Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association

2005 Orchard Report — Kenai

March 23, 2006

2005 Orchard Report

by Mike O’Brien

O’Brien Garden & Trees

49152 Orchard Circle

Kenai, AK 99611

(907)-776-8726

obrienorchards@gci.net

 

Hello Tami,

 

This started as a note on the highlight of the 2005 season but after proofing also includes previous years.

I enjoyed demonstrating the grafting procedure at the workshop last April, 9 with Dwight Bradley and Bob Boyer and other members. It is not often that my business trips, coincide with club activities and it was fun.

My niece graduated from U.A.F. spring last year, so while in Fairbanks I had a opportunity to visit with Clair and Vivian Lammers and finally seen their orchard. It is very impressive layout and water system, stepped, fenced, a very thought organized orchard. Most of all I was impressed with their openness, friendliness, and sharing which made us feel right at home. They had photo album showing fruit on the trees and on plates showing sizes also whether or not the cultivars were still surviving. They grow many of the Canadian varieties most of which I didn’t know about but I was in luck I left with one of the few they had left from the 2004 season

While doing some shopping in Kenai last summer I ran into a one of my school friends whom I had grown up with in Anchorage. Alan Klatt’s parents homesteaded in south Anchorage, and with the help of their children had a nursery with trees and a landscaping business, later including a driving golf range. I always thought Alan was lucky to be involved in such a business. The Klatts have some very old apple trees that were growing in downtown Anchorage. They later evolved a new variety (Klatts Choice) they propagated through Baileys nursery and I was fortunate enough to be given one by Mr. Lester Klatt. When Allan and I both returned from Vietnam, he went to college in Washington State and received a degree in horticulture, I in the mean time started working construction. In the early seventies I had acquired quite a few apple trees like Yellow Transparent, Duchess, Battleford, Sweet Sixteen, Dolgo, and other crab apple trees. Allen was visiting at the house and I was explaining the problem of moose browsing my grafted apple trees and they were not reliably hardy. His degree came with the knowledge to do field grafting, and he proceeded to impress me with getting takes on seven out of eight grafts onto Dolgo and Ornamental Crab rootstock. I was so impressed and had such a strong interest in growing and especially propagating that even with working construction jobs in and out of town I started my nursery business in 1982, which I still run at this time.

Later my younger sister was working in the same building with another fruit enthusiast (Bob Purvis) and we met somewhere in the mid eighties. It was great seeing Bob and Connie Purvis last fall at the Kenai’s Farmers market. They stopped by on their return from Homer on the way to Anchorage. Bob Purvis and Rich Rayner were the key figures by starting the fruit explorers and especially the newsletter, making it possible to share and communicate throughout the state, and that is the key.

Alaska is on a very fast pace now, and keeps getting faster as we explore the different fruit potentials as our climate gets warmer and our knowledge increases every year.

In April we did an annual grafting and bee presentation in Seldovia. In May we did our 15th annual fruit tree presentation and grafting class. Last august I did an article for Fruit Growers News on growing fruit on the peninsula. Later I was visited by a very prominent apple grower from Michigan who was here on vacation and doing some fishing. He stated his favorites are still MacIntosh, and Empire apple and his taste buds were not sold on the new hyped up varieties.

This past September, 18th I attended the second annual apple tasting of Walter and Judith Johnson in Homer. They are members of the South Peninsula Fruit Growers, a very knowledgeable seasoned group. There were many large, beautiful, different varieties of apples for tasting. My favorite apple was the Red Gravenstein. The Johnson’s orchard has a water system, is stepped and fenced, and on a high elevation that over looks the Homer Bowl. In other words a perfect site.

Things pretty much came to a close as we ended the season September 24th with our 15th annual apple tasting, we had over a hundred people attend. We sold lots of apples, juice, pie filling, and trees. To say we were swamped by the attendance was an under-statement.

I am now almost sixty years old (40 to go) and have been inspired by many. Growing fruit trees can really get addictive, but what a rush. In winter we search to acquire, but it is truly each spring we see our friends again as they show signs of life.

Starting in March I graft over 1000 trees and I am thankful that I still feel the same enthusiasm each spring at grafting time.

 

Best Of Luck,

Mike O’Brien