The past week I went up to West Haven Farm to help with thinning. The farm has agreed to let me thin on my own schedule and keep track in the orchard log of the trees that have been thinned. For my labors they have offered me an exchange of veggies and fruit from the farm, a more than fair exchange in my opinion. The apples are sizing up nicely and many of the trees are showing a good crop. The sun has already left a red blush on many of the small apples, helping them to stand out against the clay coated leaves. I biked up late in the afternoon, the mile and half straight up the west hill of the Ithaca basin. It is my favorite time to work; the late afternoon. As I arrived the farm workers were finishing the last tasks for the day and heading home with a few quarts of fresh strawberries left over from the days labors. Soon the tractor was parked and the gate closed and I found myself alone, with the crows and the trees, and few evening peepers tuning up for their symphony.
Thursday, June 10
Good morning! And a beautiful morning. The weather has been cooler the past few days, giving almost an early May feel and allowing some of the brassicas and peas in the garden to catch their breath after the stunning heat of the past few weeks. The long summer evenings have pulled me away from my computer and out into the garden (see photos) or onto the porch for a late supper.
Thinning has likely already begun or will begin soon at most local orchards. This morning I am headed up to West Haven Farm to meet the orchard manager and hopefully learn more about the art of thinning. Thinning is needed in almost all orchards in order to allow the apples to reach a substantial size. To over simplify, if too many apples remain on the tree, it does not have enough energy, nor the apples enough room to allow for mature fruit. Instead, an unthinned tree will usually bare a large quantity of gulf ball size apples. In some cases late freezes can do a bit of their own thinning, something many growers in New England experienced this past spring. Unfortunately mother nature is not so meticulous, and even if a grower looses much of their crop to a late freeze, thinning is often needed for the remaining apples. This sentiment was expressed recently in a posting I read by Michael Phillips on the growers forum of the Holistic Orchard Network.
In larger orchards, thinning is often done by spraying hormones or other agents that "force" the trees to drop a somewhat predicable percentage of their crop. However, in many organic or smaller orchards thinning is still done the old fashioned way; by hand.
Posted by Chris at 8:11 AM