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Drop off your plastic bags and canning jars at the orchard and we'll re-use them!

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We're also happy to take any picnic tables you're getting rid of - even if it's just the 'bones' of the table.


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N1959 Kroncke Road
Poynette, WI 53955

Take Hwy 51 North from Madison, go straight onto Hwy 22, turn east (right) onto Hwy 60 almost immediately. Drive 2 miles and go North (left) onto Kroncke Road. We're just over a mile on the left-hand side.

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(608) 635-4780

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Friday, April 25, 2008

How to Plant an Apple Tree

Tree planting, like everything else at our orchard, is a family affair. We put in the last batch for 2008 on Wednesday, April 23. The trees were scheduled to be delivered between 1:30 and 3:00 at the Kroncke Rd orchard, so Frank and I got there about that time. The trees had arrived a few minutes before and Kim was feeding Capri (age 2 months), so we took Cedi (age 17 months) out with us to get started. Cedi has just learned the difference between a tractor and a skidsteer and immediately pointed out that "Grampa" was on the "skidsteer".....the first of at least 100 times I was to hear about the skidsteer that day. Jared was on his way home from work, so we started without him. He's a surveyor as well as an orchard owner.

While Frank attached the tree spade to the front of the skidsteer, Cedi and I opened the big box.....183 pounds.....I can't wait to see the shipping bill. When we buy trees, we ask for the largest available. They come with bare roots and are frequently already branched out. We usually get some from Adams County Nursery in Pennsylvania every year, then if we need some variety we can't get there, we order from somewhere else. These particular trees came from Van Well in Washington state. They looked wonderful. Nice size and lots of branches.

We picked out 20 Gingergolds to start with. We take only a small number of trees with us at a time to keep the roots from drying out. We put these in the back of the Ranger pickup and sprayed the roots with water, then wrapped them with an old sheet and covered them with an old furniture pad. We already had a supply of stakes in the truck. We have used pipe for stakes in the past and continue to recycle them as we remove trees, but have not had enough the last couple of years, so Frank has taken logs up to Neil Miller's Amish sawmill and had them cut into 1 1/2 inch square posts about 8 feet long. Locust works great because it doesn't rot.

Cedi said she wanted to go in the truck with Gramma, so I belted her in. Capri was in the little red wagon by this time, and Mommy pulled her up the hill while Frank took off in the skidsteer.

When old trees are removed, we deep till the rows to pull out as many old roots as possible. Then we wait at least 2 years before replanting with trees. Replanting immediately means the trees are susceptible to replant disease, which can severly stunt or even kill them, so we try to never do that. Sometimes we plant other things like pumpkins or squash or gourds or just oats as a cover crop in these areas or just allow the ground to remain fallow.

In the last days before planting, we till the ground where the new trees will go. Frank starts at one end and digs holes with his tree spade. This is the first year we've had the tree spade and we really think it makes a nice hole. When we first started out we dug by hand. Hand digging makes a nice hole but is alot of work and we're not as young as we used to be. Then we used a post hole auger for a few years. This went faster, but tends to "shine up" the edge of the hole, so we'd use a shovel to cut some grooves to help the roots break through the hole edge. The holes also were wide all the way to the bottom, so we needed to be sure to fill the corners well so there were no air gaps down there. The tree spade makes a lovely hole 3 feet wide at the top and tapering to a point at the bottom. Perfect.

Frank lined his tree spade up and began making holes. The distance between depends on the rootstock the trees are on. Ours are usually 8 to 10 feet apart. Cedi decided she'd like to hang out in the truck for a while (with the keys gone and the emergency brake on and the side windows half-way up). Capri was in her car seat in the red wagon trying to get a burp out. First we put a stake in the hole and push it down with the skidsteer until it's stable enough to support the tree. Then we put a tree in the hole and check the depth. The graft union needs to be at least 2 inches above ground level, so Kim added a little dirt in the bottom of the hole when it looked like it might be too deep. Kim is a shovel person this year and by next year expects to have it figured out that sandals are not really the footwear of choice when planting trees. Once the tree was at the proper level, Kim added more dirt until the hole was full, then I walked it down all around to get rid of any air gaps. Some areas of the Kroncke Road orchard have very heavy clay soil, so we try to break that up and use the topsoil down near the roots.

We continued to move down the row and soon Jared arrived on the 6 wheeler. He helped with the shoveling duties and we were moving along faster. One thing about Jared is that he's worth at least 2 of any of the rest of us when it somes to physical work. Jared went for more trees and we moved down the hill to a new spot. Capri was fussing in the wagon, so we laid an old quilt in the back of the 6 wheeler so she could kick and Cedi decided it was time to get out and get her hands dirty. And more trees went in the ground.

Cedi was taking off up the hill and Grampa said she could have a treat if she came back. She made a quick turn and came running down, but I think she expected those treats Grampa had in his big truck....the one down by the buildings. He had given her a piece of candy from his stash in that truck earlier. The treats we had now were teddy grahams, animal crackers, and saltine crackers and she didn't want any of those. She was not happy with us. I offered to read her a story and picked up Capri, who was also fussing. So Gramma and girls sat on the hillside and read a story. The dogs, Barney, Mali, and Jackson sat nearby and listened, too.

Capri finally let out that burp we'd been looking for and promptly fell asleep in the wagon on the next move. Cedi was ready to load up in the Ranger with Daddy to pick up more trees and head to the next planting area. I took the 6 wheeler by the house to pick up a blanket for Capri and grabbed an apple on my way through the breezeway. It was an Idared left from last year. I ate the skin off on the way back out to join the crew and gave the apple to Cedi. Apparently this was an acceptable treat and she ate on it for quite some time. I know it was picked up out of the dirt several times and rinsed off with the drinking water we had in the truck. Last I saw of it there wasn't even much core left, but she was till eating it.

We made an interesting procession moving from place to place in the orchard with our 4 assorted modes of transportaion and 3 dogs racing among us. With each move, we planted more trees and got more efficient as the day went on. And my exceptional grandchildren made not another peep, except around 4:30 when Capri reminded Mommy it was time to eat. Cedi helped add dirt to the holes one little handful at a time and by about 7:00 all the girls headed to the house while the guys finished the last couple of trees.

Kim had some brats in the slow cooker and we were all ready to eat. Cedi finished all but about an inch of hers, so I'm guessing she had worked up an appetite just like the rest of us. It was a good day and a good day's work was done.

Frank came by the next morning and watered all the newly planted trees. That's really important to settle the soil around the roots. Kim and the girls will go out in the next few day and tie each tree to its stake and give them all their first pruning. Someone will also palce a circle of hardware wire around each trunk to protect it from mouse and rabbit damage. Soon they'll all start to grow and in 2 or 3 years will produce fruit. If they bloom this year, we'll pick the blossoms off so the energy will go to grow the tree instead of to produce fruit.


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