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It’s hotter than he**  (dare I use the word “hell”?) outside in June and while most desert dwellers can be found hibernating indoors enjoying air-conditioned temperatures in the 70’s – you’ll find a few of us darting outdoors to pick apples.



While parts of the country wait until late summer and on into early fall to harvest apples – June is apple harvesting time in the desert.


Many people don’t realize that apple trees can grow in the desert Southwest – so do apricots, peaches and plums.

The key to growing these types of fruit trees is our relatively cold temperatures.  They need a certain number of “chilling hours”, which are when temperatures are within 32 – 45 degrees F.

When summer temperatures are hovering in the 100+ range, it’s hard to recall what cold winter temperatures feel like, but it’s those chilly temps that make it possible to grow apple trees.


In the past years, I have harvested my apples from among the several apple trees located on the family farm.

But, not this year.


Three years ago, we transformed our side garden, creating a “potager”, which is a French term for a kitchen garden filled with fruits, herbs, vegetables alongside ornamental plants.

In the potager, we have the largest of our vegetable gardens, blackberry bushes, two peach trees, an orange tree and two apple trees.


The apple trees are located toward the end of the garden with the blackberry bushes growing against the wall.

This was what they looked like 1 1/2 years ago.  Since then, they have grown quickly and are filled with apples, ready for us to pick.


Today, we will head out in the morning and pick our apples.  There are so many growing, that I won’t need any from the family farm.

Normally, I make applesauce and an apple pie from apples.  This year, I will make those but will add to it.  We will also be making apple chips and apple sugar.  Who knows?  If we get a ton of apples, I may need to find more things to make with them.

My daughter, Ruthie, and niece, Sofie, will help me along with a very special friend who is their “orphanage sister”.  

**Next time, I’ll share their special story along with all the goodies we make along with helpful links so you can make them yourself with apples from the supermarket.

 Yesterday, I spent the morning on the family farm pruning apple trees.

It was a nice break from a very busy week of landscape consulting and I was looking forward to spending time with my mother, who resides on Double S Farms with my youngest sister and her family.


 The sun was rising up in the sky and the day promised warm temperatures in the upper 70’s with our unseasonably warm winter.

Now at this point, you may be noticing that the trees were already in flower and that we were getting to pruning them a bit late in the season.  Ideally fruit trees are pruned just before the buds begin to open.

But, even though we were pruning them late, it won’t make a huge difference and will improve the size and quality of our apple crop.


 You’ll notice that the apple trees are located behind a wire fence.  Well, there is a good reason for that…


 And their names are Sodapop and Johnny.

Soda is the daughter of our dog Missy, who passed away last year at the age of 13.

Johnny is a 3-legged doberman rescue dog who is so friendly and exuberant.

You see, the dogs love to eat the apples from the trees.  Especially Soda who does her best to reach them up high.  
You can read about Soda’s previous exploits here.

 The problem is that the seeds of apples contain small amounts of cyanide and if dogs consume too many, they can have problems.  So the fence is up, much to the dismay of Soda and Johnny.


Pruning trees is one of my favorite things to do and although as a certified arborist, I talk to my clients a lot about trees, I don’t prune their trees.  Instead I give them advice on how to prune them theirselves or refer them to a certified arborist company who does it for them.  So, my tree pruning is primarily focused on my own and my family’s.  

Armed with a pair of loppers, hand pruners and a pruning saw, I took a moment before beginning to smell the sweet fragrance of the apple blossoms.


In the midst of our pruning, my granddaughter, Lily, showed up.  She proved to be a good helper and moved the small branches into a pile.

We focused on cleaning out the interior branches, which are hard to get pick apples from.  In addition, we also pruned off some of the taller branches so that come apple-picking time, we could more easily reach them.  Once we finished, we had pruned away a quarter of the tree, which will allow it to focus its resources on growing the remaining flowers, which will turn into apples.
For info on how we have pruned fruit trees in the past, click here.


My mother took a few of the cut branches and brought them inside and put them in a vase where they will offer beauty and fragrance indoors for a few days.


Now it was time to turn our attention to the vegetable gardens.  My mother has two large, raised beds where she grows a variety of delicious vegetables.  

Lily wanted to feed the chickens some lettuce from the garden.


The resident chickens of Double S Farms, love lettuce.


Next, great-grandma needed Lily’s help to pick a cabbage from the garden.  It was huge!  I only wish that I liked cabbage.

I asked my mother how she uses it and she told me that she uses it in soups, but blends it ahead of time so no one knows that it is in there.


Lily wondered if the chickens would like cabbage and it turned out that they liked it better than the lettuce.


Before leaving the gardens, Lily had to pick a flower.  Like many little girls, she loves flowers and carries them around smelling their fragrance.

The white petunias belong to Finley, my nephew, who gets a small plot in the vegetable gardens to plant what he likes.

As we got ready to leave, I noticed a beautiful, little bouquet made up of petunias on the kitchen table.  Who knew that petunias could make such a sweet bouquet?

Visits to the family farm are always refreshing and it was great to enjoy a morning out in the sunshine gardening.

When I moved to the desert Southwest 27 years ago as a young bride, all I saw was a brown landscape, spiky cacti, landscapes covered in little bits of rock and very few trees.


If you had told me that you could grow any kind of fruit tree besides citrus – I would not have believed you.


Fast forward 27 years and I not only appreciate the unique beauty of the desert, but I have enjoyed my 4th annual apple harvest at the family farm.

Certain apple tree varieties grow very well in our climate.  (For information on what varieties do best, here is an earlier post I wrote about apple trees).


Summer is a busy time because of the different types of fruit there are to harvest.  Peach trees ripen first in late May followed by plums.  Early June is spent in the kitchen making peach and plum jams.


In mid-June, the apple trees are ready to be picked.

My daughter Gracie and I headed out to pick some apples.


When we got there, my mother was already busy picking apples and ‘Johnny’ my sister’s 3-legged dog was enjoying eating the fallen apples.


The trees had so many apples that the branches were hanging down under their weight.


Soda Pop, my sister other dog (and the daughter of my dog, Missy) was also enjoying a feast of apples.


Don’t they look delicious?

One of the apple trees had some trouble late last year with borers.  But we caught it early and got rid of them.

We hauled 3 huge bags of apples back home and I got ready to make some delicious things with them, which I’ll share with you next time.
*Below, is some helpful information regarding borers:

Adult borer beetles lay eggs in the crevices of the bark of apple trees – generally in the bottom 2 feet of the trunk.  The eggs hatch and the larvae tunnel their way into the trunk.


Signs of borers are small holes toward the bottom 2 feet of the trunk.  Sometimes you can sawdust poking out of the hole or even a little sap running down the trunk.

Prevention is the best treatment, but if you have apple borers there are a few things you can do:

– Take a wire (I recommend a wire coat hanger) and poke into the hole that the borer made and try to puncture the larvae.  Do this in the summer. You may have to work at this a little, but kids might have fun doing this 😉

– Paint the trunk with white latex pain.  This not only protects the trunk from sunburn, it also prevents borers from laying new eggs AND suffocates the borers already present.

If you have apple trees and want to help prevent borers away – plant cloves of garlic around your tree and let them grow.  Many apple growers report that the smell of garlic keeps the adult borer beetles away.  

By using garlic and painting the trunk of your apple trees, borers are more likely to stay away.

I’d love to share with you the latest addition to my desert garden…


I am now the proud owner of two new apple trees.

It’s hard to believe that you can grow apples in the desert, but you can!

Okay, I must confess that the photo above, is NOT from my new apple trees.  It is a photo of one of my mother’s apple trees that she grows in her Arizona garden.

‘Dorsett Golden’ Apple Tree
I realize that my apple trees are a lot smaller then my mother’s, but it is healthy and will grow beautifully in my garden.

You might have noticed that I mentioned that I bought two apple trees.  You may be thinking that I planted two because I wanted a lot of apples and you would be right.

BUT, there is another reason that I planted two apple trees.

**Most apple trees cannot ‘self-pollinate’ themselves.

So, what does the term ‘self-pollinate’ mean?

Remember way back to high school biology class…

Plants need to be pollinated to produce fruit and seeds.  Some plants can self-pollinate themselves, but some plants need a little help from another plant.

The majority of apple trees need help in this area.

Thankfully, the solution is easy…

“Plant at least two different apple trees near each other.”

What this means is to select at least two different varieties of apple tree.  In my case, I planted a

‘Dorsett Golden’ apple tree 

and a 

‘Anna’ apple tree

These trees will pollinate each other and I will get lots of delicious apples in a few years.


Now, some apple trees can self-pollinate themselves but they will produce more fruit if there is another type of apple tree nearby.  

**Both my ‘Dorsett Golden’ and ‘Anna’ apple trees are considered self-fertile, which means that they can pollinate themselves – but they won’t produce as many apples as they would if planted next to a different variety of apple tree.

Both of these varieties are great for growing in warmer climates.

Apple trees should be planted in winter, before spring.  They are available as bare root or in containers.  If you are planting in March, then buy an apple tree in a container.  Bare root fruit trees are best planted January – mid February.

Again, not my tree – it’s my mother’s apple tree 😉
I do have a couple of apple blossoms on my trees.  In a few years, they will soon look like my mother’s trees.

I am very blessed to have my mother and my sister live very close to me.  However, this was not always so.  Twenty-four years ago, I moved to Arizona from California as a new bride.  The rest of my family remained in California.  Of course, there were many visits back and forth.  But I never really knew how wonderful it could be to have them living close by.  Until about 3 years ago.

My sister and her family along with my mother purchased Double S Farms just over a year ago and so began a weekly tradition of us having dinner over there once a week.  I always look forward to this day because for one, I don’t have to cook dinner – but more importantly, it is a wonderful time of visiting with my mom and sister.

With our beautiful weather, we have recently been eating outside in the backyard, surrounded by their garden full of flowers, the vegetables, the fruit trees and some feathered visitors.

Each week, as soon as we drive up, I love to check to see how the fruit trees are doing in the front garden.  It looks like the peaches will soon be ready…

My son is always the first to reach the front door and upon entering the house, he is promptly wrestled to the floor by his two little cousins (Little Farmer and Littlest Farmer).

 
Each week, my mom (Pastor Farmer) always cooks something new for us to try along with fresh-baked bread.  We love to eat outside and enjoy the sunset and our food.
Then it is time for the kids to play and the adults to sit back and relax in the garden.
Of course, there are usually new vegetables to check out….
 
As well as seeing how the apples are growing on the trees….
The kids love to play as well on the cool, green grass.
About this time, the newest residents of Double S Farms come out of their chicken coop to come and visit.
Ramona is the first to come out to visit.
Followed by Flo.
By the way, did you know that chickens like macaroni & cheese?  Well, these chickens do…
 
Especially Lucy.
We enjoy watching all of the chickens and their antics.  But, our favorite is Effie. 


 Now, Effie will not win any chicken beauty contest.  She is decidedly awkward looking and has fluffy cheeks.  But, it is her personality that is so endearing.  She is very friendly and lets us all hold and pet her – even the kids.  

Effie is not camera shy, like Flo can be and the other day, she hopped onto my sister’s (Chicken Farmer), lap and promptly lay her head down and fell asleep.
Not to be outdone by some chickens, Double S Farm’s resident hummingbird, Jose, makes an appearance as we eat our dinner.
The sun is setting and it is time to go home.
I hope you have enjoyed our evening visit to Double S Farms.
Good Night….