Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association

August 2002 Tours

October 23, 2002

by DAN ELLIOT

APFG Members had an enjoyable and educational visit to Gene and Alaine Dinkle’s on Fairview Loop Road in Wasilla on a wet evening in August.  From giant cabbages to little crabapples, we were impressed by the variety and productivity of the established plantings.

The prolific, large clump of red currant was called Holland Long Bunch.  The stands of corn were Seneca & Earlivee.  The raspberries were of the extra hardy variety Kiska.

 

In his orchard, Gene extolled Rescue, the Nor series (especially Norda, which keeps well), Goodland, and McLean (medium sized, yellow with blush, mildly acid, good quality, hardy, fall ripening, 1960 Canada, according to Fruit Nut, Berry Inventory, 2nd edition.)  He lamented the short storage life of Norland, and strongly advised not trying Osman crabapple because of its bitter taste.  In the Proulx & Nichols book Cider, Osman is one of the astringents recommended for blending into hard cider because of the high tannin content. Gene offered that the club could take cuttings of his trees next spring.

 

Gene’s trees were on Ranetka rootstock.  He favored 10-20-20 for an established orchard, and 8-32-16 for new ground.  He considered voles to be a more serious threat than moose or bears, although he showed us the destruction a bear can do to a tree.  For tree guards he likes PVC pipe split lengthwise and slipped around the tree.  For moose protection he had around his orchard an 8 or 9 foot electric wire fence consisting of 3 white taped (for visibility) charged wires and alternating ground wires.  He says it works well.

 

The club members moved almost next door for the second half of the tour to my home.  I pointed out some examples of cultural practices: a strong strap graft wherein a scion is attached on both sides and across the top of a larger stem; the increasing of a crotch angle by undercut saw kerfs; the training of a replacement leader from a side branch after top damage by a moose; an awl graft for a replacement scaffold branch; examples of vole damage where trees weren’t protected; examples of bridge grafting to repair vole girdling; the use of spreaders and/or weights to lower branches for scaffold development, increased fruiting and to help maintain apical dominance of a central leader; and the beginning training of an apple tree at year one to a 5-tiered espalier trellis.

 

About half of the 80 apple varieties are fruiting, some for the first time this year.  Of the gooseberries, Poorman impressed the group most.  The reddish fall foliage colors begin earlier with gooseberries than other trees and shrubs.  This presents an added ornamental feature to one’s garden.  The neglected raspberry patch was Boyne.  The bearing cherry tree was Meteor.  Of the two seedling Manchurian plums, the yellow ripened 2 weeks after the tour but the blue didn’t have enough time.

 

Of interest and encouragement to many was seeing the degree of orchard development that 3 growing seasons can make in an area that was just 3 gravel trenches on our last visit here in May 2000 before the trees were planted.  In this new orchard area as I had filled the gravel trenches with soil before planting I incorporated various commercial organic amendments as well as some compost.  Between each two trees I’ve planted a hill of potatoes that has been mounded over with a pile of chicken manure compost.  In other words, the trees in this area have responded well to being fed well.  The Carrol apples in this well composted are were about twice the size of an older Carrol in the older orchard area which didn’t receive any compost or fertilizer this year.  The trees are spaced a close 5′ apart in the row to maximize the number of varieties I can grow in a limited yard size.  They will need heavier pruning to control them, but I’ve had 2 yearling moose visit a few times to help this fall.

 

After a rainy tour we moved inside for pie and ice cream.  Also enjoyed was raspberry juice made from the steamer / juicer method and juice recipe acquired at Jackson Gardens on our July 2001 tour (2 cups extracted juice, 1 cup sugar, and water to make 2 quarts, or experiment to suit your taste).

 

Early September Apple Pressing and Tour

On September 10 we met at Lawrence Clark’s to press the apples of any member who wanted to use Lawrence’s  Correll Cider Press.  We enjoyed a variety of fresh, zippy flavors our apples have compared to the usual bland grocery store offerings.  Norland, Parkland, and Rescue mixed make a good early blend.  Lawrence particularly likes Whitney apple-crab blended in the juices later in the season.

 

In the orchard, besides the rows of ripening apples, we saw evidence again of vole damage, plus the spectacular results of a bear’s visit to a cherry tree.  His Manchurian apricot was full of fruit.

 

We always come away from Lawrence’s orchard having learned another trick or two (or three).  Thanks again, Lawrence.