Archive for Organic farming

Thinning

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, organic fruit with tags , , , , on June 18, 2010 by Grouse Mt. Farm

June is when we thin the fruit on the trees here in North Central Washington. You can pretty much tell which fruits will drop and which will stay ( I mentioned June drop in a previous post).
Even a week or two ago it was hard to tell which fruits would mature but now there no mistaking them. The pics below show a plum limb as was and then just after it was shook to knock off the ‘June drops’


This plum variety (Santa Rosa) is set very heavy, as is usual for these trees of ours, amazingly year after year. ( Most of our other plums don’t have much fruit on them this year, as a result of poor pollination) So there is still much thinning to do on it, to space out the fruit so they’ll size up to a desired proportions. Its too easy to under thin, I usually have rule of thumb or hand and try to go about 6 to 8 inches between fruits (do the Hawaiian hang loose sign, basically the space from thumb to pinkie). Its always difficult to tell when the fruits is so small, I try to imagine what it would look like with full size pome hanging there, to gauge my progress. Every year I tell myself “make sure & take enough off”, and I think I do but when I come back to pick I wonder if its even been thinned. So I’m resolved this year to thin everything twice to make sure theres less I miss. I usually do a fair job, but there are always clusters that are missed and fruit invariably under thinned.

nectarine before


and after thinning


When a tree has a heavy fruit set, probably 95% of the fruit gets thinned off, so its a bit disconcerting to see all the fruit on the ground. But if it wasn’t done you would end up with loads of real small (marbles) fruit.

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Blossom thinning

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm with tags , , , , , , on May 8, 2010 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Many trees, not just fruit trees will make a heavy fruit or seed crop one year and not so heavy or blank the following year. It takes a lot of energy to produce a crop that often the tree needs the next season off of fruit/seed production to recoup its reserves.
One of our spring chores is to thin the blossoms of the apples, they seem to be the main fruit we grow that benefits from this practice. Some varieties such as Gravenstein, Tydemans Early Red, Gingergold, Honeycrisp, Galas and others are particularly prone to biennial bearing.
Blossom thinning is a time intensive process and can be tedious and mind numbing after a few hours! But its also quite nice especially if its warm and the bees are buzzing and the sweet fragrance of apple blossoms fills the air. We mostly use our fingers to pluck the blossom cluster off, although sometimes we use our Felcos (hand pruners). My method is to consider each blossom cluster as a fruit, and thin the clusters about the same distance I would when I thin the small fruits in June, about six to eight inches apart. We can do the work by hand here because our place is small and apples aren’t the only thing we grow. Bigger conventional orchards use chemical thinners and organic growers generally use lime sulfur and fish oil during bloom. The idea is to kill off many, but not too many , blossoms to ensure a return bloom next year. Its tricky, you don’t want to do too good a job, because you never know what the rest of the spring will bring i.e a killing freeze ( this goes for hand and spray thinning).
We’ve had great success over the years with return bloom, even on notoriously difficult cultivars, but we do have a couple of varieties that don’t seem to respond to blossom thinning at all. Even though we also thin the fruit in June, the time is past when even heavy thinning then won’t bring a return bloom. It needs to be done in a timely manner just before to a week or two after full bloom.

before and after blossom thinning

Welcome to Grouse Mt Farm

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm with tags , on March 22, 2010 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Grouse Mountain Farm is a small, diversified  certified organic farm located  in the Lake Chelan valley in Washington state, USA. We’ve been organic from day one , but became officially certified in 1996 by the Washington State Department of Agriculture . Our certification number is 596.