It was a chilly but quite informative morning! There were 10 people in the class this morning. I learned a tremendous amount and am SO glad I went. We spent a little over an hour in the barn (kind of heated- it was maybe 40 degrees in there) with a lecture on pruning basics.
My take home information.
Then, it was out into the orchard for some hands-on practice. We first watched as the pros pruned a tree, then we did another as a group with the class members making decisions that were okayed by the instructors. Finally, we divided into pairs and had a tree of our own, with the three instructors wandering through with suggestions or to answer questions. All in all, we spent about 2 hours out in the orchard.
Looking into the orchard.
Here we are, checking out one team's tree.
The instructor for the class is the owner of the orchard. He has only had it for about two years, taking it over from the original owner who was retiring. A lot of the trees in the orchard haven't been pruned in years so it was a great opportunity to get some practice. After tramping about for a while, we returned to the barn to continue the classroom part, this time talking about the differences in root stock, disease resistance and planting information. He had each of us tell our 'story' and why we were there and what our goals were. I did get some good advice. He advised me to cancel my order for the Granny Smith apple. I knew we were getting pretty far north for it since it has a really long growing season. He told me that it probably won't ever ripen to the point where it would taste good here. Good information to have. He did offer some suggestions for varieties and offered to order trees for the class from his supplier. So, I have two more trees on order. I'll have to call about my tree order that I placed and see if I can cancel my granny smith tree. I never got my blueberries ordered so maybe I'll apply that money to blueberries.
After I got home (not till 1:45) I put my knowledge to use. I did have an opportunity to ask the instructor about our apple 'bush' and got some suggestions. It will be a multi-year project to rehab this tree. I was told to never cut more than 1/3 of the wood mass of the tree per year. We got our the chainsaw and got to work.
We cut out a few trunks to open up the tree.
and generated a lot of brush.
Hmmm, don't you use apple wood for smoking?
I also strung some chicken wire around the base to keep the rabbits away. With the extended snow cover that we've had, they have really been going after the tree trunk. Since we exposed some new areas, we didn't want to give them the opportunity to completely girdle the tree.
All in all, it was a fabulous day. I made some good connections with people in the class and feel like maybe, just maybe, I can make more community connections still. And I definitely feel better about getting into fruit production mode.