Twelve newly planted apple trees are now growing in Apple Valley, just west of Lyons, Colorado. A landowner contacted us a few months ago and we agreed on Central Asian apple trees. All are grafted, some last year, some this year, on Antonovka rootstock, and are therefore full sized trees when grown out. A neighboring landowner heard about the project and volunteered to take three trees, for a total of 12. It was a beautiful day to be outside planting in beautiful Apple Valley, and the family living on the property did a lot of the heavy lifting to get the trees in the ground and are going to take great care of the trees in the coming years. The land owner also did a lot of the heavy lifting and, key point here, made the property available for some trees. The neighbors who took the three trees are master gardeners, and their property reflects the skills and effort required.
Apple Valley still has some apple trees, two in the immediate area, but not nearly as many as in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. We are hoping to change that, and are well on the way to doing so with this first planting. There is a bit more room on the property, so we may be helping to get a few more in the new orchard. Thanks to everyone involved.
Apple Valley Orchard Location
A large majority of the pink flowered trees you see in and around Boulder County over the past couple of weeks are apple and crabapple trees, and a large portion of the white flowered trees are as well (some are pear or other type of fruit trees, and some are non-fruit bearing trees). All of the crabapples species are in the Malus genus of the Rosaceae famliy.
The apples you see at farmer’s markets, road side stands, grocery stores and everywhere else are all, with exceedingly rare exceptions, descendants of a single species of crabapple, Malus sieversii. M. sieversii is also known as Asian wild crabapple or Almaty crabapple. Almaty is the largest city of the country of Kazakhstan, in central Asia near China. The mountains and hills near Almaty have forests of wild apple trees, just as the mountains and hills of Boulder County have forests of Ponderosa, Spruce and Lodgepole pines. Imagine our hills and mountains to the west covered with apple trees….
Those wild apple tree forests are being cut down at a rapid pace to clear the land for farms, buildings, roads, and other human infrastructure. The planet is in the process of losing it’s apple genetic diversity, which is a threat to cultivated apples everywhere. But, there is something you can do. The USDA has a collection of wild central Asian M. sieversii at their research station near Lake Geneva, NY. Scientists with the USDA have conducted genetic studies of these trees, and have determined that a ‘core collection’ of about 100 trees covers about 95% of the genetic diversity represented in the entire collection. Widespread Malus has been requesting, from the USDA, seeds and scion material from these core collection trees for three years, and working with others around the country (and globe) to share and distribute this core collection of apple genetic wealth. If you would like to participate, please get in touch with us, see our contact page, and let us know. You do not need to know anything about apples trees, or need much space to grow a tree. We can help you with choosing an appropriate tree for your space and level of interest. We only ask that we have access to the tree in the future to gather scion material and some of the fruit (and the seeds) if we need it. We are out of trees to plant for 2016, but please sign up for planting in the spring of 2017. Letting us know now helps us prepare trees for next year.
63rd Street Farm has ripped and disked between the rows of the orchard on the City of Boulder OSMP Andrus property. The property was used to produce hay for many years, and the soil is fairly compacted. This ripping and disking will disrupt the dense roots of the hay grass, loosen the soil and improve moisture penetration/retention. It will also ease the planting and growing of the cover crop, which we are still discussing. The ripping/disking is cross slope, so surface water moving downhill will be captured and move into the soil. The flags in the image indicate tree locations. Photo taken looking WWS.
The new orchard going in on the Andrus property, owned by the City of Boulder and managed by Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), for 63rd Street Farm is well underway. Working with 63rd Street Farm, we developed the orchard plan over the past 9 months and have reach two major milestones. First, the orchard blocks were measured and plotted, using several different colored flags to outline the blocks and locate individual trees, by rootstock and wild/domesticated varieties. Second, the holes were dug/bored. The OSMP agriculture team was kept in the loop, ok’d all of the plans as well as provided a work team with bobcat to bore the holes. The team was composed of the bobcat and operator and a work crew from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. Thanks to both organizations, OSMP and Sheriff’s Office for boring the orchard tree holes. This happened about a month ago, giving plenty of freeze/thaw cycles to work on the sides and bottom of the holes before the trees are planted in a few months. This process, the freeze/thaw cycle, is important for this type of soil when holes are bored instead of hand dug. The boring compacts the clay in the soil on the bottom and the sides. If the bottom and sides are not broken up prior to planting, the hole tends to form a clay pot, constraining the tree roots and severely compromising the long term health and productivity of the tree. Had we bored the holes in the spring, immediately prior to planting, we would have had to manually break up the bottom and sides of the holes.
The OSMP/BCSO team bore trees holes on the Andrus Property in late January 2016, they are nearly finished, working on the last of the holes in the western block of trees. Photo is looking NNW
The western block of the Andrus Property, where the wild apple trees will be planted. Photo is looking close to due south
The orchard as planned will be 231 trees, with a mix of dwarf, semi-dwarf and full sized rootstock, and a wide mix of wild, dessert and multi-purpose apple varieties. First to fruit will be the dwarf trees, which will be taken out as they are shaded by the full sized trees, in 10 to 15 years.
Next big step, grafting…