09 December 2007

How Not to Grow an Orchard

We've blogged before about the crappy old orchard that haunts our backyard. And just so you don't start thinking that this atrocity is our fault, I'll make it clear that this is all our landlord's doing. There are two primary factors that contribute to the orchard's craptitude: bad spacing of trees, and bad no pruning. In case you'd like to avoid such a calamity in your own cute grove of trees, I decided to prepare a handy primer on what not to do. I've conveniently provided annotated photographic evidence of our supremely lousy orchard.

1. A five-foot section of an exceedingly tall branch which snapped off under the weight of an unmanaged apple crop and which is now dangling precariously, caught in other branches, waiting to fall and thwap someone in the head.

2. A fifteen-, formerly twenty-, foot tall spike (see #1) which now has no branches at all left on it. I'm sure that in the spring it will send out a tuft of little twigs at its highest point, which will then conceive big, nasty, worm-eaten apples, which will in turn snap off another five feet of tree. We don't know a whole lot about fruit trees, but one thing we can say with certainty is that they're not supposed to have any major part going straight up and down except for the trunk.

3. You'll notice that, except for the trunk, every single branch on this thing is reaching desperately for the sun.

4. Even the main limbs coming off the trunk are pointing nearly straight up, even though they should ideally be at about a 60° angle.

5. But that's what happens when you plant an apple tree directly underneath an older, larger apple tree and then neglect to prune it: the young tree lunges towards the sun. This thing is the Icarus of apple trees.

6. And this tree was so crowded it just flat out fell over.

7. Which this one will do soon.

8. As will this one.

9. And then they will all send up pseudo-trunks like this, to compensate.

I give this whole mess three years. Except for our adopted apple tree, of course. Because, since we're going to get my brother to come here with his booze making equipment and provide us with a nice, big barrel of applejack, we better take good care of that one.


Wonderful World of Weiners said...

I LOVE that you used the word "thwap." I intend to start using it often - I love it!!

New to your blog but I'll be back. I appreciate the orchard tips. We do NOT have apple trees anywhere near us but in case I ever come across a tree in need, I'll be ready!!


Meg said...

Glad you like the post, Hallie!

I think I've run into you all over blog land ... I know you posted at Dayna's blog the other day, and haven't I seen you comment at Pioneer Woman? And that coyote blog? Crazy.

Wicked Gardener said...

Oh! Hallie stole my comment. I liked the word "thwap" too! Honestly, I've never gotten the more technical discriptions of prunning, but your layman's advice made sense. Sometimes the best to learn something is to know what not to do!

Meg said...

WG, thanks for stopping by.

We've never gotten the more technical definitions of pruning, either--some of the books out there are intense! We're looking forward to testing out what we've learned on one of the more salvageable trees in the yard. I think the rest (like the ones in the photos) are lost causes.

lisa said...

I have a hideously over grown old growth apple orchard, this year, it is all getting pruned back to basically nothing, to try to rescue it and perhaps get good apple one day. Apple jack huh? How do you make it???