We enjoyed our first homegrown apple from our apple orchard yesterday. The Zestar variety ripens earlier than the rest, by the end of August. It tasted similar to a Honeycrisp but more tart. It was especially sweet since we have so few apples this year, having to pick most of the blossoms to force the roots to establish, then losing most of what remained to wind and worms.
Overall, I’m happy with our orchard’s progress. There were some mishaps to be sure, like the Harralson that got so weighted down with apples that three branches broke. Cedar Apple Rust, a common fungal disease has infected other trees but can be easily treated with a fungicide spray. And of course watering the apple trees every day with 5-gallon buckets for the first six weeks was a chore. But seems like we’ve done ok, overall. From here on out the maintenance decreases and the fruit increases.
It’s been two weeks since we planted our apple trees and now the blossoms are in the process of converting into tiny apples. When we bought the trees, I was advised to remove half the blossoms when they got to this stage the first year, so the trees would focus on root development more than fruiting.
There weren’t nearly as many mini-apples (or whatever you call them) as I though there’d be. Not as many as there were blossoms, for sure. I only clipped two trees. We’ve had a lot of windy days lately, I suspect most of the blooms simply blew off.
But it was a good excuse to spend an evening with the apple trees. I do water the trees almost daily, but that is often a rushed chore sandwiched between feeding the chickens and weeding the flowerbeds. I was enjoying the benefits of slowing down and spending some quality time with each tree. I am beginning to learn their individual personalities. Harralson is bountiful and needed lots of picking. The HoneyCrisp are still young bucks, hardly any blooms at all. Zestar #2 won’t stand straight, no matter how many ropes I tie.
I saw signs of deer gnashing — every branch hanging outside the fence was chewed. But the limbs inside were fine (good thing I fenced on day one). Unlike my older apple trees in the front yard, there were no signs of worm damage to any of the apples. But there will be if I don’t spray soon.
The weather was beautiful tonight. It was relaxing inspecting every branch and bloom. There was bit of a zen experience to it all. I can see why people become arborists.