It's hard to recall a growing season that has been as slow to get going as this one. Three months ago, an early thaw had us thinking we were in for an early bloom. With above average rainfall and unusually cool temperatures, our apple trees have been producing foliage, but the flowers have been slow to emerge. Finally, nearly 10 days later than last year, our orchard is in full bloom.
Our local pollinators have also been a little slower than usual on account of the weather. Most bees and butterflies like warm sunny days to do their work. Although it's been cool, there's no need to worry! Pollinators are so good at what they do, farmers can have a crop set in as little as one day if the conditions are favourable. Thankfully, we have had at least two good pollination days since bloom began. The long-range forecast still looks cooler than we would like but there are signs that warmer weather lies ahead.
As we wait for things to pick up in the orchard, the timing was right to get our Pumpkin Patch planted this week. What used to be the Corn Maze will be home to over 25 varieties of pumpkins, squash, gourds and sunflowers this year. While our visitors may find it strange that we move our Maze and Pumpkin Patch around, rotating fields with different crops is an import technique used to prevent the build up of pesky pests and damaging diseases. We are looking forward to a few more changes at the farm this year. You'll have to visit this fall to find out what we've got in the works!
Andrea and Isaac sit on top of an old corn planter we use for pumpkins!
Some people may think that once all of the apples are picked and temperatures start to drop, us farmers stay holed up indoors keeping cozy by the wood stove with a good book in hand and hot drink close by. As much as we wish that were true, (well, sometimes it is!) there is lots to keep us busy in the winter months.
One of the ongoing tasks apple growers face in the winter is pruning. When temperatures are consistently below freezing, apple trees go dormant until the spring. Each of our 13,000 trees must be carefully inspected and trimmed back to help them produce a healthy crop. Apple trees tend to produce the best apples on wood that is 2-3 years old, so pruning out old and tired branches encourages the growth of new limbs where the fruit will develop size and colour the best. When the tree wakes up, it starts to send energy to the remaining branches where the fruit buds are waiting to swell and blossom. Ideally, all of our pruning is done before the sap starts to flow in spring which requires discipline and good winter gear to complete on time.
On days that are too cold or snowy to prune, we keep busy in the office; ordering supplies, catching up on paperwork, planning events, and mapping out the growing season. We also spend time attending conferences and meeting with other growers to share knowledge and explore new ways to improve our operation. Therein lies one of our favourite parts of horticulture: even after 40 years of growing apples, there is always something new to learn.
Are you interested in learning how to prune that old apple tree in your backyard? Have you planted some trees but aren't sure how to prune to keep them healthy? Let us know if you are interested in attending a pruning workshop this March! Better yet, sign up for our newsletter so you'll never miss an update on upcoming workshops and events.
It seems as quickly as it arrived, the apple picking season is coming to an end. Our Red Delicious, Empire and Fuji trees still have a bit of fruit left to pick and our market is stocked with Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Cortland, McIntosh, Russet and Pears, however, this will be the last weekend we are open to the public. We will remain open until Halloween with a selection of carving pumpkins, squash, and ready-picked apples. Visitors are free to enjoy a walk around the property, explore the corn maze and take in the sights of the season. We hope to see you at the orchard!
Today is the last official day for apple picking at Nature's Bounty. Much of this year's crop has been picked by our visitors and the crew is spending the day cleaning up what's left. For the rest of the season, you may find a few odds and ends in the orchard if you don't mind a bit of walking. For those interested in pre-picked apples, we will have Honeycrisp, Empire, Cortland, Spy, Golden Russet and McIntosh in stock at the market.
The pumpkin patch will be open until closing day on October 31, with plenty of carving pumpkins left to choose from. There is also an assortment of colourful squashes pumpkins available at the market. We even have a few giant pumpkins left if you're looking for a showstopper for your Halloween display!
Much of the GTA got its first taste of winter this week with cold temperatures and a light dusting of snow. The frost hasn't affected the apple crop and we are still picking many varieties. As the season winds down, we hope to get as many apples off the trees as we can and expect our committed customers to be out in full force this weekend! Here's a guide to what's picking this weekend:
The last vestiges of summer are fading away and autumn is in the air. As the days get shorter and the cooler, nothing completes the feeling of fall like a visit to the orchard. Take a drive along a country road and soak in the vibrant colours of the changing leaves. Stop by Nature's Bounty for the season's best apples, a cup of warm cider and enjoy the crisp fresh air before the moment passes. There is plenty left to pick this weekend, including a few of our favourites:
Thanksgiving just wouldn't be complete without a trip to the orchard. That's why we are open all three days of the long weekend! At Nature's Bounty, we love that so many families make apple picking a part of their annual fall tradition. This week and weekend offers some of the best selection for apples and pumpkins as nearly everything is ready for picking. Check out the list below for some of the top picks for this weekend.
It's that time of the season when so many incredible varieties are available, it's hard to choose which apples to take home. You may be looking for a sweet, juicy eating apple or something tart and firm. If you're planning on baking your Thanksgiving pies, you may want a variety with a balance of flavour but a texture that holds up in the oven. Here's a guide to what's picking at Nature's Bounty and our recommended uses:
As the season progresses, some varieties finish and give way to others. Those who fell in love with Ginger Gold and Wealthy may find a few left in the trees but both varieties have been thoroughly picked. Not to worry; we have a few new additions to the picking list. Here's a look at what will be ready for this coming weekend:
Keep an eye out for updates on Macoun and Empire as they will be ready soon!
Arguably the season's most anticipated apple, Honeycrisp are finally ready at Nature's Bounty. This year's Honeycrisp have grown to a large size and are full of juice thanks to the summer rains. The many hot, sunny days helped the apples develop great flavour and lots of sugar, and a few chilly nights have turned the skins a vibrant red. After testing today, these beauties are ready for picking!
We are often asked why Honeycrisp are more expensive than other common varieties like McIntosh or Gala. The answer is that they are more difficult to grow! Honeycrisp trees are inherently less sturdy than other trees and must be supported by a trellis system to hold the weight of the branches. As the fruit matures, it must be aggressively thinned to prevent the tree from overproducing. This process requires many extra hours of manual labour. Finally, Honeycrisp are chalk-full of vitamins and minerals, but the trees have difficulty extracting them from the soil so growers must supplement the trees with calcium, magnesium and copper; another added cost.
In the end, it's hard to beat the crunch, taste and juice that the Honeycrisp offers, which make them satisfying to grow despite the extra costs and labour. We know that many people look forward to Honeycrisp picking each fall so we strive to maintain our supply by planting new trees every few years. We do hope to see you at the orchard this weekend and next while Honeycrisp are at their peak of ripeness.