Another season of apple picking has arrived and thanks to the record-hot days we enjoyed this summer, our apples are bursting with flavour and sweetness. The timely rains we received in August have helped to crop size up. The orchard is positively tantalizing!
How will Covid-19 affect the apple season? This is a question we have been mulling over all summer long. After careful consideration, we are confident that we can offer a safe and enjoyable pick-your-own apple experience this fall. Rest assured, we have sought the advice of Public Health and other farm businesses to develop our safety policy and while some things may be different, you will find that much of what you love about visiting our farm has remained the same.
The big changes
Booking and Paying in Advance: This is the most significant change we have implemented. To avoid large crowds, we are limiting the number of people allowed on the farm at one time. We are asking that all guests book their picking time in advance and pre-pay for apples. This will help reduce crowd size, limit contact between staff and guests, and facilitate contact tracing if the need arises. Our prices remain essentially the same, however, the bags are being sold empty and will not be weighed.
Time Limits in the Orchard: To ensure fair access to the farm for all of our visitors, we ask that you respect a 60 minute time limit while in the picking area and 30 minutes for other activities for a total of 90 minutes per visit. Each vehicle will be given a card with the arrival time to display on the dash and staff will monitor the parking area.
Online Shopping: Guests who are not interested in picking apples but would still like to purchase apples and other goodies are encouraged to use our online shopping feature and pick up their purchase at the farm. By pre-paying for your purchase, we simply load your order into your car and you are on your way.
Rules in the Orchard: We will have additional staff on hand to guide you to the apple varieties that are ready for picking and check to ensure that you have purchased your apple bags prior to entry. Even though apple picking is done outside, we still ask that everyone respect physical distancing, sanitize hands before entering the picking area, and wear a mask if you are comfortable doing so. If a row becomes too crowded, staff will ask guests to wait outside the row until others have finished.
What will remain the same?
Apples: We have grown a delicious and beautiful crop of apples again this year, and still have over 20 varieties to choose from throughout the season. Please check the website to find out when your favourite variety will be available, or come with an open mind and try something new!
Activities: With some slight adjustments, we are still offering a corn maze, obstacle course, and pumpkin patch. The sheep still enjoy munching on corn husks and Lily the llama remains the guardian of the flock.
Pumpkins and Squash: Our pumpkin and squash crop is looking good and we will have many different edible and decorative types available.
Farm Shop: We have lots of new local products to offer this year, in addition to fresh baking, farm-fresh corn, preserves and fall decor.
While the last few months have been anything but typical, in many ways, it's business as usual here at Nature's Bounty. Our orchard has emerged from its winter slumber as have the many creatures that make our farm their home. Trees still need to be pruned, the grass still needs to be mowed, and the sheep still need to be fed. The presence of Covid-19 in our community is the new reality we are all facing, but we take our role as farmers seriously and will press on through the season to grow safe, delicious apples as we have done for more than 40 years.
We are keeping a close eye on recommendations from Public Health officials and are following their advice to keep our employees safe. Our measures include keeping at least 2 meters between employees, frequent cleaning of shared equipment and high touch areas, and daily screening for symptoms. Everyone at Nature's Bounty is sharing responsibility for our collective well being. As we look toward the fall harvest, we will adapt these safety measures for our picking crew and our customers.
The start of picking season may be months away, but we are preparing for a number of possible scenarios we may face. Most importantly, we hope to offer Pick-Your-Own this fall, although there will likely be new protocols to keep our visitors safe. We will be watching other farms closely through the summer and working with them to adopt best practices. Provided we are permitted to be open to the public, rest assured that we will continue to make safety a top priority. We will update our followers with our new protocols as we get closer to harvest.
It is our sincere hope that you and your family remain safe and healthy during the pandemic. There is no telling what the next few months will bring, but we eagerly await the day when we can open our gates and welcome everyone back to the farm.
During the off season, we receive a surprising number of messages from our followers about when and how to manage their backyard apple trees. Some people have an old, overgrown tree on their property and aren't sure what to do to produce edible fruit. Others have tried their hands at planting new trees but don't know what to do to keep them healthy and productive. Pruning plays a big role in both of these scenarios but when to prune depends on your desired outcome.
Growing quality apples starts with proper pruning when the tree is dormant during the winter or early spring months. Prolonged freezing temperatures in the winter cause fruit trees to go into a a dormant period where energy is stored in the root system and sap stops flowing. Pruning and thinning cuts made while the tree is dormant will often promote vegetative regrowth as the tree wakes up and attempts to heal where cuts have been made. If a tree has diseased, broken or unproductive branches, winter pruning can be an effective way to replace old limbs that need to be removed. Pruning in winter should be done when average temperatures are still around freezing, but after the harshest conditions have passed. March is often the ideal time in our climate.
Pruning in the summer can also have a beneficial effect on trees and fruit quality. Fruit trees, particularly ones that have been winter pruned, will typically push out vegetative (i.e. no fruit) shoots that can excessively shade growing fruit and lower limbs, preventing colour and sugar development. A cluttered and busy tree canopy can also be a breading ground for nasty diseases that can infect fruit, or worse, the tree itself. Prune out some of these shoots in the summer to allow light and air to reach the trunk and internal parts of the tree, but avoid making large cuts and structural changes to the tree in summer. Summer cuts made about a month before harvest will heal, but are far less likely to result in undesirable regrowth.
Pruning is often considered more of an art than a science. Depending on who you ask, particular techniques or preferences can vary quite a bit. Even the experts can disagree! We rely on over 40 years of growing experience to guide our practices and get the most out of our orchard. Even still, we are constantly learning and experimenting with new techniques in an effort to improve the health and productivity of our trees.
If you are interested in learning more about how to prune and manage your own fruit trees, consider signing up for our Pruning and Tree Care Workshop, which will be held at the farm on March 21 from 10 am - 1 pm. Advanced booking is a must as spaces are limited. Check out our event listing for more information!
After nearly two months of apple picking, our pick-your-own season is coming to an end and the final day of picking will be this Saturday, October 26. We will remain open until October 31 for pumpkins, squash, pre-picked apples and sweet cider. Swing by the orchard this Saturday for one last walk around the farm and enjoy a taste of fall in the country. We will still have Empire, Mutsu, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji and Spy available to pick. Hope to see you this weekend!
As the weather cools and the seasonal colours change to vibrant reds and oranges, many apple varieties are at their peak of ripeness and flavour. Ambrosia is our top pick, with its satisfying crunch, delicious sweetness and almost tropical flavour, it's sure to become a new favouite. Others like Empire, Jonagold, and Mutsu offer more tart and complex flavours, perfect for eating fresh or baking. Of course, the long awaited Northern Spy and Golden Russet are finally ready and are ideal for the home cider maker. Northern Spy, Cortland and the last of our Honeycrisp also make great baking apples.
We will have two more pressings of our sweet apple cider before the season winds down, so be sure to stock up. Cider freezes well so grab some extra and put it in your freezer after removing a cup or so to prevent the jug from bursting. Thaw during the holidays for an extra-special treat and enjoy cold, hot, or mulled.
Our pumpkin patch is full or beautiful carving pumpkins for Halloween or for decorating. Take a walk out to the patch and pick your perfect pumpkin or grab a ready-picked one from our market. Make sure to swing by the corn maze on your way!
Nothing completes a Thanksgiving weekend like a visit to the apple orchard. The forecast looks good and we will be open all three days (yes, that includes the holiday Monday!) with so many varieties to choose from. Come enjoy the beautiful fall colours, crisp air, and the freshest apples. For all of your fall baking, we still have plenty of Cortland, Spartan, Jonagold, Macoun, and starting this weekend, Northern Spy. For the best baked desserts, try a combination of apple types for more complex flavour and texture.
After another year of waiting, Honeycrisp are here once again! The cooler nights have slowed maturation but also brought beautiful colour. After a slight delay, we are "spot picking" Honeycrisp starting this weekend. Look for the apples with the most colour and be careful not to knock off the others as they will continue to grow and ripen if left on the trees.
If Honeycrisp aren't your thing, we have plenty of other delicious varieties to choose from including Gala, McIntosh, Spartan, Ginger Gold, Blondee and the elusive Macoun.
Wondering what to do with all of your apples when you get them home? Try this delicious recipe from the Ontario Apple Growers and The Little Sweet Baker!
Toffee Apple Pecan Crumble Pie
Picking season has arrived at the orchard, although a bit later than usual. With a long, cool spring and lower-than-average temperatures this summer, our harvest dates are running a little behind schedule. Most varieties appear to be about 7-10 days behind, but there are still apples to pick this weekend! The upside of the cooler temps is that the apples have developed beautiful, vibrant red skin. Here's an update on the crop and what's up next:
Another Dinner in the Orchard is in the books! As a follow up to our first-ever dinner event held last August, Dinner in the Blossoms was one of three intimate gatherings we hope to host on the farm this year. Bringing people together to share a meal and enjoy to beauty of Nature's Bounty is something we have come to thoroughly enjoy and plan to continue with the encouragement of our guests. Those brave enough to attend during an unusually cool spring were rewarded with the nicest weather we've seen so far this season, a gorgeous sunset, and of course an incredible menu brought to life by Chef Rene Brunet and his team.
We tasked Chef Rene with showcasing a range of local ingredients in fun and flavourful ways and he certainly did not disappoint. As our guests arrived, they were greeted with fresh mini pizzas, bison sliders, maple candied walnuts, grilled lamb skewers, fresh fried Ontario perch and more. After sipping on a taste of 5 Paddles "Home Sweet Home", we toured the orchard blossoms which had emerged only hours before, as if on cue. For dinner, Chef Rene kept the fresh flavours coming as his team served up a spring salad with local asparagus and sprouts, bison carpaccio, apple wood smoked lamb stew, jerked chicken, quinoa salad and finished with a slice of chocolate raspberry torte. And to help wash it all down, Ian Mills from 5 Paddles Brewing offered expertly paired craft beer which complemented every course. We capped off the night with a taste of his own bourbon barrel aged barley wine; a rare treat from the cellar.
We owe a huge thank you to Chef Rene and his team for the incredible food and service, to Ian Mills for taking us on a expedition of flavour, to Jan Balser for bringing an elegant touch to the evening with spring decor, and to all of our guests who supported us by attending. We would also like to thank Thunderridge Bison and Willowtree Farm for supplying some of the wonderful local ingredients used for the dinner. We hope everyone had as much fun as we did!
Curious to see what you missed? Check out our gallery from the evening! Don't want to miss out on our next event? Sign up for our email list so you'll be the first to know about future dinners, events and special offers!