Yesterday I worked in my apple orchard removing mummified apples.
Mummy apples are apples that turn brown, shrivel and do not drop from the tree.
A Mummy Apple
Mummy apples contribute to certain disease and fungus cycles in apple trees. Fire Blight and Bitter Rot are the two main diseases that my apple orchard is prone to.
An Apple Infected With Bitter Rot
Good sanitation plays an important part of my orchard management program. Lots of orchard headaches can be avoided with careful and timely attention.
Last year I had some trouble with Bitter Rot and Fire Blight on my apple trees and our wet summer weather contributed to the problem. But I also think the situation was made worse because I didn’t remove the old brown apples in the early part of last spring.
To stop to spread of disease it’s imperative to remove mummified fruit before the spring. When shriveled apples are removed from the trees they should be burned; and burned well away from other apple and fruit trees. That’s because smoke from burning Fire Blight limbs or dried up apples can re-infect the orchard. No sense going through the trouble of picking mummy apples off of trees just to have the trees become re-infected again.
There are two very large maple trees standing side by side in my front yard near an old shallow well.
They are called Husband and Wife trees.
A Pair of Husband Wife Trees In July
Old timers called them that and you hardly ever hear the term any more.
It has gone out of fashion: like marrying for life and farming.
Eric Sloane mentions Husband and Wife trees in A Reverence For Wood.
“The big trees appeared two at a time, placed as ‘husband and wife trees’ when a house was built. They were usually on the east side of the house or at each side of the entrance; you could pick out farmhouses on any New England landscape by these double clumps of green.”
Of course the expression is a folk term and an analogy taken from the material and natural world that was used long ago to describe a married couple’s relationship.
Husband & Wife Trees In The Early Spring
A married man and woman are like two separate trees planted in different holes at the same time. They are a permanent fixture in the landscape and together they watch the years and the seasons pass.
The trees are the same size and one does not hinder the growth of the other.
Because the trees stand so close together they are not as subject to wind or ice damage as a single tree is. The two together are more likely to survive adversity.
The trees grow very close to one another.
But they are truly separate and there is space enough between them for the wind and air to pass. Their roots are entangled from beneath and how they are joined is hidden from the world.
The trees derive their sustenance from the same Source and one cannot be separated from the other without risking them both.
When I was younger I wasn’t as smart as I am today.
Back in those days I believed just about everything the “experts” at major universities and the local agricultural extension office told me. Too bad for me
When I planted my small commercial apple orchard over 25 years ago I didn’t have any practical experience with growing apple trees. I was pretty much a babe in the woods.
I relied upon books, pamphlets and advice from the local agriculture extension office and pomologists. Back then the “expert” advice for spacing semi dwarf apple trees was 12′ to 15′ feet apart.
The experts at Cornell University and Penn State took the place of the good advice my father-in-law tried to give me while I was planting my trees.
My father-in-law who never grew an apple tree but had been a lifelong gardener came upon me one day while I was planting a bunch of 1-year-old apple whips. My father-in-law advised me that the trees were being planted too close together. He suggested that they be placed farther apart so as not to crowd each other once they attained full size.
Apple Trees In Spring
I dismissed his suggestion due to my perception of his lack of education and practical experience. I told him that 15 foot spacing was what the extension office pamphlet recommended. He had no use for newfangled Penn State notions and tried to convince me to add more space. He told me that he may not have ever read a book on orchard management but he knew something about the way trees grow.
I was determined to do it my way and would not entertain his suggestion. He wisely shrugged his shoulders and walked away leaving me with my “expert advice” and a future problem.
Time has proved him right and the “experts” wrong.
Life experience has since taught me that the correct spacing for semi-dwarf apple trees is a minimum of 18 feet apart – with 22′ being ideal.
Because my apple trees were planted so close together they are very hard to manage properly and apple production has been on a steady decline for the last 5 years or so.
This year I will have the unpleasant task of cutting out 6 or 7 perfectly good apple trees to save my apple orchard.
I could have been spared the trouble and heartache of destroying trees if I had only taken my father-in-law’s advice.
Apple Trees In The Fall
Gene Logsdon wrote something years later on this subject that was too late to benefit me. I thought Gene’s advice may be of benefit to you so I’ll share it.
I am not a revolutionary; I utter only a plain truth.
My wife and I produce most of our food, and some for our children’s families, using knowledge we gained from our parents. Not a one of our forebears ever cracked an agronomic textbook or knew the Latin name of a single plant.
My father and mother and both grandfathers and grandmothers and my father-in – law and mother-in-law all held agricultural extension advisers in disdain. Tradition, supplemented by our own experience and that of other gardeners and farmers, has been the key to our food-growing success.
Thousands of books by gardeners and farmers pass this knowledge on to anyone who wants it. To this day, after forty years of avidly reading and searching the realms of “modern” agriculture for information, I have found little knowledge beyond oral tradition that helps us produce food any better. And a whole lot that encourages us to produce it worser.
The keys to agricultural success, apart from common sense, were articulated by Virgil, and he got them from the Greeks, who in turn got them from the Orient, where forty centuries ago China supported a population far denser than ours today, with gardens”. ~ Gene Logsdon –
*From THE CONTRARY FARMER’S INVITATION TO GARDENING – Chelsea Green Publishing, 1997