Ciderman, Ciderman

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bare Root Fruit Trees-Capital Nursery
Ciderman, Ciderman,
Will Drink Cider From a Can,
Cranks a Press -- Any Size,
Hard Cider From Bill Should be No Surprise,
For He is You're Friendly CIDERMAN!!!

Yes, yes, I know -- stick to writing. But I'm excited you see! The smell of SPRING is in the air! Those long days and dreary nights of winter show a promise of ending soon. What does this mean? It means I'm running out of time! That's what it means!

Case in point? BARE ROOT SEASON. If it gets much warmer over the next week or two those slumbering root systems are suddenly going to wake up and declare an early start to the spring growth season. It doesn't matter what the calendar on the wall says. Yes, I know it's early February. I know there's several more months of cold weather and possible rain to endure.

But once those roots wake up? They're up!

The wonderful wife that is Venus and I are moving a bit slower this year when it comes to adding addtional fruit trees and vines to the backyard. We rushed it a bit last bare root season and our impatience resulted in several dead Blueberry bushes.

No such mistake this year.

Fruit Salad Anyone?
However, we are adding, albeit at a slower rate. This isn't easy for me. Do you know why? Did you notice the photo above? The photo to your left? This is what most Sacramento nurseries look like these days. They're stocked with every available fruit tree under the sun. You want peaches? They got peaches? Cherries? By the bucket!

You see -- when I come across a lovely scene like this -- the first impulse is to reach out and buy everything in sight. That might make the operator of Capital Nursery very happy -- but I would be digging holes from now until next Christmas.

But this is a GREAT time indeed to visit your local nursery for fruit tree selections. Everything you could possibly want in a backyard fruit garden is within your fingertips. And -- on this day -- Bill Bird was after something special: apples.

The Honey Crisp Apple
We've given up on growing avocados. Four dead trees in the space of three years will do that to you. Oh -- we tried all sorts of tricks. Planting in the best soil? Check! Planting in a raised bed for drainage purposes? Check! Christmas lights on the tree during winter to keep Jack Frost away? Check, check and check again.

They still died. Each and every one. It sort of sends a message. It's time to try something else. The wife mentioned that she wanted apple trees for baking purposes. I like apples for snacking and cider. So why not try APPLES?

The wife's selection in this particular case was the Granny Smith apple. It's not necessarily the best apple to snack on (although some do love its rather tart taste) -- but it is the best selection for baked items like apple pie, apple crisp and that apple cake (with caramel drizzle) that Venus whipped together from scratch just this past weekend.

Yes, I know, I'm very lucky. I have the stomach to prove it.

Pink Lady Apple Trees
The second selection? The Fuji Apple. Although its introduction to this country is rather recent -- it's probably the hottest selling apple in California now. The Fuji is the perfect apple for snacking and it's a good juicing apple as well.

As for the third selection (yes, I'm a glutton), I employed an old nursery trick. I wasn't the first customer to slowly walk up aisle after aisle of delicious fruit trees. Others had been there before me. You could see the telltale signs -- open holes where fruit trees had once been placed. Usually? The best trees go first -- either the hottest new variety or the best variety.

As I stared at the many varieties of apple trees standing in front of me, it became quite obvious what the "hot apple tree of the day" was. It was the Honey Crisp Apple. "Honey Crisp," I questioned? "Never heard of it." Others apparently had, however. There were more empty holes than trees, so I plucked the best looking of the lot the Capital Nursery still had left.

Future Apple Garden Home
I was told -- on my way out of the nursery -- that Honey Crisp was a past Dave Wilson Nursery taste-test winner. But the website doesn't mention that, so I suppose I'll have to trust the prowess of others.

The next step? Getting the trees home and determining exactly where I was going to plant them. I already knew that I was going to employ the Backyard Orchard Culture concept to these plantings. That concept is the grouped planting of three or more trees in a shared hole or raised bed.

Farmer Fred Hoffman reccommends a raised 4X4 bed that is at least a foot high for group plantings like this. In my case? The bed is 5X3 feet -- with trees staggered from back to front to give them as much breathing room as possible. This bed -- built with standard "Lincoln Log" stackable logs purchased from Home Depot is also outfitted with drip irrigation and filled with a planter mix purchased last summer from Hastie's Sand and Gravel in West Sacramento.

Apple Trees Planted-Ready for Whacking!
The hardest part about Backyard Orchard Culture plantings? It's not building the bed -- that was easy. Moving planter mix the consistency of wet concrete (it was quite soaked from all the rain activity we've had) -- wasn't exactly thrilling. The sprained foot that resulted from this project also wasn't fun -- but it wasn't the hard part either.

No -- the hard part is whacking these full grown apple trees down to knee length. You're cutting a tree like this to a third of its original size. The goal is to encourage branch production near the base of the tree -- and never let it get beyond six to seven feet in height (standing on ladders to pick apples can also result in sprained feet or broken legs -- especially if you've been drinking cider).

This project is now complete. Let the cider-making, commence.


Greg Damitz said...

Honey crisp are the best apples bar none.

Fred hoffman said...

Blii, here Ian the link to dave Wilson nursery fruit scores, which includes thevhighnrated honey crisp:

LauraBee said...

Bill - Safeway should probably still have some Honey Crisps if you want to taste what you just bought - they are REALLY good. Educate yourself on codling moth if you have not yet. It's a horrible thing to see a decent crop of apples/pears decimated by the little buggers (been there, done that).

I went to Green Acres on Sunday fully intending to buy nothing but a sprayer for dormant oil & fungicide. Hubby has told me not to go near a nursery in bare-root season. I walked out with the sprayer ... and two more blueberry bushes, a miniature (smaller than dwarf !) peach & a miniature nectarine. Will have to go back later for soil & pots for the fruit trees - wonder what extras will find their ways into my wagon then ?

SouthCoast Guy said...

I never heard of whacking until today, I planted an apple tree three years ago, is it too late to do this to my tree

Buck said...

Have you tried heirloom seeds? They are non-gmo and organic by nature.


Did you consider espalier?