Sunday, May 8

King Blossom

Early Spring in the orchard
 The first blossoms opened yesterday on the Summer Scarlet, the earliest variety in the orchard to bloom.  Every fruiting spur on an apple tree produces a cluster of six buds; five centered around a central blossom known as the King Blossom.  This blossom is the first to open and pollination of it is key in insuring good fruit set.  The fruit of the king blossom is often larger than the others in the cluster and is selected at thinning time if one is thinning by hand.
King blossom on Summer Scarlet
The orchard is finally drying out after a very wet April that has left Cayuga Lake (Ithaca's Finger Lake) above flood stage.  With several sunny days under our belt and forecasts for the same, my mind is able to rest a bit, not having to think about spraying sulfur for scab again until the next predicted rain.  The maples have burst in the past week as have the dandelions, laying out a yellow carpet for the bees in the orchard.  There is a trade off when it comes to managing the understory of an orchard in the spring.  The more flowers that are blooming along side the apples, the more there is to tempt the bees, but the same flowers that attract the busy pollinators to the apple trees, also compete with them for attention. 
I piled up the last of the winter prunings this past week, cutting the branches into manageable sizes and piling them as neatly as possible throughout the orchard.  Once I can find a way to get the trailer load of prunings out of the mud, where it has sat for several weeks, I can slowly continue moving the prunings out of the orchard where they will ideally be burned to keep any diseased wood from spreading canker spores around the orchard.

Clap Pear Blossoms
 Some of the plums already have a blanket of pedals under their branches and the two lonely pears look ready to burst.  The next several weeks will bring new trees blooming every day as the hundreds of apple varieties in the orchard each take the stage.

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