What Are We Up to All Winter Long?
Think we are dormant when the apple trees are? Think again.
Things may seem quiet here at Lakeland Orchard during the winter months and early spring, but nature is always working behind the scenes for spring growth, and we work hard to help it along. Wintertime is a vital season, in fact. Did you know that apple trees actually require chill hours? They need the right amount of cold for the flower buds to open and to produce juicy, crisp fruit. Along with that, the trees need human help too, and that's where we come in.
Over the winter months, we keep busy pruning our trees. We need to prune in the winter while trees are dormant, and we must finish pruning before the trees reach a growing stage called “green tip.” The reason we prune in the winter is to keep the branches young on the trees for two reasons. The first is that young branches produce nicer fruit. The second is that large branches make a tree want to make more large branches.
Another reason we prune is to reduce the number of fruit buds that a tree will have. That might not seem to make sense. Why wouldn't we want more buds? It's because we want each tree to have a specific amount of fruit buds to help with fruit production control. It's kind of like Goldilocks looking for the “just right” temperatures and amount. Some trees require more pruning because they are aggressive growers, and some are slower and require less.
We take about two months to prune depending on the weather and the size of our crew. Apple trees can grow 1 to 3 feet vertically and grow 5 to 20 new side branches every year. Once we've taken care of our existing trees, it's time to turn our attention to planting. Apple tree planting takes place in April or May. If we are replacing old trees, we have to cut them and dig new holes for the new trees. If we are adding to the orchard, we need to install trellis systems first in the late fall or early winter and then plant new trees.
As for our other plants and trees, the Christmas trees don't need much attention other than some winter shearing if we were not able to do that in the late summer. Nature is taking care of itself in the off-season until it is time to prepare the field for the sunflowers and zinnias in the spring.
So the next time you pick one of our apples and take a delicious bite, just think of all that nature has done behind the scenes, with a little bit of help from us.