Tag Archives: apple

The Perfect Fruit Tree Owner

August 29, 2019

McIntosh. My favorite.

Most will say you can’t grow a Mac here. Well, there is at least one tree in the Seattle area. Lori Brakken, apple sleuth, drives around and slams on the brakes when she spots any apple tree. She saw a Mac in the Seattle area and called me up. I visited the tree last winter and got permission from Kathy, the tree owner, to take some scion wood. (Allison and I made two grafts this spring and they both are doing well!)

Per the orangepippen website,  this apple was discovered by a John McIntosh, a farmer in Ontario in the early 19th century. The McIntosh was suited to the cold climate of the area as it achieves its best flavor in colder apple-growing regions.

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“The McIntosh style is typified by attractive dark red or (more often) crimson colors, and a crunchy bite, often with bright white flesh. The flavor is simple and direct, generally sweet but with refreshing acidity, and usually a hint of wine – often referred to as vinous”.

Kathy was anxious for us to return this summer for pruning and to give her a yearly management plan. Her tree has apple scab so she has been instructed to pick up all the apples and leaves. (Venturia inaequalis resides in the litter.)

Kathy is the perfect fruit tree owner. She cares about the tree,  is eager to learn how best to care for it and allows us to glean much of the fruit for the food bank.

“I’m in the arts”, Kathy announced. “I am not fruit tree expert. I was given an assignment in a training to draw part of a tree, once each month for three months. I chose this apple tree. Noting the details and the changes really woke me up to nature.”

Structural pruning is usually done in the winter but we “took a bit off the top and the sides”. Kathy wanted pruning on the street side so auto owners would stop breaking the branches. She also wanted a walkway between the tree and a nearby bush. Pruning has to consider all of the various goals.

Allison is tall and she managed the long-handled pruners. She ate as many apples as she could while pruning. In the end, Kathy was satisfied. “The tree looks good, like it did in years past!”

Below is a comment by Bruce, from the orangepipen website:

I grew up in central Pennsylvania and with the scent of McIntosh apple pie and apple dumplings, next door, in my aunt Eleanor’s kitchen. The stand-out attribute of this variety in my mind is the distinctive aroma. Quite unlike any other. The fruit, also unlike any other, is extremely delicate; that’s why I think most grocers avoid stocking them (the phrase I’ve heard them called is “smash and toss” apples) They bruise easily then rapidly mush and rot. They are like a beautiful sunset. Awesome and short lived. I’m attempting (with limited success) to grow them here in Western Washington, difficult because it doesn’t get cold enough in the winter. I will continue the effort because these are the best apples EVER !


The Apple Sleuth

September 6, 2016

Lori Brakken, apple ID expert and landscape designer, volunteers tirelessly in her efforts to further frame before plants DSCN0748people’s enjoyment of fruit. Last weekend, she graciously invited me to observe an apple ID session. Thinking that identifying apples would be an outdoor job, I donned my hat and sunglasses and paid her a visit.

her espalier Brian W pics (6)We did start the day in her small side yard where over 160 apple varieties are in espalier (see before and after photos), but only because it’s the gateway to her indoor study.

Inside, she grinned and set out a chair for me right next to her computer and three well-worn reference books (listed below). She picked up a cross section of a piece of apple, looked at me, and made a proposition – “Red Astrachan”.

I was not sure the name was the apple variety or the customer who brought the apple for her to ID. I nodded my head and listened until enough clues came my way to be able to conclude that, in fact, this Russian apple variety should be known by any appleholic. Still, how she leaped from just smelling and then looking at an orangish red apple to naming it a Red Astrachan I will never know but, that’s why Lori is in high demand. We didn’t even wade through the unique detailed online apple ID software program she developed; we just read in detail all of the descriptors (see quiz) from her old reference books in order to confirm the ID!

This past summer the National Park Service recruited Lori to visit an historic heritage orchard in cropped a Lori Brakken1Whiskeytown, California (photo) where she took pictures of varieties from trees planted in the mid 1800s. Again, most of the work was done after she arrived home, looking through the books and matching the characteristics against her photos of the tops, bottoms, cross sections and longitudinal sections of the various apples.

Lori brighter WP_20141025_016If you want Lori to ID your apple, you too can get in line at one of the fall fruit shows listed below. I am warning you though; don’t be that person who stands in line polishing your apple with your T-shirt. She will cringe. PLEASE don’t handle the apple any more than you need to.

Also, here is your second warning. When you finally face Lori and wait patiently for her to slice and dice, smell, taste and measure and ponder … she may look up at you, and, when you lean in to hear the answer, it might be, “Can you bring some samples back next year so I can be sure?”

Take the quiz! Match the word to the definition

How to get your apple identified:

Bring 4-6 apples from the tree with the stems intact. Try not to handle too much and don’t wash them. Tell her all you can about the apples: When do they ripen? How long do they keep? If you can have an idea how old the tree is, that helps. How tall is the tree? When does it flower? All these clues will help figure out what variety of apple you have.

Bring your apple to one of these events:

Piper’s Orchard Festival of Fruit, Saturday, Sept. 24, 10-2, Carkeek Park, Seattle, WASeattle Tree Fruit Society monthly meeting, Saturday, Oct. 8, 10-12, The Brig at Magnuson Park, Seattle, WA
Finnriver Farm and Cidery, Sunday, Oct. 9, 10-6, Chimacum, WA
Vashon Island Fruit Club monthly meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 6-8pm, Vashon Island, WA
Oregon Home Orchard Society All About Fruit Show, Sat (apple ID) and Sun Oct. 15 & 16th, 10-4, Canby, OR
Peninsula Fruit Club Fall Fruit Show, Saturday, Oct. 22, 10-4, Bremerton, WA

Favorite Reference Books of Lori Brakken:

‘The Apples of New York’ by Spencer Ambrose Beach
‘Apples’ by John Bultitude
‘The Book of Apples’ by Joan & Alison Richards Morgan

Ruth Callard

Apple and Pear Physiology

November 29, 2015

Apple and Pear Physiology

This is not FECO

This is not FECO

WSU Extension offers a bounty of pertinent information about orchard management on their website . They also host continuing education and I recently attended a two-day workshop focusing on Apple and Pear Physiology.

The following information hit me as either useful or interesting or both. Note that different tree fruit varieties may not behave as indicated in these generalizations.

Bourse and f bud J. Exp. Bot.  59(12) 3215-28, Fig. 3Next year’s apple began as a vegetative bud in the growing season of the current year. A vegetative short shoot (spur) broke to form a (bourse) shoot with a whorl of leaves containing a new bud in the center. (Terminal buds on longer shoots can also become floral buds, as can axils of leaves on one-year old wood. These transition later in the season and are usually not as productive.)

Transition from vegetative bud to fruit bud could occur at different times meristem phases 03-Whiting-FloralInitiation-Finalduring the season and is not tied to temperature or day light. This transition is called floral initiation. Within 120 days after this year’s flower bloomed, 95% of the new buds that are going to transition to flower buds were committed to the transition. Spur buds can begin transition within a few weeks after bloom.

bending notching Musacchi-VegetativeReproductivePruningIt is more likely for a vegetative bud to transition if there are at least six leaves feeding it carbohydrates and if it is exposed to at least 70% of full sun, especially during the first seven weeks after full bloom. Thinning fruit, summer pruning and bending shoots toward horizontal all foster floral initiation.

The commercial growers exploit stress to manage their trees. Water stress can help flower initiation by reducing vegetative growth. The last thing a commercial grower chainsaw 14-RobinsonFeigal-StressManagement1wants is a 24″ shoot. After all, they sell apples, not shoots. It was fascinating to listen to methods used, such as limiting irrigation during the growing season. Growers don’t freak out when they see leaves droop. They point out that many growers water trees based on the driest area in the orchard. Pruning can also reduce vegetative growth. In one extreme case, a grower used a chainsaw. (picture of tree) The tree got the message.

Some cultural practices reduce flower initiation, e.g. applying excess nitrogen. Also, the more vigorous the shoot, the less likely it will flower next year. And, if there was seeded fruit on the spur this year the chance that the same spur will initiate a flower bud will be greatly reduced. However, those bourse shoots, which will swell and look like a knob, can throw out new spurs in seasons to come. Be careful to only pick off the apple when you are harvesting!

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You can spot next year’s flower buds 120 days after petal fall, which is about mid-September for a mid-May bloom. Take a look at your tree now. Flower buds tend to be bigger but the real defining item is that the meristem (the bud region of new plant tissue) is domed, versus flat.

Before the leaves fell, the tree roots sucked from them the last of the carbohydrates. These stored sugars provide the energy for spring operations, well before there are leaves to begin a new energy source via photosynthesis. Buds and roots are still growing in fall but become dormant for the winter, in order to survive.

In eastern Washington, they can count on Endodormancy (deep dormancy) to end January 1. However, on our side of the mountains, the date may be earlier. Roots are less cold hardy than the shoots, which are less cold hardy than the buds. (The roots can keep working in winter to be ready alert for spring.)

An apple tree needs to meet both a chill unit requirement and a growth unit requirement in order to wake up and break bud in the spring. You can’t shove an apple tree into the greenhouse for the winter and expect good results.

nmsu chart crop COLD-HARDINESS AND DORMANCY OF APPLE TREESHourly temperatures after October 1 are tracked. A temperature of 43F for an hour will earn the maximum one chill unit. Temperatures above and below less than one chill unit (see chart). Freezing temperatures earn no chill units. Alternatively, warm temperatures, over 60F, subtract previously accumulated chill units! Delicious apples need 1,200 chill units.

Growth units, also measured hourly, are earned whenever the temperature is over 41F. You earn a growth unit for every degree that the temperature is above 41F. Delicious apples need 7,000 growth units after October 1 to break bud.

Finally, after 12 months of growth and dormancy, your floral bud is ready to flower and make fruit. Apple blossom I thinkTrees generally produce many times more flowers than the desirable number of fruit per tree. When thinning flowers, leave the king flower, the center flower, on the apple. But, leave a basal flower on a pear, as it is the most developed. If thinning fruit instead of blossoms, it’s best to thin before the fruit is 11mm in diameter, the width of a pinky finger.

The number of cells is big factor to determine the size of the apple. Cell division in fruit is exponential during the first 7-14 days after pollination and then continues for another 3 weeks or so, during which time, cell elongation begins.

If developing fruit drops early, it’s usually due to competition with other fruit for food, nutrients and water. There is constant competition between the different energy sinks: roots, shoots, flowers, fruit and secondary growth.

By fall your apple is ready and, near to where you pick it, a floral bud is working away internally to be ready for next year.