Winter Maintenance in the Apple Orchard
Jan 27 by Erik Olson in Apples, General, Orchards & Apples, Trees tagged apple tree care, apple wood, Arbor Day Farm, orchard, orchard maintenance, tree care, tree pruning, winter orchard with 4 comments
Apple orchards are popular places at two distinct times of the year – during the spring bloom, when branches are covered in pink and white flowers, and in the fall, when crisp, juicy apples are ready for harvest. Most people don’t realize it, but wintertime in an orchard is important, too. Attention to detail in the off-season makes both the bloom and the harvest better.
Every January at Arbor Day Farm, all the fruit-bearing trees in our orchards “get a haircut.” Me and other members of the orchard staff head out into the snow drifts and up into lifts armed with saws to prune each tree. Cutting away some branches makes for odd-looking apple trees – leaving behind stumpy, irregular trunks like the one shown at right – but it’s beneficial to the health of the trees and improves the quality of the apple harvest. With these excess branches out of the way, more sunlight and more airflow can get into the center of the tree, both of which are crucial in producing a good, viable crop of apples come fall.
We make good use of the trimmed branches, too. A few of them remain on the ground in the orchard, providing winter shelter and foraging options for a variety of animals. But for human enjoyment, apple wood is known for being an excellent wood for smoking meats, particularly pork. We haul some of the apple wood to the Timber Dining Room at Lied Lodge and to local barbecue restaurants, where it’s used to bring delicious, smoky flavors to your table.
The hours of winter maintenance in the apple orchard today make for tastier, more abundant apples in September. I hope you’ll come and see for yourself.