Apples are from the rose family, Pyrus Malus, and have been cultivated for over 3,000 years.
Apple orchards require year-round care. After all the apples are picked, the grass around the trees needs to be mowed to keep the rodent population down.
In winter when the trees are dormant they are pruned to encourage a better harvest. The trees are fertilized before blossom time in early May. The weather, along with with insect traps that catch both beneficial and harmful bugs, from this time on are monitored closely to determine spraying programs to prevent disease.
During this time the trees are not only growing this year’s apples they are forming next year’s buds on the branches too.
Then it is harvest time. Harvest is determined by the sugar/starch ration (and by taste!) of each variety.
We currently have about 7,000 apple trees at six orchard sites. Every spring we plant more trees and give them special treatment for the first few months; supporting them with a pole and training their little limbs to grow at the correct angle.
Most of our apple trees are growing on dwarf rootstock. There are, however, some trees that are near the highway which are called “standard” trees.
Dwarf trees are small; can plant 200 or more trees per acre and will produce apples in 3-6 years.
Standard trees are large; can plant 40 trees per acre and will produce apples in 8-12 years.
Dwarf trees require more limb training and pruning but are easier to pick.
Standard trees require large equipment and are difficult to pick due to their height.
Some apple trees in our orchards are of the semi-dwarf variety and thus a little larger than the dwarf.
Just before blossom time we rent honey bees from a beekeeper. Most apple varieties need a pollinator, like bees, to pollinate the blossoms. The beekeeper delivers the bees, feeds them, adds extra boxes to the hive stacks, harvests, and bottles the honey. We sell his honey in our store. This honey, however, is probably not just form our hives but contains a mixture of our honey and honey from his other hives in this region. Some folks with allergies need local honey and we cannot say with certainty that it is just from our area.
Jersey Mac – A great all purpose apple from the McIntosh family.
Puritan – a sweet early eating apple
Duchess – the “queen of baking” apples – high in pectin and quite tart
Zestar – first planted in 2001, this pinkish apple is crisp and juicy – a favorite of the Honeycrisp folks
Paula Red – a white-fleshed cooking and eating apple – crisp and similar to Cortland
Molly Delicious – a sweet yellow and pink eating apple from the Red Delicious family
Ginger Gold – from the Golden Delicious family – greenish/gold and great to eat or cook
McIntosh – all-purpose, great to eat or cook, breaks down more than a Cortland when cooking
Gala – a mild sweet flavor and stores very well
Jonamac – this cross of McIntosh and Jonanthan is great to eat or bake
Honeycrisp – cripsy and great for cooking or eating
Cortland – a large white-fleshed all purpose apple that is snappy, crisp and tangy, a favorite of our bakers
Haralson – Wisconsin’s “Granny Smith” apple with lots of tangy flavor
Spartan – wonderfully crisp and juicy, this all purpose apple is tangy and fruity
LindaMac – sweeter than a McIntosh but not as soft and keeps fairly well
Empire – a cross between a McIntosh and a Red Delicious it is sweet/tart and the perfect salad, cooking, baking or eating apple
Golden Delicious – a delicate yellow/green apple which is sweet/tart and used to eat or bake
Red Delicious – this old favorite eating apple is firm and sweet and wonderful fresh off the tree!
Russett – An antique apple, hard fleshed, rough looking and wonderful to eat or cook.