Orchard Report: EAST ANCHORAGE—Kevin Irvin



This past growing season proved to be somewhat of a challenge with the spring weather turning cold as it did and essentially stopping growth for up to a month depending on the varieties. In my crowded container grown orchard the biggest set back was pollination. While all trees eventually blossomed they didn’t at the normal time and some were set back where they didn’t blossom with the other trees or it rained and the bees weren’t active. Yellow Transparent’ didn’t set any fruit at all as it finally blossomed in the latter part of June after Norland, ‘Westland’, ‘Summer Red’, ‘Heyer 12’ and ‘Parkland’. ‘Norland’ faired the best with an average fruit set; however, the size was smaller than normal. Smaller size also was seen in ‘Parkland’ and ‘Heyer 12’ which also when it ripened didn’t taste good.


Everyone complained that the summer temps, were cooler than normal. I believe the summer temps were in the normal range but that it was the spring temps that hurt. After what looked like an early spring and with trees budding out the cold weather came back and virtually stopped all growth. Depending on the variety they either sat there trying to figure out what to do or just shook a little and then continued on. However all of my trees were a month behind ripening. ‘Northstar’ pie cherry’ which usually ripens at the end of July ripened at the end of August, which I might add, enabled me to enter them in the fair! My unknown plum never did ripen, this was the first year I had fruit set after hand pollinating them and again blossom time was delayed compared to 1997. ‘Norland’ for me has always ripened at the end of August; this year it was the 3rd week of September. ‘Gold Spice’ pear did ripen in time for the tasting. My ‘Valiant’ grape set quite a few clusters however they didn’t ripen on the vine before the first frost on 27 Aug. started it into dormancy. I still have hope for grapes.


As Lawrence Clark said, ‘‘this was not an apple year”. I think there is a lot to be said for Norland. I don’t know anyone that grows ‘Norland’ that didn’t get apples and looking at the entries in the Fair. ‘Norland’ was dominating. I also think one must diversify in apple varieties. The more varieties you grow the better chance of at least some ripe apples. In other words, don’t put all your apples in one basket.