Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association

Orchard Report – Cottage Grove, Minnesota – 2001

January 23, 2002

Cottage Grove, Minnesota

by ROBERT PURVIS

August 21, 2001

 

This spring, my 1-year-old trees of M.604 and Debbie’s Gold apricot both blossomed on a warm day in late April, 2 wk after the last frost.  The bumblebees worked the blossoms, and the trees tried to set fruit, but ultimately they all fell off.  Now each has added about 15-18″ of terminal growth and each looks very healthy with a nice scaffold of wide-angled laterals.

My Norcue tree bore a crop, but the squirrels got some of them.  The Noret has become a big (9′), healthy tree with about 7 apples on it, and they are now about ripe.  I had severe injury on my Beurre Giffard pear tree, but it bounced back from just above the graft union and I braided 4 shoots from there. No problems with Ginger Gold, Zestar, Honeycrisp, Trailman, or Carroll–all bore a crop and did pretty well this summer.  My tree of Summercrisp pear suffered fatal winter trunk injury, but my Concorde (which no one knows its hardiness) pear survived our -30F with no injury and even had a few blossoms! (Unfortunately, it is way too late for Alaska.)  I’ve been keeping records, as usual, on ripening dates and pick dates on my apple trees, but these will not be quite as reliable if the trees are young.

I am currently evaluating Bonine’s Hot Pepper Wax, which is labeled as a squirrel repellant, and hope it works.

I don’t know if you folks in Alaska knew this, but that sector of the nursery industry that supplies amateurs with fruit trees has taken some severe hits this year.  Bear Creek Nursery went out of business last Sept., and Rocky Meadow O &N was sold to GardensAlive! about that same time (but I ordered rootstocks from RM in January okay).  Stark Brothers filed for bankruptcy July 2, and both Gurney’s Seed & Nursery and Henry Fields Nursery also have gone out of business.  That leaves Fedco Trees (in Maine) and St. Lawrence Nurseries as two of the few outfits that survive although Farmer Seed & Nursery here in MN is still in business, I think.  Bailey’s Nursery here in St. Paul continues to do well, and Hilltop Trees in Michigan continues to be a decent source if one can order at least half-a-dozen trees at one time.

Not long ago, I acquired budwood of a Siberian C peach seedling that withstood minus 41F in Anoka County in Feb. 1996 with no winter injury.  The budwood was fresh and of the perfect size, so I budded it onto two Marianna 2624 plum rootstocks as part of a summer budding class I gave.  However, the real issue with peaches in Alaska is not so much cold injury as failure to harden off the new growth–or at least, that was true back in the 1980s.

How has this summer been in Anchorage?  Have you had much sun or warmth, or has it been average or worse than average?

I’m continuing here in my job as an agricultural statistician but found time to do some topgrafting for a La Crescent commercial apple grower in May, and he said that every one of the 243 bark grafts took!   Soon, I may have some hard decisions on which apple, pear, and plum trees to plant in my yard and which to sell to growers who are further south, because space is limited.