My micro-orchard in Auke Bay, north of Juneau, was initially planted in 1991 and consists of about 30 summer apple varieties and several varieties of sour cherries, sweet cherries, and plums. The maritime climate in Auke Bay is mild by Alaskan standards, with high and low temperatures moderated by the ocean. We receive about ten feet of snow and seven feet of rain annually, and our highs rarely exceed 70°F and lows rarely drop below 10°F. The frost-free growing season is from about the middle of April to the middle of October. Most fruit trees in our vicinity, including the indigenous crab, bloom from about mid-May to mid-June.
This is the second year I have had a “harvest” but it is still not too much to crow about. This year our damp June adversely affected trees with a later bloom time. After thinning, my summer apple produced about 60 commercial-sized fruits, my cherries produced just enough for a taste, and I’m still waiting for the plums to flower.
Of the apples that produced for me this year, Liveland Raspberry and Red Astrachan were my favorite for fresh eating. My favorite from last year, Discovery, did not produce this year, although I still feel this is the best variety of dessert apple I have tasted in southeast Alaska. Other varieties which produced for me this year were: Centennial, Duchess of Oldenburg (great for pies), New Summer Scarlet, Rescue, Summer Rambo, and Yellow Transparent. I would not recommend New Summer Scarlet for anyone in my region because the flesh of this apple tastes extremely bitter, even fully ripened. The apples of this variety are mediumsized, yellow, and smell great — but they kind of bite you back.
This year I lost four trees to bacterial canker, characterized by the bark turning an orange color and flaking away from the tree. In previous years 1 have seen this develop on the trunk or near the branch collars where limbs have broken. Canker is supposedly caused by wet soil and is remedied by excising infected sections. I have seen it develop on many apple varieties with most of the rootstocks that I have tried (i.e. Antonovka, MARK, EMLA 7, Ranetka), with the exception of Malus borowinka.To protect my trees from sunscald, last fall and this spring I painted most of the trunks with white latex (full and half strength) because they were growing out of their spiral tree guards. I also put a roll of hardware cloth circling most trunks to discourage rodent and porcupine damage. To further confuse the situation, I accidentally sprayed all of my trees in early spring with a surfactant oil rather than my ultra-fine dormant oil! After 1 recovered from my near heart attack, I observed over the course of the early summer that I had lethal canker developing on the painted trunks of two of my sweet cherries and two of my apples. In addition, three other apple bees have near- girdled as a result of the canker. All of the infected trees were painted with full-strength latex in the fall and damage was apparent on the trunks underneath the paint. I believe this treatment and the dormant oil mishap contributed to my canker problem. I did not have any control trees, so I guess all I can recommend is to use caution when painting your fruit tree trunks. If you do paint them, preferably use half-strength latex in the spring as I did not see damage with this treatment. One final recommendation…read labels carefully before eagerly loading up your brand new backpack sprayer!