Really interesting piece on NHPR today about one orchard’s reshaping of apple trees to improve harvest per acre, and also make things easier for the harvest to be partly mechanized. (Read or listen to the whole thing here – it’s worth clicking through.)
The result is thin, gangly looking trees, packed in tight, but which are allowed to grow up as high as 12 feet tall. This is known as a tall spindle orchard, and it’s growing in popularity in the big apple producing states like Washington and New York.
Production from an orchard like this can be more than four times what you get from an old school New England Orchard. Hardy says he’s hoping for 2,000 bushels of apples per acre. And what’s more, it means apple picking – which is all about tall ladders and bushel baskets– can start to become mechanized.
I visited my daughter this summer in Washington state, where apples are a huge business on gigantic farms, and saw orchards like this. They looked almost more like grape vineyards, with branches stretching sideways along poles, than the orchards we think of. Interesting stuff.