Cold weather work

Well January started out so cold that we really couldn’t work out in the orchards at all. We normally would have been pruning the apple and pear trees, but with the below zero temps at night we had to delay that work for warmer weather. Not that we wanted to be out in that cold anyway! But when we cut a branch off in very cold weather like we were seeing then, the extremely cold temperatures can damage or kill the wood around those fresh cuts. Not something we want to risk.

But now the weather has moderated to the point that we have been much warmer than normal. It looks like this month that started out so cold will wind up with a nearly average overall temperature. I’ve often seen over the years that weather tends to average out over a period of time. A wet, rainy spring more often than not leads to a dry summer. And a period of below average temperatures is often followed by above average temps. So I’m not surprised by the warm days we have had recently. Me? I’d rather have snow!

Many of you ask what we do in the winter. Contrary to popular opinion, we do not spend the winter in Florida! While we do have a little more relaxed pace in the winter months, we still have plenty of pruning to keep us busy. We try to trim every fruit tree on the farm every year. It is a time consuming task, so it is good that we have a few months to get it accomplished! We start with the apple and pear trees, which when cut, can take the cold weather better than peach and cherry trees. We like to do the “stone fruits” like peaches, cherries and plums after they begin to grow early in the spring. They are more tender and susceptible to cold injury when cut in winter.

So how do we know which branches to remove when we prune? We look for unproductive branches that are just using up resources and not producing any fruit. Those are cut out, along with a few of the bigger older branches that are getting past their prime bearing years. The best fruit grows on younger wood, so that is what we try to leave in the tree. And we want to open the tree up so that in the summer, the sunlight can penetrate throughout the tree. Because a young branch with plenty of nutrients and sunshine will produce the prime fruit that we are looking for. We also want to shape the tree so that it is easily harvested and maintained. While each tree is different, we try to keep them all the same shape and size within any particular orchard. A uniform orchard is much easier to care for than one with trees of all shapes and sizes. Below is a “before” and “after” example of a Red Delicious apple tree.

IMG_4193                IMG_4194

And we are always thinking ahead. “If I cut this branch out this year, that one will have more light and strength to produce good fruit next year. And next year we will cut out that other one to make room for the one just below it to grow.” Those decisions are made hundreds of times each day this time of year. It is tiring work, both physically and mentally. Fortunately the trees are somewhat forgiving!

So we get to know our trees. Each one gets a “once over” this time of year. As we prune, we can see where the cuts were made last year, and what we will cut out next year. It’s a long term investment of time and energy that hopefully will result in better orchards and better fruit. And after a day of pruning in the cold, a warm dinner with family and a good night’s rest is a welcome way to end the day!

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker


6 thoughts on “Cold weather work

  1. Tom, I really like your blog posts about life on the farm..
    We live right next to an old orchard that is not run anymore’ so a lot of the things that you talk about we are familiar with. We remember that the old man would go out In the orchard and Trim the trees. Several of his trees were getting older so he was trying to keep them going untl he Retired. So sometimes he would have a man come with a big machine that had an arm that swung over the trees and topped the tree. Then the next year or two there would be all shoots coming out of the top of the trees. Interesting isn’t it..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Daniel & Laura Stachowiak

    When I was growing up near John Ball Park, our neighbors all had a garden and a fruit tree. We had a stanley plumb, my aunt who lived next door had a damson plumb(not very tasty, but my dad would make wine from them). Across the alley were apple, peach, pear and cherry trees. I did not realize at that age, why they would be trimming their trees. To me I thought they did that to keep us kids from climbing their trees come harvest time. My wife and I always look forward to coming to your store and bakery for fresh and tasty treats. Looking forward to seeing your family this summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dick Wylie

    Tom, enjoy your blogs. Having been raised on a dairy farm they bring back memories. Some good and some ???, Also, like the new format. Great to see the entire opening photo. Keep giving us memories and stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shirley

    A very interesting blog. I grew up living next to an apple orchard but never realized all the work that went into maintaining it. Hoping this will be a good year for the fruit harvest!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sonia

    I love your blogs! It’s fun learning about the farm year-round. It’s also fun to think about how different those trees will look in six months! Be blessed and stay warm!

    Liked by 1 person

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