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Organic Cider/Perry Orchard

 
Ruy Lopez
Posts: 8
Location: Eastern Ontario
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We have about 50-60 very old apple trees growing on our property that haven't been touched in probably 60+ years.

No clue what type but they vary greatly in apples and range from 3 inch trunks to over 10.

It's a long term dream to have a cidery or to make perry. Small scale but still commercial as living where we do isn't easy for incomes.

Most of the property is old fields that are fairly overgrown.

Does anyone have experience with starting a cider/perry orchard? I'm particularly concerned with clearing. Most of the trees are not huge excepting the hedgerows but removing stumps would be expensive. Is it necessary for an orchard?

I'm planning on planting a few test trees this spring.
 
Ruy Lopez
Posts: 8
Location: Eastern Ontario
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Oh and, I had relatives who used to farm apples many years ago. I'm told it's next to impossible to go organic for real.

Is this true as spraying isn't on my agenda if it can be helped.
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 632
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Ruy Lopez wrote:Oh and, I had relatives who used to farm apples many years ago. I'm told it's next to impossible to go organic for real.
Is this true as spraying isn't on my agenda if it can be helped.

If you are just wanting to make cider and Perry, then you have a big advantage over many apple growers in that you aren't going to care what your apples look like. A bug bite or a scab may render an apple unsaleable as a fresh product, but that shouldn't make much of a difference to the cider maker. Another thing that impacts the ease with which you can grow an organic apple is humidity and water supply. In general, if you live in a place where people care about water rights (because it's so dry) you'll have an easier time going organic.

As for removing stumps, your use of machinery will dictate whether or not that is necessary. If you won't be using a tractor, you can just let the stumps rot in place.
 
matt hogan
Posts: 71
Location: Tennesse, an hour west of Nashville, zone 7
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It entertains me greatly when people say that you can't grow food without pesticides, as if before the 1940's, everyone starved to death.

Of course, what many mean is that we can't grow food in the way that we do now without pesticides. It may be necessary to plant older, more resistant varieties and have more of a polyculture (at least keeping hedgerows), but we can certainly grow food without spraying.
 
Ruy Lopez
Posts: 8
Location: Eastern Ontario
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matt hogan wrote:It entertains me greatly when people say that you can't grow food without pesticides, as if before the 1940's, everyone starved to death.

Of course, what many mean is that we can't grow food in the way that we do now without pesticides. It may be necessary to plant older, more resistant varieties and have more of a polyculture (at least keeping hedgerows), but we can certainly grow food without spraying.



Some of the apple trees seem very resistant to insects and rot. Any ideas? I'd be happy to forward pictures once the winter is over.
 
Ruy Lopez
Posts: 8
Location: Eastern Ontario
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John Wolfram wrote: In general, if you live in a place where people care about water rights (because it's so dry) you'll have an easier time going organic.

As for removing stumps, your use of machinery will dictate whether or not that is necessary. If you won't be using a tractor, you can just let the stumps rot in place.



Water rights are not an issue here. Too much water might be but for now all is good. Not that it's a real factor in my region as it's more like the US and close to the border but Canada has more lakes than people. No joke if you take it all in.

I'm doing this (or hope to) as cheaply as possible. Thousands per acre to uproot stumps is I suppose ok (maybe) if it can be built into the business expense. Otherwise I'll do it myself somehow.

But do orchards need a tilled, clean soil to begin with?
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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So are you ripping out the old trees and planting new? If I were you I'd get an expert, perhaps from a local college or extension office, and get my trees identified. You may already have all the cider apples you need.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Ruy Lopez wrote: But do orchards need a tilled, clean soil to begin with?


Nah. Not having a ton of competition helps them out but I admit to planting where I plant with minimal input. If it doesn't live it was probably too much effort for me anyway.

 
Rebecca Norman
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Posts: 1032
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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You may well be able to save some or many of those trees, especially since for cider you don't need to have specific named varieties. And if you keep and/or plant a variety of other types of plants and don't need a big tract of cosmetically perfect dessert apples of specific varieties, you can certainly get the kind of diversity that will allow you to keep it organic. It's great if the orchard hasn't been sprayed in decades and the trees are still producing at least a bit. That suggests that you still have an intact ecosystem. Don't let your neighbors shame you into spraying just once to get a clean slate! You could spoil the whole ecosystem and then introduce problems if you don't continue spraying.
 
Ruy Lopez
Posts: 8
Location: Eastern Ontario
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elle sagenev wrote:So are you ripping out the old trees and planting new? If I were you I'd get an expert, perhaps from a local college or extension office, and get my trees identified. You may already have all the cider apples you need.


No intention to rip out the old trees. Some are too far gone to save but I'm trying to teach myself to prune right now. Planning on working on the closest 4-5 trees this weekend to see if I can not kill them!

The problem is the old trees are all over the place and quite a distance sometimes. We are hoping to not invest a lot in equipment until we try a few test batches and work out the numbers for a small commercial operation.

I'd like to identify the varieties but so far haven't been able to find anyone who can and the nearest agricultural college is too far.

Odd question but I figure the trees were planted by the first homesteaders. The only thing left of their operation is a stone foundation from their house. I'm assuming that at that time apples were mainly planted for eating as opposed to cider but does anyone know if it may have been a mixed planting? Cider used to be very popular. I don't have a date on the foundation but figure maybe the 1920's (?)
 
Ruy Lopez
Posts: 8
Location: Eastern Ontario
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Rebecca Norman wrote:You may well be able to save some or many of those trees, especially since for cider you don't need to have specific named varieties. And if you keep and/or plant a variety of other types of plants and don't need a big tract of cosmetically perfect dessert apples of specific varieties, you can certainly get the kind of diversity that will allow you to keep it organic. It's great if the orchard hasn't been sprayed in decades and the trees are still producing at least a bit. That suggests that you still have an intact ecosystem. Don't let your neighbors shame you into spraying just once to get a clean slate! You could spoil the whole ecosystem and then introduce problems if you don't continue spraying.


Some of the trees produce quite a lot still. The LT plan is to plant specific cider varieties now and blend them with the other existing apples (assuming I can get them back into real production)
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
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I think historically that most apples were planted with cider as at least an option for use. Before massive scale refrigeration fermenting an apple into cider was a premier means of preservation. Most likely all of you apples will be good in cider. I would come up with some sort of a layout as soon as you can and start planting apple seeds into the ground now to establish resilient root stock with that tap root still in place. I'd plant tons of 'em and let nature sort them out. You could graft any extra special cultivars that you have growing now onto those root stocks and be going full on with your cider orchard with minimal cost outlay...though it will take a while to get production ramped up!
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Ruy Lopez wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:So are you ripping out the old trees and planting new? If I were you I'd get an expert, perhaps from a local college or extension office, and get my trees identified. You may already have all the cider apples you need.


No intention to rip out the old trees. Some are too far gone to save but I'm trying to teach myself to prune right now. Planning on working on the closest 4-5 trees this weekend to see if I can not kill them!

The problem is the old trees are all over the place and quite a distance sometimes. We are hoping to not invest a lot in equipment until we try a few test batches and work out the numbers for a small commercial operation.

I'd like to identify the varieties but so far haven't been able to find anyone who can and the nearest agricultural college is too far.

Odd question but I figure the trees were planted by the first homesteaders. The only thing left of their operation is a stone foundation from their house. I'm assuming that at that time apples were mainly planted for eating as opposed to cider but does anyone know if it may have been a mixed planting? Cider used to be very popular. I don't have a date on the foundation but figure maybe the 1920's (?)


There are some old apple orchards in my state that are German in descent. German immigrants brought the trees over and planted the orchards. A lot have been cut down but not all. So who knows where your trees came from. Rather exciting!

I think I'd probably leave the stumps. If you aren't using equipment and driving around than what does it matter if they're left?
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Old school Cider Apple equal:
high sweet, high acid, high tannin

'Fake' Cider Apple equals:
high sweet, high acid/sour, low tannin/bitter

Regular Apples equal:
high sweet, low acid, low tannin

You pretty much want to plant some apples, that is too sour/bitter for you to eat (crabapple hybrid tasting). They will not be super sweet or weak and easily infected by pest.
 
a wee bit from the empire
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