Thinning your apple trees

For all backyard “orchardists” or anyone with young fruit trees the subject of fruit thinning is a tricky one. The tendency for most newbies is to want to get as much fruit as quickly as possible. I’ll admit I’m guilty of that myself.

Unfortunately, that’s not always what’s best for the long term production of the tree. So, you have to ask yourself, does the short term reward of getting  a little bit of fruit early on outweigh the long term gain of a healthy tree that produces bushels for you down the road??

My Dorsett Golden is flush with apples. Some of the branches have clusters of 3 and 4. However, my dreams of homemade apple pies, apple sauce, baked apples, apple butter, etc, must be tempered with reality. It’s just not good to have that much fruit on a tree this young. A tree this size should really only have one per cluster and ideally not up high like they are here.


Another good rule of thumb is one apple per 30 leaves. Like I’m going to count all of the leaves on this tree. The easiest way is to simply thin it to one or two apples per cluster which is what I’m going to do.  That way, I’ll still get some fruit and the tree will be able to put the extra energy in to getting bigger for next year. It’s all about planning ahead..

Happy gardening.


Apple grafting success

Was out walking around the yard yesterday when I noticed this. No your eyes are not deceiving you. Those are tiny leaves coming out of the branch I grafted..









Turns out the Roxbury Russet graft to the Big River apple actually took. I was pretty surprised. Several of the other grafts look like they are going to make it as well. The big question is whether a high chill variety like Roxbury will work on low chill trees. Time will tell.

Either way, the success is encouraging. This opens up a whole new realm of apple varieties to us. I’ve got some additional scion wood coming, Kanzi, Pink Lady and Gold Rush. Will be excited to get them grafted to the trees and see what they do.

Happy gardening!!



Pineapple Guava finally Blossoming

Exactly 2 years ago to the day I planted a couple of pineapple guava plants at the front of the house. Maybe there’s something special about the two year mark that nature finally decides to do her thing. Whatever the case while I was making the rounds I noticed this blossom. Kind of hard to miss.

There were only the two, but it was an encouraging sign that at some point I might see a few more and maybe even get a little bit of fruit.







Happy Friday and happy gardening!

Spring garden

Not sure if it’s really spring, or we just went right into summer. In any case, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to put a garden in this year. However, the beautiful weather coulpled with my mascohistic tendencies seem to have gotten the better of me.

The plot was completely overrun with weeds, but I was able to get that squared away after a good hour of digging. It was pretty warm out, my wife brought me some water and suggested I take a break..I couldn’t, once I get started on something I need to finish it…

Mixed in whatever was left from the composting bin and then made mounds to plant the seeds. I overplanted so once things start sprouting I’ll need to thin them out.

This year I used a grease pen and row markers so I could remember what I planted and where. Here’s a list of what I planted, everything is from seed, so I have my doubts about the tomatoes. Will just have to wait and see:

  • watermelon
  • pole beans
  • jalepenos
  • tomatoes (Early Girl and beefsteak)
  • cucumbers
  • basil





It’s been a dry spring, so I’m having to supplement by watering from the rain barrels and they’re almost empty. May reinstall the drip irrigation if it get’s to be too much of a hassle.

Happy gardening!!

Second attempt at apple grafting

The prospect of grafting one apple variety onto another is appealing for a number of reasons.First, if you’re successful you can get multiple apple varieties from one tree, which in and of itself is pretty cool, second by virtue of the first you have the advantage of saving space. You don’t need to plant as many trees. Just graft away to your hearts content and have as many varieties of apples as you want.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’d barely consider myself and amateur grafter. My first attempt about 2 years ago wasn’t successful.

While I had done some research, I was just too anxious to do something and in doing so made some rookie mistakes. Here they are.

  • Don’t graft in the winter. Grafting should really take place during the spring when the tree is growing.
  • Shorten up the scion (grafting wood), you really only need to have a couple of buds on the scion (grafting wood) for it to work. The longer the scion the more chance there is for it to dry out.
  • Make sure the surfaces of the graft are flush and the graft is wrapped tight and sealed. I used the whip and tongue grafting method pictured below because it seemed the easiest to me.
  • It’s best to work with trees that have a similar blossoming time, although in my case I did not.

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There are lots of places where you can exchange or get different kinds of scion wood. I got mine from someone on the site. I won’t bore you with the details, you can find tons of information out there. A great source besides is Steven Edholm’s site, Steven is a master at grafting and has numerous videos on the subject.

I grafted about 5 pieces of Roxbury onto to my various trees (3/15). Here are a few pictures of the final result. My grafts are wrapped with electrical tape and then sealed up with Tanglefoot pruning sealer. Word of advice, if you use this stuff wear gloves.IMG_20170323_173002946-4008x2255-4008x2255.jpg


I’m not expecting all of the grafts to make it. If it’s only one or two I’ll be thrilled. At this point the grafts have been in place for about 2 weeks and (knock wood) don’t show any signs of drying out. Let’s hope the trend continues.

Happy gardening!



I’ve got apples – Dorsett Golden

This is pretty exciting. I’m feeling confident that we might actually get some apples this year from the Dorsett Golden. It’s the oldest apple tree in my “orchard”, kind of by default because none of the others survived. Checked my notes and I’ve lost at least 4 or 5 other trees over the course of the last two years.

Anyway, it’s just a healthy vigorous tree with lots of new growth and fuit (hopefully the squirrels won’t notice). You can see the shape of the tiny apples in the second picture. The Dorsett will fruit without a pollinator, but it does better with one. Unfortunately, none of my other trees are flowering at this time. The result is usually a lower yield and the fruit will kind of be an oblong shape, but that won’t affect the flavor. I’ll probably wind up thinning these out to just a couple per cluster so the fruit will get larger, but I’m still deciding. Will post up more pictures as the fruit continues to grow..

Happy gardening!


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Spring is here and so are the bees

Time for an update..I’ve been away for a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy around the yard. Since spring is here and stuff is busting out all over, I’ll be posting up pictures of some of the changes I’ve made to the home orchard..Had a few failures, added some new trees and even tried my hand again at grafting.

Got a new phone that takes much better pictures was able to get some nice close ups of the bees at work. I’ve noticed a lot more bee activity than in previous years, so I’m taking that as a good sign.

Anyway, for the two or three of you who follow this blog hopefully you’ll enjoy the return of my gardening adventures. Thanks for reading!


Bee on Meyer lemon blossom

It’s summer and I’m taking a break

I’ve been on a pretty long hiatus. Between a cruise to Alaska and very shortly another trip to Colorado, there hasn’t been a lot of time to do much gardening. Which leads me to the main topic of this post. Travelling and gardening don’t go well together, especially in the summer. Even with irrigation being away for anything more than a couple of days can lead to trouble. Say there’s a problem with your irrigation system, or you have an issue with pests that unexpectedly pops up. There’s no virtual gardener, at least not that I’m aware that will step in to help. Hmm, maybe I just hit on a new business idea.

Anyway, I’m leaving the garden “fallow”  for the time being and will look to replant closer to fall when the weather cools off a bit, focusing my efforts on plants that I’ve previously had luck with.











On another note, I’m happy to report that most of the fruit trees are doing well. Will put some pictures up in another post. Didn’t get any apples this year and something happened with the pears only one blossomed, but overall they look good. One lesson I’ve learned is that over-watering can be worse than not getting enough water. Can’t remember the last time I watered the trees, probably a couple of weeks. Now we have had rain but not that much, but I’m going to continue to hold off on the supplemental irrigation unless they completely dry out. My theory is the roots will have to work harder to look for water and that will make them more drought tolerant. I have no scientific evidence to back it up, only my observations.

That’s all for now.

Stay cool and happy gardening.

The amazing ladybug

I’ve always liked ladybugs, with their shiny red shells and the way they’ll land on your hand and crawl around. Also seem to remember something about them being good luck (I’m pretty superstitious) and when it comes to gardening I’ll take all the luck I can get.

Their scientific name is Coccinellidae, based on the Latin word for scarlet, makes sense since they red. Originally known in Britain the lady bird, or lady beetle they held some sort of religious symbology related to the Virgin Mary. In very early paintings she’s pictured wearing a red cloak.

Around the world, ladybugs are very much a useful insect. If you notice them in your garden or in any of your trees its a safe bet they have a food source, and more than likely its an agricultural pest such as aphids. In the wild they can live up to 2 to 3 years and will lay their eggs in the colonies of aphids and when they hatch they immediately begin to feed. It’s a good thing too because aphids can quickly cover a tree.

The ladybugs below were spotted in one of my Anna apple trees shortly after I noticed the aphid infestation. First there were two, then I noticed a total of 4, feasting away on the aphids and laying more eggs. Within a span of about 2 weeks they had nearly cleaned out all of the aphids. They’re a pretty voracious critter.


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Moral of the story, not all insects are harmful to your plants and nature has a way of taking care of itself. Even if I used some type of insecticide which I like to avoid, these little guys did all the work without the chemicals and they work for free. Can’t beat that.

Happy gardening.