For our May meeting, Dave and Carolyn Crusey kindly gave a tour of their one-acre orchard in Knik. The Cruseys live in a very favorable spot that gets more sun and less wind than Anchorage, Eagle River, or Peters Creek, which are just a few miles away across Knik Arm. The soil is a rich, windblown silt. The orchard is surrounded by moose-proof fencing that looks at least eight feet tall.
I called Dave on September 7 to see how his orchard produced this year. It’s been an excellent apple-growing summer. The Cruseys’ showcase trees are Norland, which have been in the ground for about eight years and produce hundreds of beautiful apples annually. They also are getting good production this year from Chinese Golden Early, Yellow Transparent, Westland, Parkland, Goodland, Rescue, and Carroll. Many branches are weighed down to .the ground with apples. Dave reports that his Westlands, which are up to 3 inches in diameter, are great eating this year, although they weren’t much good last year. So, this variety has something going for it besides size, appearance, and hardiness. Parkland and Goodland trees that have only been in the ground for two years are already bearing a hundred or more apples each!
Other apple varieties that have not done so well include Duchess (trees tend to die after a few years), Lodi, Mantet, Summerred, and Harralred (iffy). Beacon produces big, good- looking apples on a hardy, vigorous tree, but the fruit itself is worthless.
The Cruseys also have three producing cherry varieties: Northstar (which tends to go bushy), Meteor (pretty reliable), and Montmorency (no dieback last winter, which was moderate). Two cherries — Kristan and Mesabi — died at age two. Other trees include some small crabs, Ure pear, Manchurian walnut, sugar maple, burr oak (thriving!), and hawthorn.