The Grovestead

Farm, Family, Fun.

Tag: honeycrisp

A trip to the Apple Store

Apple Store

No, not that Apple Store.

Although ours did have an Apple genius and we bought a McIntosh.

The real Apple Store

Received a call this morning from Leif at the local tree nursery who is helping us plan our orchard this year.  He said the trees were on the lot but they were going fast. So we loaded up the kids and went to a real Apple Store.

Family wandering the tree selection

Looking over the apple trees

Changing plans at a moment’s notice when toddlers are involved is not ideal under any circumstance. But changing them the day before Easter when you have 21 people coming over borders on insanity. It takes a particularly patient and gracious wife to pull this one off.

But sometimes you just need to seize the opportunities that present themselves. At least that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve learned the hard way that dragging my feet, mulling it over, or looking for a better price too often leaves me empty handed.

Last year, as I was doing all the research on Maple tree tapping, I waited until the last possible minute to buy the taps and sap buckets. By then all the stores had sold out but I was fortunately able to order online (although not in the quantities I needed).

Last year, the winter was incredibly long, pushing the planting season back almost a month. So I put off buying the vegetable transplants until I could actually put them in the ground. Of course, all the gardening stores were picked over by the time I arrived, checkbook in hand. I had to scavenge all over three towns and ended up buying most of my plants at a grocery store chain.

Last year, by the time I found a farmer willing to plant my field the seed store had sold out of the alfalfa mix we needed. We ended up interplanting two varieties but due to weather and other factors the planting never took and we’ll need to re-plant it this year.

With the apple orchard, we had already decided that this was a priority. So when Leif called, I didn’t want to hesitate. Today was going to be the day we bought our trees.

We decided to go with a mix of our favorite eating apples as opposed to pie-making apples or apple sauce apples. And on Leif’s advice we got a mix of breeds to have ripening apples for a longer season. We’ll take delivery in a few weeks, when the ground is ready and we can get some help with the planting.

Here are the trees we bought (pictured in order below): four Honeycrisp, four Zestar, and one of each Haralson (HaralRed), Honeygold, Prairie Spy, and MacIntosh (MacFree).

Honeycrisp Apple Zestar Apple Harralson Apple Honeygold Apple Prairie Spy Apple McIntosh Apple

Orchard Planning

Apple Tree

One of our top priorities since moving here was getting an apple orchard planted. With orchards, it can take several years before we see the fruit of our labor so we are eager to get started as soon as possible. So I had the owner from a local tree nursery out to our place today to get his advice. No kidding, the guy owns a tree nursery and his name is Leif.

Leif and I walked the orchard site and discussed all the options. When to plant, kinds of root stock, breed of apples, etc. He said I was asking all the right questions which I take as a huge compliment.

We’ve decided to plant in one corner of the property we’ve come to call The Panhandle, due to it being bordered on three sides by property lines and woods. It’s about one acre, gets full sun, and has a gentle slope which is perfect for trees (as Leif confirmed). The only drawback: it’s the furthest possible spot from our house. 

The space will easily provide a dozen or so semi-dwarf trees. It doesn’t matter which direction we lay out the rows, just need to space the trees at least 15-feet apart. We love Honeycrisp apples. But Leif recommended a variety of breeds to have ripening apples all season long (early, mid, and late-season). We also need few crabapple trees for cross-polination.

One concern was the bordering 120-acre tract which is mono-cropped and sprayed regularly. A 30 to 60 foot buffer was recommended, plus a phone call to the owner to let him know what we’re up to. The other concern was deer. Someday I might welcome the deer but for now I want the trees to survive. The options are either a huge fence (8 feet) or pruning the trees up 3 to 4 feet where the deer can’t reach. The fence is a non-starter, so we’ll just have to take our chances with the deer until the trees are tall enough.

Leif also recommended aggressive root cutting before transplanting and removing 3/4’s of the apple blossoms in the first year or two to force the trees to establish better roots. He said we can pick the apples when they are about the size of a thumbnail.

Still a few weeks until the ground is thawed enough to plant. But we’ll be starting soon! I’m beginning to think this Spring will fly by.


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