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Show #31/5305. The Exploding World Of Farmer's Markets

Summary of Show

Local Farmers
Every year more and more people are discovering the excitement of buying direct from their LOCAL FARMERS and in doing so are being exposed to an amazing variety of new fruits and vegetables and along the way are being introduced to old heirloom varieties that have mostly disappeared from the American table.
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Eric Meets Lori
ERIC FIRST MEETS LORI and welcomes her to the show. Lori tells us how she got involved in gardening. She was your basic stay-at-home mom and liked to garden as a hobby.
For More Information Click Here

Farmers Markets Rapidly Growing In Number
The world of FARMERS MARKETS IS EXPLODING, it seems there is a new one almost every day. We’re certainly noticing them in smaller communities, particularly on weekends. Lori has put a toe in that water and it has worked out pretty well.
For More Information Click Here

Vegetables They Are Growing Here
Eric would like for Lori to talk about some of the VEGETABLES THEY ARE GROWING HERE, specifically the early or spring crops. Lori tells us they planted peppers, bell peppers, because they are a huge favorite. They particularly like the red bell peppers, the sweetest they can find. Eggplant was another early crop that has been successful. But the tomatoes were the best and most popular vegetable they planted.
For More Information Click Here

Selecting The Right Plants
One of the most exciting seasons for Eric is early spring. That is the time of year where one may be going through the seed catalogs and looking at all of those rare and unusual vegetables. They have weird, spiny, tropical looking things and other vegetables or fruits that don't look like anything one has seen before. Going through the process of SELECTING ALL THE RIGHT PLANTS, what are we going to do this year, it’s all challenging and interesting. Eric would love to know what some of the more unusual plants Lori has worked with.
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Okra
Eric wants to know more about the OKRA. He's noticed they have limbed the plants up. Most often when we see okra it looks more like a bush. Why have they limbed their okra plants up?
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Transitioning Between Seasons
We are visiting at the time of the year where they are TRANSITIONING BETWEEN THE SEASONS. It’s a very interesting time to see the garden because all the spring and summer stuff is starting to fade and the cool season crops are just now coming on. Eric wants to know what will Lori be growing for fall this year?
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What Has Lori Learned This year
Eric wants to know - As gardeners there are so many things that we learn along the way that every year makes us, hopefully, that much wiser. Eric would like to explore some of the things that LORI HAS LEARNED in the world of vegetable gardening. Well they've learned a lot about the types of plants that they want to plant next year. They've learned that they want to focus more on quality over quantity of plants. They’ve also looked into the types of fabric that they lay down for the plants.
For More Information Click Here

Insect And Critter Control
Eric is next interested in INSECT AND CRITTER CONTROL. Judging by the area, they are surrounded by woods, there must be a pretty significant deer population. What do they do to keep that in check? Lori, confirms Eric’s concerns. They have learned a hard lesson here.
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Water
Of course the most important nutrient for all plants is WATER and, and that, of course, is critical especially when you are trying to grow crops that have got to go to market. Particularly so because it’s not a hobby at that point. So what do they do for irrigation?
For More Information Click Here

Mercier Orchards - A Family Operation
As mentioned, this is a FAMILY OPERATION that has been around for quite some time. It is a four generation farm they started back in forty-three when his grandparents came back to Blue Ridge and bought a small little twenty-five acre plot of apple trees. His grandfather actually did other work, this was a hobby. But over the years they’ve been growing, growing, and growing. They've moved from twenty-five acres up to about three hundred acres. And added three more generations.
For More Information Click Here

Number Of Trees
Eric comments - David, this is quite an operation. Roughly HOW MANY TREES do you have in cultivation? Gosh we don't really count the trees, instead go by acreage. Since a fourth generation farm - his grandfather may have gotten a couple hundred trees per acre, when his father planted he may have gotten four or five hundred per acre.
For More Information Click Here

Dwarf Or Semi Dwarf Trees
Eric wonders - Is the increased number of trees or density per acre largely due to the fact they are working with more DWARF TREES? Correct, they are working more with dwarf and semi-dwarf trees. Everything they plant now is dwarf and semi-dwarf. They figured out the best way to grow a tree is to capture as much sunlight as you can; so the big trees that his father and grandfather grew were sixty percent shade on the interior of the tree. Whereas if one looks at some of the smaller dwarf and semi-dwarf trees every bit of canopy is exposed to sunlight.
For More Information Click Here

Number Of Cultivars
There are undoubtedly more CULTIVARS than one would ever have the time to address. But Eric would like to know what cultivar is Mercier known for and what are some of David’s favorites? If he had to make a guess there are nine or ten thousand varieties of fruit available worldwide. They don’t grow all of those obviously. But do grow 40-45 different varieties. Way back when they were growing traditional varieties, the Red Delicious, the Golden Delicious and the Rome were standard. Now days they’re tending more towards the non-traditional varieties, something one can't find at a grocery store.
For More Information Click Here

Considerations - Home Owner VS. Commercial Grower
In commercial fruit production there are many CONSIDERATIONS that home gardeners don’t need address. For example questions like - how often am I going to have to replant these apple trees, what time of year do they need to be planted, how many am I going to plant and how many years does one typically get out of an apple tree or what is it's productive range? The difference between the backyard and David and Mercier is he has got to make a living, he must make some money off of these trees.
For More Information Click Here

Pruning
Eric would like to talk about PRUNING. It must be especially important with a commercial operation because they’re trying to maximize the amount of sunlight received by every leaf of every tree and because the fruit must get adequate sunlight so the fruit colors correctly. Eric would like for David to walk us through the basics of how to prune an apple tree.
For More Information Click Here

Bend The Limbs
Eric wonders if they ever mechanically BEND THE LIMBS? Are there ways of manipulating them or is that not practical? David says very much so. They have already done that with this block of trees. They can either let the fruit do it, a good heavy piece of fruit on a young tree will pull a branch over into its growing space or what they do most of the time is you'll see a lot of these limbs look like they are already pulled over.
For More Information Click Here

Apple Trees - Disease And Insect Control
Eric wants to talk about DISEASE AND INSECT CONTROL issues regarding apples. There are a few things one must worry about. Insects of course just love to eat fruiting trees. What type of practical advice does David have for homeowners trying to keep their trees healthy. Pruning is a great way to control insects and disease because the drier you can make these trees the better. Disease doesn't function, it doesn’t grow when bacteria or fungus is in a dry environment it doesn’t grow so pruning would be number one for sure.
For More Information Click Here

Irrigation
As far as IRRIGATION goes these are fairly drought tolerant trees. But they do have supplemental irrigation. A good full apple tree needs about an inch a week. They do a lot with trickle irrigation.
For More Information Click Here

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Show #31/5305. The Exploding World Of Farmer's Markets

Transcript of Show

Farmers markets are cropping up in almost every town in the United States of America. They are galvanizing communities around fresh food that is grown locally. In this Episode GardenSMART goes behind the scenes of two such farms and learns what it takes to get their food to market.

Every year more and more people are discovering the excitement of buying direct from their LOCAL FARMERS and in doing so are being exposed to an amazing variety of new fruits and vegetables and along the way are being introduced to old heirloom varieties that have mostly disappeared from the American table. But there are many other great reasons to frequent your local farmers markets. For example, it is a place where you know you are buying the freshest produce, produce that has seen very little transportation, handling or refrigeration, or time in cold storage. Farmers markets also contribute to your local economy by eliminating the costly middle man. Importantly this means more of the profit goes to your local farmer.

In this Episode GardenSMART will be spending time with Lori Monroe from Lewallen Farms. Lori makes her living growing vegetables and selling them at local Farmer's markets. Lori was a stay at home mom who found her passion for growing fresh produce on her father’s farm. The operation was initially focused on meat production but recently Lori has spearheaded its venture into vegetable growing and business has really taken off. From there we'll head down the road to a large-scale orchard operation that sells everything from apples to cider to pies. While there we'll get a behind the scenes look at what goes into growing, processing and selling millions of apples a year.
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ERIC FIRST MEETS LORI and welcomes her to the show. Lori tells us how she got involved in gardening. She was your basic stay-at-home mom and liked to garden as a hobby. She and her husband would plant their little gardens in the summer. It was an enjoyable way to get outside and spend time together. But, it has evolved into this.

This is a beautiful site, as Eric was driving up the long winding driveway this farm reminds him of some of the most nostalgic memories he has of the north Georgia mountains. It is beautiful, it's fantastic and started off actually as a small family farm. It has grown quite a bit since then. They started out with five acres and now have grown, through fourteen land transactions, to three hundred fifty-five plus acres. Initially this was a cattle farm. Lori’s father bought and sold cattle. They have evolved into pork, chicken and lamb. And just keep growing and adding more things every year.
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The world of FARMERS MARKETS IS EXPLODING, it seems there is a new one almost every day. We’re certainly noticing them in smaller communities, particularly on weekends. Lori has put a toe in that water and it has worked out pretty well. This is their first year, thus under a huge learning curve, but have learned a lot. Generally they have done well with the things they've tried, but some things weren’t all that successful. They have recouped from those setbacks and are trucking along, doing what they can.

Their latest foray has been into vegetables. That is one of Eric’s favorite topics and of course our viewers love talking about vegetables. One of the things that Eric likes to grow at home, something that gives one the greatest bang for your buck in comparison to what one can buy in the grocery store is clearly tomatoes. One just can’t beat a beautiful heirloom tomato that is picked right off the vine and then eaten a few hours later.
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Eric would like for Lori to talk about some of the VEGETABLES THEY ARE GROWING HERE, specifically the early or spring crops. Lori tells us they planted peppers, bell peppers, because they are a huge favorite. They particularly like the red bell peppers, the sweetest they can find. Eggplant was another early crop that has been successful. But the tomatoes were the best and most popular vegetable they planted. And, they planted several varieties of heirlooms. One very successful variety has been the Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato. They grew some Pink Ladies tomatoes, and had beautiful Beefsteak Tomatoes. All heirloom, all were beautiful and they sold like wildfire. Just off the vine it's an amazing flavor, so much more flavorful than what one finds in the grocery store. The first part of the season - late spring, early summer they did combat a little bit of tomato blight but eradicated that fairly quickly, bounced back and had tomatoes for most of the summer.

Eric wonders about any tricks regarding their tomatoes? He assumes the soil must be fantastic and that they are using irrigation as well. They do use irrigation and utilize some natural compost from here on the property. Between the two the tomatoes have done really well, they come up really fast, they didn't have to do a lot to them, nature just kind of took its course and did its thing. But the heirloom seeds are a great place to start.
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One of the most exciting seasons for Eric is early spring. That is the time of year where one may be going through the seed catalogs and looking at all of those rare and unusual vegetables. They have weird, spiny, tropical looking things and other vegetables or fruits that don't look like anything one has seen before. Going through the process of SELECTING ALL THE RIGHT PLANTS, what are we going to do this year, it’s all challenging and interesting. Eric would love to know what some of the more unusual plants Lori has worked with. Within the tomato realm they have worked with Pink Ladies. It's an unusual species of plant but has been very successful. They have experimented with several different kinds of peppers. Their green beans were really cool this year. They grew a Royal Burgundy Bean, it was a beautiful purple but when cracked open was green on the inside. When cooked, it would revert back to being green, which their customers at the farmers markets thought was really cool. But they also grew the traditional Bush Bean and it did really well. They grew both white and green eggplant and they too did very well. By the end of summer people started to figure out what they were. Their Okra turned out beautifully. They had three different varieties of okra - Burgundy Okra, Alabama Red Okra, which was a little hard for people to get used to because they just looked different, and additionally they grew a Silver Queen Okra this year.
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Eric wants to know more about the OKRA. He's noticed they have limbed the plants up. Most often when we see okra it looks more like a bush. Why have they limbed their okra plants up? Lori explains, they decided to do this because they have a lot of bad storms and the winds were starting to break the stems or the stalks over so they limbed them up to make the stalks thicker and a little heartier but mainly it was because that was the way her grandfather had done it and taught her to do it. It does makes it easier to pick and you get less itchy. And that is a big factor with okra.

They have a variety of things they are trying, for example, Bull's Blood Beets. And they’re trying some cabbage, they have Dinosaur Kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower and, of course, lettuce, because we all like lettuce. That’s pretty much what they're focusing on this fall.

Eric wonders - Do they work with any crops that are traditionally spring crops that they then do a second planting to extend them into the cooler weather, say like a later tomato planting? They are trying some later tomatoes, seeing how far they can go into the season with them because everybody, as she stated before loves a good tomato, and they would like to keep that going as long as they can. Thus they’re attempting to grow some tomatoes right now for fall, they’ll just have to see how the weather treats them.

Eric wonders - With fall crops, to get those planted and started, what are they typically looking for from a weather standpoint? Of course, in Georgia, it can stay really hot later in the season. Are they waiting until there is a certain break in the weather or is that basically just something that one would typically do relying on the calendar? Normally, if Lori were home gardening she would kind of do it by the calendar or farmer’s almanac, but this year they just wanted to get them in the ground and see how they were going to perform. Basically just a trial run kind of deal. So they have already planted them in the ground and now are hoping that the weather will be kind to them. When would you expect to see your first harvest from your fall crop? They are hoping as soon as thirty to forty-five days. Some of the plants in the ground are already eight weeks old. Will they also do a late winter planting of cool season crops or pretty much just put one in? Lori thinks this year that they'll just do the one this time and then see how it goes. If successful with it this fall and winter maybe next year they’ll try for a second one.
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Eric wants to know - As gardeners there are so many things that we learn along the way that every year makes us, hopefully, that much wiser. Eric would like to explore some of the things that LORI HAS LEARNED in the world of vegetable gardening. Well they've learned a lot about the types of plants that they want to plant next year. They've learned that they want to focus more on quality over quantity of plants. They’ve also looked into the types of fabric that they lay down for the plants. White fabric versus the black fabric and what time of year to put it down and what plants should be going into them and when. The white did really well for them for the early summer planting because they didn't want the ground to be heated up so much underneath. For the spring planting they used the black plastic. They were going to try and reuse some of the black fabric for fall. But when they put in their fall plants they learned very quickly the heat and the black plastic does not mix. They had a lot of wilting that occurred but recouped very well and learned that next year when they do their second planting in the fall they will definitely go with the white fabric because they don't need that much heating of the soil.
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Eric is next interested in INSECT AND CRITTER CONTROL. Judging by the area, they are surrounded by woods, there must be a pretty significant deer population. What do they do to keep that in check? Lori, confirms Eric’s concerns. They have learned a hard lesson here. The deer came through and ate all the tops off their tomato plants. So basically they put a yarned perimeter around the entire garden, then sprayed some deer deterrent, which worked really well for the fall. They’ve noticed deer in the area recently, but they seem to have stayed out of the garden, which has been good.

As far as pest control they use neem oil, which is an essential oil from a tree and it's really great at keeping away all those tiny, little critters like cutworms, moths and stuff that like that love to eat your plants.
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Of course the most important nutrient for all plants is WATER and, and that, of course, is critical especially when you are trying to grow crops that have got to go to market. Particularly so because it’s not a hobby at that point. So what do they do for irrigation? They are currently pumping water out of their on-site creek. They pump it through a series of pipes down underneath the plastic. For the most part it has done pretty well. They had to use it a lot this summer because it has been extremely hot and had very little rain. Of course putting the drip pipe under the plastic is a great way of delivering irrigation, it mitigates a lot of evaporation and of course by putting water under there it is always moist under there so it's a wonderful way of very efficiently using water.

Eric thanks Lori for showing us this beautiful place. We wish you the best of luck with all of it. Lori thanks Eric and asks him and GardenSMART to come back any time. We’ll do it.

David Lillard stepped away from his white collar job to join his wife and family in running Mercier Orchards in north Georgia. Mercier Orchards has been in the family for 4 generations, it was started in 1943 in the rolling hills of Blue Ridge, Georgia. David oversees much of the daily operations and has been instrumental in the growth of their hard cider production. David is going to take us on a tour of the farm and give us a peek into the exciting world of orchard management.

Eric welcomes David and thanks him for spending time with us. This is a little slice of heaven, it's wonderful to be here. David returns the compliment and tells Eric and the GardenSMART audience he appreciates us coming to visit. They enjoy having folks to the farm.
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As mentioned, this is a FAMILY OPERATION that has been around for quite sometime. It is a four generation farm they started back in forty-three when his grandparents came to Blue Ridge and bought a small twenty-five acre plot of apple trees. His grandfather actually did other work, this was a hobby. But over the years they’ve been growing, growing and growing. They’ve moved from twenty-five acres up to about three hundred acres. And added three more generations. So they are a true family farm. It's much more than apples today, they have a number of other fruit plants. They started with just apples, it's what brought them to the dance and probably ninety percent of what they do is apples but over the years they wanted to branch out the business in their retail store. They wanted to be open a little bit earlier in the year thus added peaches, they've added nectarines, have strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. So a bunch of different fruits here now.

Eric can’t wait to see the farm, it looks amazing. It is a great day to be here, nice and cool, a little bit of breeze, one can see for miles so they'll go check out some fruit.
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Eric comments - David, this is quite an operation. Roughly HOW MANY TREES do you have in cultivation? Gosh we don't really count the trees, instead go by acreage. Since a fourth generation farm - his grandfather may have gotten a couple hundred trees per acre, when his father planted he may have gotten four or five hundred per acre. Now days David is doing plantings of up to twelve hundred trees per acre. So they are getting more dense, super high density orchards. So roughly, if you want to say four or five hundred trees per acre David would guess a hundred thousand or so.
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Eric wonders - Is the increased number of trees or density per acre largely due to the fact they are working with more DWARF TREES? Correct, they are working more with dwarf and semi-dwarf trees. Everything they plant now is dwarf and semi-dwarf. They figured out the best way to grow a tree is to capture as much sunlight as you can; so the big trees that his father and grandfather grew were sixty percent shade on the interior of the tree. Whereas if one looks at some of the smaller dwarf and semi-dwarf trees every bit of canopy is exposed to sunlight. The more sunlight you have, the more sugar you have, the better your product is. In regards to the quality of the fruit do you see a whole lot of difference between a dwarf version as opposed to a full scale version of the same tree? Other than color one doesn't see too much of a difference in quality. Obviously with a little bit more exposure to sunlight you produce more and you can get better fruit color. But as far as quality, the quality will be about the same. Eric guesses the dwarf trees are easier to pick. Absolutely, a lot easier, very few ladders, very few broken arms.
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There are undoubtedly more CULTIVARS than one would ever have the time to address. But Eric would like to know what cultivar is Mercier known for and what are some of David’s favorites? If he had to make a guess there are nine or ten thousand varieties of fruit available worldwide. They don’t grow all of those obviously. But do grow 40-45 different varieties. Way back when they were growing traditional varieties, the Red Delicious, the Golden Delicious and the Rome were standard. Now days they’re tending more towards the non-traditional varieties, something one can't find at a grocery store. One can go into a grocery store and find a Red Delicious all the time, or go in the grocery store and find a Golden Delicious but you can't go in the grocery store and find an Arkansas Black or you can't find a Topaz or a GoldRush. Some of those varieties bring people to the farm. They want something new and unique, something with a different flavor from what they have been eating for the last five years. So they now tend to plant more of the newer varieties, and smaller blocks of newer varieties.

Eric wonders where they learn about the newer varieties? Is there a USDA research station or something along those lines. Well they do have trade shows, and frequently visit trade shows. The one they attend regularly is in Grand Rapids. Every year they are working on new varieties. It takes several years to develop new varieties and they really come out of universities. There are very few private companies that get involved with new varieties because it is so very expensive but a lot of the universities do. When they go to the trade shows they are always trying to get the new varieties out. Then, frequently asking how we like this or that. They’ll tell us how this is stored, how they grow. It’s kind of a blind sampling, they always have numbers, never have names so they pick out different numbers that they think are going to be good and try test trees. That's where they find most of their new varieties. This keeps Mercier on the cutting edge and that is something they continually strive for.
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In commercial fruit production there are many CONSIDERATIONS that home gardeners don’t need address. For example questions like - how often am I going to have to replant these apple trees, what time of year do they need to be planted, how many am I going to plant and how many years does one typically get out of an apple tree or what is it's productive range? The difference between the backyard and David and Mercier is he has got to make a living, he must make some money off of these trees. He loves what he does, don't get him wrong, but they have got to make money off of these trees. Apple trees can last anywhere between twenty years and two hundred years, it really depends on what you want out of that tree. They have blocks of red delicious in the orchard that are almost forty years old and they are still producing great reds so why get rid of them. There are other blocks that lasted three years, they didn't like the fruit that came off of them so they turned them around. His grandfather always had a saying that they would plant five percent of the orchard each year no matter what. Always plant trees. If you're not planting trees you are going out of business. So if they turn over five percent of the orchard every year in twenty years they would have the whole orchard replanted. If sometimes looking at a block of trees and maybe where you had twenty percent attrition do you go back and selectively plant individual plants there or are you typically turning over just an entire field? That depends on what year it's in, how many years it's been in the orchard. If it's a new block, yes he'll go back and transplant in between trees but if it's an older block they may let it go, tear up the whole thing when it gets bad enough, just tear out the entire block and start again.
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Eric would like to talk about PRUNING. It must be especially important with a commercial operation because they’re trying to maximize the amount of sunlight received by every leaf of every tree and because the fruit must get adequate sunlight so the fruit colors correctly. Eric would like for David to walk us through the basics of how to prune an apple tree. This is an argument that has been going on since the beginning of time. Some says it's a science, others' says it's an art, The trees, to David, are like his children, they are all very different. A Pink Lady may not grow the same as a Stayman but two of the main aspects that one is really are looking for are sunlight and air movement. You want them to be as dry as possible and you want them to absorb as much sunlight as possible. Pruning is also dictated by the age of the tree, more or less should be removed depending on the age of the tree. Older trees can typically stand a little more pruning, while the younger trees, at least in this soil situation, and our neck of the woods, they let grow for several years before they do any major pruning. They grow a nice, good scaffold of limbs, then pick and choose the limbs they want to prune at about year four or five. When they do prune they are generally trying to eliminate the limbs that are growing into the interior of the canopy and leave the ones that grow out. Fruit really doesn't grow on straight up wood. Good fruit likes to be about forty-five degrees, so anything that is growing straight up, anything that is growing straight into the tree, any low hanging limbs that may catch your tractor they’ll get rid of.
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Eric wonders if they ever mechanically BEND THE LIMBS? Are there ways of manipulating them or is that not practical? David says very much so. They have already done that with this block of trees. They can either let the fruit do it, a good heavy piece of fruit on a young tree will pull a branch over into its growing space or what they do most of the time is you'll see a lot of these limbs look like they are already pulled over. That they did with electrical tape believe it or not. When the tree is young and the limb is nice and flexible they can pull these limbs down to the plane and tape them to other limbs and that will start them growing in that direction.
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Eric wants to talk about DISEASE AND INSECT CONTROL issues regarding apples. There are a few things one must worry about. Insects of course just love to eat fruiting trees. What type of practical advice does David have for homeowners trying to keep their trees healthy. Pruning is a great way to control insects and disease because the drier you can make these trees the better. Disease doesn't function, it doesn’t grow when bacteria or fungus is in a dry environment so pruning would be number one for sure. There are other things one can do in the off-season when there are no leaves on the trees. There are copper sprays that you can soak the tree with, which will help knock down the inoculum. During the summer when there is fruit on the trees there is not much you can do. Here they approach insect control with a lot of organic aspects. They use pheromone traps, which are little lures. Basically what it does is flood the orchard with the scent of a female insect. The pheromone lures David uses are for two of the major pests in apples and there is one of the lures on every other tree, so there are fifty thousand of these lures. They are very expensive to put on but they are a great attribute to the orchard. What is this little pheromone lure? It fills the orchard with these attractants for the male bugs so the male bugs cannot find the female bugs and if males and females can’t get together they don't have the baby bugs. So he has eliminated a lot of the population with the pheromone lures. They are really great. David feels better about the orchards and feels better about the fruit that they are serving the public. Again, a little bit more expensive but he enjoys doing it.
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As far as IRRIGATION goes these are fairly drought tolerant trees. But they do have supplemental irrigation. A good full apple tree needs about an inch a week. They do a lot with trickle irrigation. A lot of farmers have done overhead and all but it is very expensive and you lose fifty to sixty percent of what you put out and ultimately end up watering your weeds and grass. He certainly doesn't want to do that. So several years ago they invested in trickle irrigation, which puts the water right to the root zone and it keeps his trees growing and keeps them out of stress when they need it the most.

Eric thanks David for the tour of Mercier Orchards. We have learned so much, this is a beautiful place. We really do appreciate his time. David in return thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting.

One of life’s simple pleasures is enjoying the fruits and vegetables that we grow in our own back yard and today we visited two growers who have made a business out of delivering the freshest produce right to their local markets. We hope their insight and expertise has been helpful.
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