Since you’ve got the first of our apples in your CSA box this week what better time than the present to introduce you to our orchard that is home to 28+ varieties of apples…
Before Fifth Crow was even an idea John recruited Mike to help select and plant apple trees that John intended to grow up in Chehalis, WA on his grandpa’s farmland. To select their varieties they went to the apple master, Orin Martin, who both John and Mike had studied under on the CASFS farm at UCSC. Even though the trees were selected to grow in WA they had all be grown successfully in Santa Cruz with the coastal climate. John and Mike hand grafted all the trees themselves onto semi-dwarfing root stock and took them down south to the Esalen Institute where John had been managing the farm at that time. The trees spent a winter there before John, Mike, & Teresa met Gene & Donna and decided to lease farmland from them here in Pescadero and subsequently moved the trees north.
The trees varieties were selected to cover a spectrum of preferences. They were looking for both early and late crops so they could extend the harvest season from mid-summer into late fall and they chose great tasting varieties over commercially viable ones; from a business prospective they knew that at farmers markets their customers would respond to uniqueness and flavor over your typical grocery store varieties. Fifth Crow has an unusual collection of apples that you’ll never see in a grocery store. Many of our apple trees are rare heirloom and heritage varieties.
One reason for grafting on semi-dwarfing root stock was to create a pedestrian orchard or, in other words, an orchard where you can pick the fruit standing on the ground and without the use of ladders (if you have a little more height than my 5′ 2″ stature). Another reason is because you can fit more trees in per acre however, that means the individual trees will have a lower yield and smaller quantities will go to market at a time but ideally there would be little waste of fruit.
How do we take care of the trees? We do both a summer and a winter pruning, we fertilize twice per year, we thin the baby apples in the spring, we weed and mulch around the trees, we irrigate throughout the summer months, we don’t use any sprays but we do use coddling moth traps which put off pheromones to confuse the moths, and we use Tanglefoot once a year which is a sticky compound that is applied around the lower foot of the tree trunk to create a barrier for ants (and other small critters) that will otherwise use the tree to farm aphids. Our biggest pest pressure are the birds. They eat the ripening fruit right on the tree before we can harvest the apples. What can you do about them birds??