Thursday, October 2, 2014

Southern Heritage Apple Orchard

I visited Horne Creek Historic farm this summer with the kids it's a beautiful old farm from the 1800's that offers a snapshot into life in that era, with folks dressed in historic clothes, demonstration cooking, a garden, some animals and a heritage apple orchard. It was at that time that I first chatted to Jason Bowen the orchard manager and Horticulturalist there, I asked if master gardeners ever volunteered with him and that I was studying to be one. So fast forward to the last few weeks I am now a master gardener and volunteering in various gardens and thought I would ask if I could help in the orchard and learn about apples. 

The Southern Heritage apple orchard is one of a few orchards in America set up to preserve heritage apples in fact the orchard although small has over 400 varieties. It isn't an easy task though as they all bloom and develop at different times and Jason states in many cases there isn't much information on the older varieties on  how to grow and care for them. He is a wealth of information and has a passion for what he does. Apples originate from Kazakhstan in a cool mountainous region. 

Apples are pretty much always grafted with a different root stock depends on what is desired and the size of the tree that is wanted. There really is an art to this and different ways of doing it, Jason can tailor make a grafted heritage tree and even make them so they will remain small for a city garden. 

The ancient Romans grafted trees and the Chinese used a budding method. Where by a small bud is carefully drafted to the root stock also known as a scion and allowed to grow. 

When you plant an apple tree its vital to ensure that the scion junction where the graft joins the apple tree above it isn't below ground otherwise it will start to grow the other tree. 

Apple's were a big part of the culture when the Europeans settled America and the famous character and historical figure Jonny Appleseed played a vital role in spreading seeds to different states and helping folks grow apples.

Jason states that when land was bought in those early times it would be stipulated that a certain amount of it had to be used to grow fruit trees, this also helped with re-sale later. Apples were a wonderful food source, and the different varieties would mature at different times, giving folks a fruit to enjoy over many seasons, they also kept for months and could be dried. 

a pretty morning glory this needs to be removed though as they chock the trees

Apples need to be pollinated and Jason has found that native mason bee's do a great job of this, there is a hive in the orchard. There is also an irrigation system in the orchard but it isn't working so all the growth is purely by rain. In fact most of North Carolina's agriculture is grown without irrigation, we are blessed to have rain. 

lichen on one of the tree's I remember learning that these flourish in area's with little pollution. 

Black twig 

In this clip you can see Jason, showing me around and kindly letting me sample an apple 

A tobacco field with pilot mountain behind 

a blossom 

these tree's have been trained to grow along a trellis like a grape vine, its called espalier wonderful for small spaces in rows and easy to manage 

I would highly recommend a visit to the farm and the orchard, I am sure if you call or email, Jason would give a tour, also if you want wonderful heritage apple tree's for your garden drop him a line 

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