GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show11
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Show #11

This week we travel to Michigan and the Blossom Time Festival. Michigan is known for their fruit trees, hanging baskets and Geraniums. Fruit tress are great, not only are they beautiful but there is nothing like the taste of fresh fruit picked right from the tree. This is the time of year we start thinking about fresh fruit and how to grow it in our own home garden. Today we visit with a professional grower, a university expert and a garden center owner. They share their knowledge with us about fruit trees and more.

Gretchen Gilmore is the former director of the Blossom Time Festival. The Blossom Time Festival, in southwestern Michigan, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Festival began in 1906 when the Rev. W.J. Katy of the First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor declared it Blossom Sunday and urged all of his parishioners and people from other communities as far away as Chicago to come to southwest Michigan and drive through the beautiful blooming orchards. At that time there were peaches and apple trees in bloom. The Festival continued to grow with caravanning automobiles driving through the countryside. In 1924 the parade began which drew about 50,000 people to the area, which was a lot in those days. This year they are expecting 250,000 people. The purpose of the Blossom Time Festival is to celebrate the agricultural industry in southwestern Michigan. Besides fruit trees, the state of Michigan ranks number 1 in the production of Geraniums, Easter Lilies, hanging baskets, tart cherries, blueberries, dried beans and cucumbers. Gretchen welcomes Garden Smart and invites all its viewers to come and visit particularly during the Blossom Time Festival.

Jay Jollay is the owner proprietor of Jollay's Orchards. His grandparents established this farm in 1857 and it is comprised of 190 acres. Today Jay and his family live on the property, he is raising his children here. There is an old schoolhouse on the property that his family attended, up to and including his dad until kindergarden, at that point it was annexed by the local school system. Since it is an orchard, there are a lot of trees on the property as well. They grow a wide variety of trees-cherries, peaches, apples, apricots, pears, a few red raspberries and a few black raspberries. They grow tart cherries commercially but the rest of their production is sold right here on the farm. People either pick it or buy it at their inside market. For years the emphasis was the produce, they're now trying a different approach. It's become a family destination. They utilize the old schoolhouse as a haunted house, which excites the kids. It has become a rite of passage that, at a certain age, the kids can make it all the way through with their eyes open. Last season they incorporated a cider mill into the operation where they make and press their own apple cider. They also have a pumpkin patch which is also great for families.

Jay takes us to a beautiful orchard that has an interesting story. When he was dating his soon to be wife, they had gotten into a discussion about her favorite apple. She told Jay that it was a Granny Smith. This conversation took place in April, so Jay planted 113 Granny Smith apple trees. Later in the fall, in November, Jay proposed to her in this spot. Jay sees this as a story of using what you have. His wife is a city girl, wasn't familiar with the orchard setting, but she has learned quickly and appreciates all the hard work. Jay's plan obviously worked out because she is now his wife and the mother of his children.

Joe notices white paint at the base of the trees. It is white latex paint applied to protect the trunk of the tree. In Michigan they have something called southwest winter injury. The white paint reflects the sun off the trunk of the tree. In the wintertime when there is a blanket of snow, the sun is reflected by the snow onto the dark trunk of the tree. That will send sap up the tree and in the evening when the sun goes down that sap will come back down and freeze when it gets colder. This can crack open the trunk, split the bark, the outer layer, opening the tree up to disease. This time of year there is no mowing or cleanup underneath the trees. They don't mow or cleanup until after the petal fall of the blossoms. That is because they don't want to stir up anything on the orchard floor that could potentially cause disease to the tree. They are patient and wait until the petal fall. After the blooms are off the tree, they then come in and start doing orchard floor maintenance.

We visit another location. This orchard is 5 years old. Here they have apple trees that range from just planted this spring to about 25 years old. The trees will start producing apples after between 4 and 6 years. That tree will then be in full production until it is about 20 or 25 years old.

We next visit an apricot orchard. What enables them to grow apricots in Michigan is the lake effect of Lake Michigan. This is a micro climate, in the wintertime Lake Michigan will warm the air and in the summertime it will cool the air. That warming and cooling can be anywhere from 5 to 10 degrees. They grow 4 different varieties of apricots, each variety has a distinguishing characteristic to the fruit itself. Apricot trees are unique, they're wiley. They do trim them, but they have a mind of their own when it comes to growing. The apricot isn't as popular as the apple but a tree ripened apricot has an unbelievable flavor.

Pears are one of the more difficult fruits to grow. They trend to be open to more diseases than it's cousin the apple. The scaffolds coming off the pear tree tend to want to grow vertically, right along with the central leader. To combat that they utilize spreaders which help provide a better angle on the scaffolds, so the tree can grow its lateral branches out and can get more sunlight down inside the tree. Otherwise they would go straight up.

We next visit the sweet cherry orchard. There are several different varieties here, that is done for a variety of reasons. The first reason is these trees go through their stages at different times. If they were to get an early frost one variety would be in a different stage of development than another variety, which ensures that they will have at least some fruit in this orchard. The other reason is that when it comes time to harvest in July, it spreads the season out. They don't just have cherries for 1 or 2 weeks instead 5 or 6 weeks. That's a good tip for our home gardens whether it's a fruit tree or something in the vegetable garden. Squash, for example comes on pretty fast. If squash is planted over several weeks, even a month then it will have multiple harvest times. The same applies to lettuce. Jay does prune and train the central leader system of the sweet cherry tree, similar to the apple. They aren't as forgiving as an apple tree, so they do get wiley, like an apricot but they do try to utilize the central leader. These trees are 6 years old. They grow these trees up to about 20 feet tall. The reason they grow them so tall is, again, in the spring, if they encounter a freeze, the height of the tree makes a big difference because it gets warmer as you get up off the orchard floor. Joe notices that there more blooms and buds at the top of the tree versus lower down. The only disadvantage to the taller tree is that you need a ladder at harvest. The bark of the cherry tree is unique, its peeling. That is a Michigan characteristic, with their tougher winters, the bark will crack and split a little more than in warmer climates.

One can always tell when they're in a peach orchard by the unique way the trees are pruned. Peach trees are trimmed and trained differently than an apple tree. With apple trees the central leader is utilized. With peaches an open center system is used. They trim out all the branches in the center of the tree which leaves 3 or 4 strong scaffolds, that allows light to penetrate down into the tree and it makes harvesting easier. Every branch right now has a lot of blossoms. Jay doesn't want that because they could potentially become peaches, if every blossom were left. If that were allowed to happen the tree would break with too much fruit and it would have small peaches. So they, in about 3 weeks, will come back and hand thin some of those peach blooms so that on each branch the peaches are spaced about 8 to 10 inches apart. They grow about 5 different varieties in this orchard. However, there are 25 varieties in Michigan. The different varieties, again, enables Jay to lengthen the season to 6 or 8 weeks starting the end of July running through the beginning of September.

Joe thanks Jay for the tour and promises to come back when it's time to eat the fresh fruit.

Eric shares his latest Garden Smart Tip and Ideas. A wonderful addition to your patio garden would be an ornamental fruit tree. Eric shows us a beautiful example of a 'Moro' orange. It's a fantastic tree in a container. There is a lot of flexibility that you have with fruit trees in containers. You can move them around to sunny spots on the patio. In the wintertime you can move them indoors for protection. These trees have great ornamental value plus they have the added benefit of providing a crop of fruit every winter. That's hard to beat. VISIT OUR WEB SITE, CLICK ON GARDENING TIPS

Joe next visits with Dr. Al Gauss, Extension Educator for Berrien County, Michigan State Extension Service. Joe tells Al - we get a lot of questions about fruit trees and the problems that people have with them. One is that once they plant a tree it turns out to not be the size they expected. Al says there are 2 potential problems. The tree can either be too big or it can be too small. The reason goes back to the fact that we actually have a graft of 2 different plants. There is a root stock, and we have the variety we want, be it golden delicious or red delicious, grafted onto that root stock. Where you plant that tree and particularly the depth that it is planted in the soil will determine how high that tree grows. A dwarfing tree, if it gets too big, did so probably because it was planted too deep and the variety, the golden delicious, that you wanted is actually rooting and causing the dwarfing root stock to be overcompensated. Or if it's too small, one of the reasons could be that the tree was planted too high and the dwarfing root stock is having a greater effect than it normally would. So, the 2 different problems, too big or too small, are dependent on the depth that tree is planted. Another common problem is the competition from grass. A lot of times trees are stressed because the grass was allowed to grow right up to the base of the tree. Think about it, where are the grass roots? In the top 3 inches of soil. Whereas the fruit tree roots are below that. So, on a newly planted tree or one 2 or 3 years old Al likes to see a 3 foot area around the tree kept plant free. You do that by hand weeding, hoeing, herbicides or mulch. Keep that area plant free for the first few years. Another frequently asked question we receive is - a lot of fruit trees are disappointing when it comes to fruit production. Al says there are several reason for that. One is cross pollination, you need to have 2 varieties of fruit trees, in most instances, to get cross pollination. This is necessary to have fruit. In this spot there are 3 varieties. That's ideal. If you only have 1 tree, what can you do? Maybe there's a crabapple tree in your neighborhood. You could bring in a branch that's blooming and get cross pollination that way. Another major reason for no fruit is cold temperatures. It could be extreme cold in winter or a spring frost. Even though there are flowers and it looks great if the frost comes along and kills the flower, that's it. Another reason could be age. Some apple trees take 6 or 7 years before they start fruiting. Alternate bearing is another reason. They may produce fruit one year and not the next. That is what happens with alternate bearing. One year you get fruit the next you don't. The year that you get a lot of fruit you need to focus on pruning to help get fruit the next year. We look at a cluster to see how that is done. This cluster has 6 flowers with the big bloom in the middle and five surrounding it. If all of these flowers set fruit or turn into fruit there would be 6 fruit in this 1 small area. That's too many fruit for this particular tree. We need to thin that down to just 1 fruit on this particular cluster and then ideally the next cluster won't have any fruit on it. It should be a flower with 1 fruit, then an empty one. That's ideal thinning. You then get good quality but without the quantity. The same holds true for other fruit trees, such as peaches and plums. The more space you allow between the individual fruits on the tree the more leaves there are. And that is what puts sugar in the fruit and that's what you're looking for, good quality fruit. Our viewers also say they spray for pests and diseases and get disappointing results. Al says that is either a timing issue or a problem with the number of sprays. Homeowners think they can get by with 1 maybe 2 sprays. That is not the case. There is a large complex of both insects and diseases that go from bloom to harvest. So you need to be protecting your tree that whole time. They need to be sprayed on a weekly basis. There is a lot of time involved with controlling pests. And there are a lot of pests to guard against. The Coddling Moth and borers are just a few that attack the bottom of trees. There are diseases like fire blight which causes a lot of problems with apple trees and with stone fruits. We're standing in front of a cherry tree and Al picked off some old shriveled cherries left from last year. This is brown rot, it is actually sporulating right now, effecting the blossoms. This tree needs to be sprayed now to protect the fruit before harvest.

Joe thanks Al and reminds viewers that, as we've seen Dr. Al is full of information. And all our viewers can get this kind of information from the county extension service all around the country. These folks are equipped with the knowledge of Dr. Al and you can get that information locally. Thank you Dr. Al.

Joe has a Tip. One way to apply fertilizer to your tree is to use fertilizer tree spikes. These work well because you can apply them right into the soil at the drip line and depending on how big your tree or shrub is will determine how many spikes you need. Space them at least 2 feet apart and do that in early spring or in the fall. You'll see a difference in your trees and shrubs.

So far we've looked at trees in a commercial setting, talked about the care and maintenance of trees in the home setting but as Gretchen pointed out Blossom Time is more that trees. It's really a celebration of agriculture in southwestern Michigan. And Michigan leads the way in a number of agricultural items including hanging baskets and Geraniums. Russ Seigert is with Crystal Springs Florist and Russ is always looking for the latest trends. Russ tells us what's hot in hanging baskets right now. In the gardening world mixed containers are very popular. Russ shows us one with a red, white and blue theme. It has red Supertunias, then Million Bells and Lobelia. It all ties nicely together. Joe likes the white Lobelia, even though they have small flowers, because they're white they are clearly visible. It pops and it all ties in together, it's uniform in shape and nicely blended. Russ also likes the container with Blackie Potato Vine and Asparagus Fern, which has a great color. Chartreuse and black is in. The contrast in color and the softness of the Asparagus Fern is great. Russ has also put containers together with just 1 plant, one annual, and they look great as well. Here he has used Reger Begonias which are shade plants. They are available in 5, vivid colors. Some almost look like roses or Peonies but they have big flowers. They're great in hanging baskets. Michigan is also famous for their Geraniums and Russ has some beauties. Russ says that we're not just seeing reds and salmons anymore, although there are 4 different varieties of salmon. Instead a lot of violet colors, lavenders and different shades of pink. There are a lot of soft colors, different shades as well as hot colors. If you can't find a Geranium that you like you're not looking very hard.

Joe thanks Russ. We've seen some great new plants and Joe is ready to go home and plant.

Links ::

Haworth Inn & Convention Center
Blossom Time Festival
Jollay Orchards
Crystal Springs Florist

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Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

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