Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association

Orchard Report – Peters Creek – 2002

June 23, 2002

Orchard Reports

by Tami Schlies

We got to see the wonderful acreage of Larry and Judy Wilmarth out in South Anchorage in July, and she gave us some notes I thought I would include in this issue.  They have a huge greenhouse where they keep some of their potted fruit plants in the winter.  They also had interesting planter boxes for the trees, lined with 2 inch styrofoam for winter protection.  These plants bear fruit before the outside plants even bud.

November 5 to February 5 they did not heat the greenhouse, and kept temperature records during that time.  The lowest temperature was 10 degrees, with an average of about 25 degrees.  They wanted to let it get cold enough to kill most of the foreign bugs imported.  Judy

said that in the summer, even with the fans on and the huge doors open, it got up above 110 degrees, and so they do not grow much in there in the summer.  At the tour, they had some grape vines with fruit, and pumpkins etc. inside the greenhouse, but that was all.

Some successes they have had are Kirsten and Sam cherries, budding March 24.  Kiwis, apricots, and Mountain Ash budded by April 3.   By April 10, asian pears and the mountain ash Shipova started budding.  Sungold apricots had fruit by May 10, and the outside cherries in pots started budding.  In the greenhouse, small plums came out on the Mount Royal trees by May 13.  The only failure I know about was the Princess Kay plum planted outside in 2000 that died, though I think there was more that got cut off on the handout I was given.

My own orchard here in Peter’s Creek took vole damage this year on my potted plants.  That’s what I get for laying them down so close to the compost pile, I guess.  I lost one of my silken trees altogether, and others I thought were going to be fine are now showing signs of stress I am sure are a result of bark damage.  They just can’t take up enough water in the heat this year.  Winter will cull them, I figure.  I did get three grafts to take from the silken that was damaged, so we’ll see how it does on several rootstocks.

After the spring of terrible mosquitoes, the summer brought a large number of yellow jacket nests to my neighborhood.  We destroyed five in my yard alone, and the neighbors also removed several from their properties.  Though I am alergic to bee and wasp stings, I do not mind a few in my garden (bees not nests!)  Big bumblebees buzz happily through my poppies early in the morning before the dew has even cleared, humming almost like content cats.  Honey bees sip at the clover throughout the yard, for some reason never bothering barefoot kids.  Even the yellow jackets serve a purpose – I have watched with fascination as they hunt small flies or leafhoppers in the garden, catching and stinging with amazing speed and then flying away with their load.  Have you ever seen the efficiency with which they can cut a chunk of meat off your salmon or game scraps and carry it away?  They do the same to my strawberries later in the season if I do not pick the berries before they turn fully ripe.  Sigh.  To my dismay I got stung out of nowhere (a hidden nest up among and behind my runner beans) at the beginning of a beautiful day of sun in late July.  No more gardening for that day, since I only had one sting kit.  I was sure it would be the last sunny day of the season, but we were blessed with many more between now and then!  I have included a handout on yellow jackets in this issue for anyone else interested.

I got a second row of trees planted, and hope to move the chicken pen to encircle the new orchard.  They will definitely keep the grass from competing for moisture and nutrients, and add their own “nutrients” as well.  I am hoping they can also eliminate pest problems before they appear.

I have been using organic fertilizers exclusively for three years now and am very happy with the results.  My trees are so green and thick, and the new grafts are stocky, 2 1/2 foot trees now.  I use a fertilizer especially for fruit trees that includes extra boron, which is supposed to make the fruit sweeter, so we will see at the tasting this year.  I am also adding micchorhizae during planting this year, and will report on any difference I see next year.

The new plastic limb spreaders I got from Garden’s Alive! are working very well.  They allow me to use them on almost any branch length, are not too heavy, do zero damage to the tree, and are so easy!  I even used one on a new whip that was crooked and kind of bowed to the ground at an unpleasant angle when I planted it.  The limb spreader was just the right size to prop the tree up until it stabilizes itself.  The only complaint I have is that they are very white, and so really jump out at you when you look out at the orchard.  Did any of you use a product this year you might like to comment on?  Let me know so I can share with our members.