At Leafhopper Farm, there is an old apple grove of five mature trees. When stewarding of the land began, a recovery effort was made to prune back the old fruit trees to bring back production and health. There have been other blog posts about apple production on the farm and updates on the trees as they are reclaimed.
When the first fall came and only a few apples had ripened on the trees, I knew the pruning would be a much needed encouragement for the crowded out energy of each tree. By removing selected branches, successful buds were given enough sun and space to actually put on fruit. This last summer was the best year of apple production at Leafhopper. With the added grey water system constantly irrigating this grove, there is added nutrients and hydration for the tree’s roots. This might also be supporting greater output.
This year, the pruning has finally reshaped the grove, allowing the best light and ventilation an old apple tree could want. The two northern most trees pictured above are almost unrecognizable as the once whip infested tangles at the start of this article. Hopefully, the progressive cleanup will offer a longer, more productive life to these two elder apple trees.
The branches have been placed in the raised beds to continue the hugaculture development of more planting beds at Leafhopper Farm. The apple wood is also great for smoking meats. Some of the smaller whips have been stored for future flavoring endeavors. Holistic practices include maximizing biomass created on site. The fruit wood will be great compost nutrients for future food crops. If the apple trees are tended well, they will continue to produce wood as well as fruit and a shedding of nitrogen rich leaves every fall.
The three raised beds which Bastyre University students helped erect a few years ago continue to develop nicely. The top bed has been replanted with garlic, and mulched with maple leaves and a little aged chicken manure. More dirt will be piled on after the garlic harvest in July. The middle bed will reseed with wildflowers, a few veggie companion plants, and more edible flowers. Chicken manure, straw, woody debris, and dirt are added in layers to continue the shaping of this bed. The southern most bed is all branches right now. I’ll let them settle through the winter and stomp them down next spring before adding animal bedding, manure, and a lot of soil.
The view from the house shows the east side of the land, folding in the fruit trees, grey water system, chicken rotational grazing, mulching, and hugaculture development. It’s a busy ecosystem to say the least. On the far right of the picture below, a frost peach, also recently pruned, waves. In the background towards the left, three more apple trees stand with branches pruned.
There are still two pare trees and a lot of nut tree tending to be done, but getting the upper hand on the oldest trees, which involved the most direct action, feels good in the development of Leafhopper Farm’s orchard plan. It’s great progress in a journey that can often become blurred and distorted. The trees stand witness to an effort which will bear fruit in the end.