The Extreme Gardener

Experiments in permaculture and
other gardening adventures in northeastern Vermont

Archive for April, 2008

Pruning apple trees

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

I never seem to accomplish all the pruning work I should on our fruit trees. Some of the older ones are dishearteningly out of control. I’m comfortable climbing trees and using the chain saw, but not at the same time. Call me a wimp, I don’t care.

Beacon apple tree

Anyway, last week I pretty much finished up pruning for this year. Pictured is one of my victims, a Beacon apple we planted about 20 years ago. 3 or 4 years ago it was severely damaged in a wind storm and split in half, so it has needed some TLC. It’s a robust grower and is recovering well. It bears lots of large apples which has been cause for concern because the storm damage left all the branches on one side, and the weight of the fruit pulls on an already leaning tree. This year it will be quite a bit better balanced.

Over the winter I discovered an inspiring and informative web site about pruning apple trees, which is connected to a really fun talk radio show. The website belongs to Padma, who is co-host of Sniggling Eels along with a market gardener named Alan LePage. The station is WGDR, a community radio station based in Plainfield, Vermont, and streaming on the web. The conversations are lively and intelligent, and range from practical homesteading and gardening (how to train a dog not to eat the chickens) to philosophy and politics (mostly left of center). The Sniggling Eels time slot is Friday, 8-10am (US eastern time) , though I believe they will be changing to Sunday mornings soon. Check it out!

Tomatoes for winter storage

Monday, April 14th, 2008

It’s the second week of April. Mud season. I just dug through 2 feet of snow to dig up the last 15# of carrots in the garden – and we still have 3 fresh tomatoes left from last September’s harvest!

This variety is Golden Treasure, bred by Peters Seed and Research, a small seed company in Oregon that has doing some excellent breeding of open pollinated garden and farm plants, including perennial grain and some really nice kale varieties.

Tomato Golden Treasure, photo taken April 10

OK, OK, so these tomatoes are not in the same culinary league as those fragrant, tender skinned Marmandes sun ripened in early September; and they don’t burst sugar in your mouth like the thumb sized Red Currant tomatoes. None the less, to have fresh tomatoes from your garden in April is pretty cool, I think; and in storage they develop a nice acidic tomato flavor. They’re a bit on the tough side (that’s why they keep so well), so we usually slice them thin.

We’ve been growing Golden Treasure for more than 10 years now. One year we were still eating them in June.

A box of Golden Treasure on January 6

They get picked green or slightly yellow in September, before frost. It’s that simple. We handle them carefully, pick them into shallow boxes, and stack them in our “back room” which stays around 40 degrees F all winter. After a couple of months they start to ripen. We start eating them around the end of November, when all the other fresh tomatoes have either been eaten or sent to the compost pit. It is necessary to cull them regularly, but when they rot it usually begins as a small blemish on the surface and does not spread very fast, and is easily cut away.