Thank you for your kind words. I was so looking forward to tending my new baby trees this past year, but life had other plans. We should be receiving our replacements in early February… can’t wait! A good majority of our trees are from Bay Laurel Nursery.

      Re: Spice Zee. My husband and I volunteer at a test orchard here in town (university/cooperative extension). They have about 500+ fruit trees and every time we walked through the gates of the orchard, one particular tree caught my eye, especially during Spring. It was so beautiful. It was the Spice Zee Nectaplum. I’ve heard all great things about this tree and its fruit though I have never tasted the fruit. Our new Spice Zee tree will be arriving with the rest of the trees in February. When its harvest time, I’ll have to stop in at the orchard and see if I can get my hands on a few Spice Zee fruit and get a taste preview for what’s to come in my orhcard 🙂 You’ll have to give me updates on your tree as it grows.

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