This past summer was the first year (since I’ve been in the Fruit Growers anyway) that we had a tour every month. In May we toured the Mystery Trees in Anchorage as well as making stops at Bob Boyer’s and Tom Marshall s to see then trees. Anyone who hasn’t seen Tom’s ‘Oriole tree should, with his careful attention and nurturing not to mention the numerous varieties on one tree, it truly is impressive. Bob’s ‘Sam’ sweet cherries are a sight to see and it you can talk him into letting you try one or two in the fall, well, they’re better than store-bought. In June we went to Jim Yassick’s in Birchwood. Talk about a greenhouse with grapevines! I was also interested in his ‘Dwarf Russian Almond’ bushes. This may the variety for growing nuts in Alaska. They ate small but hey, a nut grown and ripened in Alaska, what more do you want! They do have a very strong almond flavor, how do I know? well I snuck a couple, and these were from 1997 still on the bush! In July we went to Kevin Irvin’s container grown orchard in East Anchorage. Being the one writing this article I won’t brag about how I grow tree fruit except to say that it can be done. I truly was overwhelmed by the turn out and hope all that came left with some new knowledge. In August we went to Jay Dearborn’s out in Palmer. ‘Vista Bella’ is one variety I didn’t think would ripen here, but Jay says it will Another interesting variety was one that has small apples that hang on the tree through the winter then in the spring he eats as apple raisins! Another note of interest is most of these trees are on ‘Baccata’ and are doing fine. Also in August we were going to do a repeat of the May tour to see the fruit or lack thereof on the ‘Mystery’ trees. We got sidetracked to Pat Carney’s in south Anchorage. Pat has been able to achieve exceptional growth on his grafted trees by using grass compost and what he calls “poop dirt” from his familys’ farm. With his combination he has 2 year old trees producing apples! I am impressed.
I think this new summer agenda of touring different orchards was very rewarding. We all have different ‘tricks of growing’ and varieties that we grow. Most of us know the basics and some of us are more experienced, but none of us know everything.
Given the environment we live in with all the different microclimates and techniques we have, I don’t think anyone who visited any of these orchards left without learning something. I want to thank everyone who invited us to their place and look forward to touring more of your orchards next growing season. Until then happy catalog reading!