Posts Tagged ‘Don Ricks’

Oct17

John (Appleseed) Chapman’s Fruitful Eccentricity

This post is excerpted from a longer article by Don Ricks published in the Seattle Tree Fruit Society’s Urban Scion Post:

John Chapman (the original and real Johnny Appleseed) roamed Ohio in the early 1800’s and helped pave the way for the future western migration and colonization of settlers into what was then the frontiers of Ohio and Indiana.

Chapman was deeply religious.  A devout Christian, he was in fact a mystical Swedenborgian Christian, someone who might prefer to preach rather than to plant . . but did a lot of both.  He roamed the woods in stark clothes, slept outside, and was a marginalized character in a marginal frontier society.  He didn’t marry, although marriage was considered a necessary religious state to Swedenborgians.

Chapman believed grafting to be immoral and was concerned that apple trees shouldOldest Apple Tree come purely from seed.  As a result, he contributed much to genetic diversity and to apples that were fit for cider, maybe hard cider, but not apples that could match the sweetness of today’s eating apples.

 

Oldest apple tree in Washington State, Ft Vancouver, WA.
Mar12

Ethan Russo Lecture: New Strategies to Tackle Urban Orchard Pests

Ethan Russo will present the results of his personal experience using an organic spray regimen to prevent apple maggot fly and codling moth on Saturday, March 16, from 10:00 to noon at Seattle University. Don Ricks will join Ethan to discuss his experience with pheremones, traps and GF120.  This event is presented by Seattle University Grounds Department in collaboration with City Fruit.  Ethan Russo, a Vashon Island fruit grower by hobby and pharmacological researcher by profession, had excellent results using an organic spray recommended by Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard. Don Ricks, a local fruit tree expert, is a lead steward at Piper’s Orchard.

 
The event is free, although a $10 donation is suggested.  Space is limited.  RSVP by contacting info@cityfruit.org and we will send you the room information.

Oct19

Ask Don & Jon: Fruit Q&A

[Even though this is no longer active, we posted the archive below because we think the information is useful.]

These two guys know a lot about fruit, fruit trees, pest prevention, etc, and they’ve graciously agreed to try to answer any questions you have. 

 


 

Dear Don & John,
Not a fruit question, but what’s with the new name?
Thanks, James

 

Hi James,
As you know, we’ve done a few Q&A pieces on this blog, answering people’s questions about their fruit trees, fruit shrubs, and, well, fruit. Well, turns out that there’s actually a company called The Fruit Guys and because of that, we’re changing the name to Fruit Q&A with Don & John. Same idea — you ask questions, we answer them — just a different name.

I do want to talk about The Fruit Guys, though. They were very nice in contacting us to let us know about their company and they care about the same stuff we do. From their site:

“The FruitGuys provides fresh seasonal fruit from local farms to thousands of American businesses, from small family-run businesses to major Fortune 500 corporations…We consider ourselves fortunate to work with customers who share our ideals about health, the environment, and our communities. The FruitGuys launched our Farm Steward Program in April 2008 to support sustainable small family farming. We donate 88,000 pounds of fresh fruit a year (more than 7,000 pounds a month) to non-profit groups and regional food pantries nationwide, such as Somethin’ Fresh. With your support, we sent over 7,000 pieces of fresh fruit to food-banks and programs for families in need over the winter holidays with our Donate-A-Crate Program.”

Seems like a great company and we’re happy to have made their acquaintance.
Learn more at fruitguys.com

  • Don & John

 


 

 

Hi Don & John,
I garden at Greenwood P-Patch, where we have a row of blueberries along our garden’s western edge. Unfortunately, the planters did not gauge the light level correctly, and most of the trees have failed to thrive and set fruit.

We have about six bushes that look healthy. They plan to eventually move them into garden plots, where they will get more light and presumably do better. I have six gardeners who have pledged to put their mud boots on and move the bushes while they are dormant.

My question concerns the remaining bushes, which are in very poor condition–stunted with yellow leaves. I’ve pulled out several dead bushes while weeding. How can I tell if these bushes are likely to survive? Once the other bushes are moved, it may be possible to move the sick bushes to areas in the row with more light.

Thank you,
Debby

 

Hi Debby,
We have seen some blueberry plants set tasty fruit in the shade, but the fruit will be more abundant in the sun. Blueberries can do well in shade, but need water and a soil that is acidic — yellow leaves is usually an indication of too alkaline a soil. You also would need a primarily organic soil as you cannot compost, wood chip, sawdust, etc. too much with these plants.

Also be sure to keep the weeds away. Pull weeds, do not hoe or dig up the soil near the plants as they have a very shallow root system. You can also use a low nitrogen fertilizer early in season (Feb-May) and keep things damp. As I mentioned earlier compost heavily, or wood chips are welcomed. Water is the biggest restriction with these plants.
Here’s a great video we found that has a great overview of blueberry care:  Blueberry Plant Care Video
With that work, hopefully the remaining blueberry bushes can make a come back. Hope that helps and good luck with the p-patch!

Sincerely,

  • Don & John

 

 


 

Dear Don & John,
My neighbor and myself grow both Red Currants and Gooseberries. This year we both have a bumper crop of fruit setting on our healthy, leafy bushes. We were very excited, until we noticed that something (an insect?!) has carefully laid eggs in every single berry. You can visually see the damage on the outside of the not-yet ripe fruit and inside there is a small, white grub growing.

What pest would do this to Ribes family fruit and what can we do to discourage this is future years?
Rachel

 

Hi Rachel,

Thanks for writing in. We don’t get many currant or gooseberry questions!

You’re instinct about the problem being an insect is probably correct. Currants and gooseberries are usually a pain to grow here because of the Currant Fruit Fly which actually is a small fly which hits the fruit, and the Currant Sawfly which is not a fly but a type of wasp whose larvae look like currant-leaf-colored caterpillars. There’s also a small chance it could be the Spotted Wing Drosophila (which they recently found in WA), but we suspect the larva is more likely the Currant Fruit Fly, pictured here.

 

The good news is that there is a non-chemical way to address this issue. You should immediately pick all fruit and remove it from the area – I wouldn’t recommend eating any of them, although if you only juice the fruit, you can still pick clean now and process.

The reason for removing them from the area is that the larvae drop to the ground and overwinter under the bushes, much as apple maggots burrow into ground under apple trees. Removing all the infected fruit may cut the life cycle enough such that you get a clean crop next year.

And while you can share this information with your neighbor, there’s no telling what the rest of your neighborhood might be doing and there may be infested currants in your area which are not managed and these can re-infest your fruit next year. One way to help against that is to net the shrubs with a fine mesh just after pollination but before fruit begins to form.

If you want to determine exactly which insect it is, save a handful of fruit, place in large Ziploc bag, store on kitchen counter, keep beady eye on it and see who emerges. If a small vinegar fly emerges in a couple weeks or so, you have the Spotted Wing Drosophilia. If no one emerges or rice-sized pupae are seen, you have the fruit worm which won’t emerge until next year.

Hope that helps and good luck with the berries!

  • Don & John

 


 

Dear Don & John,

I actually have two questions built in to one request.

1. My inherited apple tree (variety yet unknown) has some kind of disease causing the leaves on many branches to curl and look nasty. How do I treat it without chemicals? Is it too late?

2. Do you know where the best place is to get a reasonably priced orchard ladder (tri-pod style)? Those things are crazy expensive.

Thanks,

Mark

 

Hi Mark,

Thanks for writing in. It looks like you get a 2-for-1 special today!

Your apple tree probably has apple scab, causing some leaf curl and color distortion and you can read all about how to manage scab organically on the Pests and Diseases page. We’ve got some suggested sprays and techniques listed there.

However, if your leaves are tightly curled upward that could be a sign of a new insect, the Apple Leaf Curl Midge, that’s been coming down from British Columbia, Canada. The damage is caused by the new larva feeding on the leaves – which can lead to distorted limb growth, premature leaf dropping, etc. Luckily there is no evidence of reduced quality of fruit.
For a mature tree, you should be safe to ignore it. For a 1 or 2 year old tree, remove affected leaves to try to save others from curl since it is thought to have 2 generations per year here. We would anticipate that parasitoids will slowly catch up with it and keep it in check.

With regards to the orchard ladders, yeah, they can definitely be pricey but worth it. You should probably be able to get by with a 6-8’ ladder unless your tree is really tall. We’ve found Tallman to be an excellent brand generally, which you can sometimes find used. For new, we purchased ladders for City Fruit at Horizon in Bellevue, WA, but Wilson Irrigation in Yakima is also a good bet.

Hope that helps and good luck with the apple tree!

  • Don & John

 

Dear Don & John,

An apple tree on my block is 20-25 years old, pretty much neglected, but has a good crop of apples. I haven’t looked at it closely this spring until today, and was dismayed to see that the apples are all junk – see the photo.

What is the cause of this distortion? The leaves generally look OK, though there are a few curled and gray.

What can I do to help this tree?
Barb

 

Hi Barb,
The photo is great and always helps us provide a more accurate diagnosis. We think there are a couple things going on with your apples.

First, the spots on your apples are probably due to “scab” – a varying collection of fungus. The fact that the apple tree is older and has been neglected doesn’t help, but the wet weather probably had something to do with this as well, giving the fungus more time to establish itself on the fruit.

While problematic, there are organic solutions. The first step is to remove all old leaves from beneath the tree in the fall and put them in the yard waste container, or bury them. Prune out affected twigs, which bear small, blister-like pustules, and put them in the yard waste. Do both of these things in late winter or early spring, before growth begins in the tree.

There are also several organic spray options including sulfur, lime-sulfur, or Bordeaux mixture (copper sulfate plus lime) applied early in the growing season. These are readily available at most nurseries. Spray as soon as the buds show green. And since scab likes damp weather, spray every week until midsummer if the weather is dry. If the summer is wet, spray until 30 days before harvest.

The dimpling on the apples is more difficult to figure out, but it’s most likely a pollination problem – which is a more difficult problem to solve this season. It would be good if you get a lot of bees or other pollinators, as that would help ensure good pollination. Otherwise, next season when the flowers are blooming, take a small brush and a container, shaking some pollen free from the flower, and then using the brush to then apply it to other flowers.

Hope that helps and thanks for writing in!

  • Don & John

 


 

Dear Don & John,
I was cleaning up the ground and fertilizing some of the fruit trees this weekend and I noticed something really odd. All of the plum trees are acting like it’s fall. Several species, all very mature and prolific full-sized trees, have started yellowing and dropping their leaves. 50-60% of the leaves seem to have turned yellow almost overnight. The leaves have brown spots and drop in droves at a simple shake of a branch. I looked for signs of mold or insect damage, but didn’t see anything obvious. They just act like it’s fall.

None of the other fruit trees (cherries, apples, pears, fig) have this issue, though all are suffering somewhat from the weird weather.

Does this have to do with the funky weather we’ve been having? Please help!

Aaron

 

Hi Aaron,
You did all the right things in checking what you did. Those are good steps.

And while plum trees in general aren’t producing as much as they did last year, we don’t think the weather is the culprit here, but rather some sort of fungal infection – but it’s difficult to tell without actually seeing the leaves ourselves.

Our best guess is that the fertilizer might be the trigger here. Fruit trees in the Pacific Northwest tend not to need too much fertilizer beyond specific nutrients. But too much nitrogen can spur excessive growth, leaving the tree susceptible to fungal infections.

So we suggest holding off on the fertilization for now and seeing what impact that has on the tree in a few weeks. With all fungal infections, it’s a good idea to pick up all the fallen leaves and put them in the yard waste bin – not your home compost or the disease can spread there.

While you might not get a good crop this year, you can most likely improve the quality of the tree health for next year. In the fall, the tree could benefit from a good pruning – targeting the parts of the tree that were infected this year. This should help the tree produce new growth in the spring.

Fungal infections also benefit from various sprays. Because we can’t identify which fungal infection your tree might have, we suggest bringing in a leaf sample to the Center for Urban Horticulture on any Monday from 4pm – 8pm. They have experts on hand who should be able to more accurately identify which fungus is affecting your tree and then recommend the appropriate organic spray – which would be applied next spring.

Hope this helps and thanks for writing in.

  • Don & John

 


 

Don Ricks has been leading the charge on applying foot socks to apples & pears throughout the city. While Don shies away from the term “expert”, he’s very knowledgeable about fruit trees and pest prevention. He’s very involved with the Friends of Piper’s Orchard and sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.

John Reardon is a long-time member of the Seattle Tree Fruit Society and has spent many years helping educate and inform people on the proper methods for caring for fruit trees. He also sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.

Jun13

Burke-Gilman Stewards Put Footies on Trees

We talk a lot about ways to help prevent and manage pests and diseases on fruit trees. Afterall, the fewer pests & diseases, the healthier the tree, and, as a result, the better the fruit.

In addition to encouraging and educating home owners to take care of their own trees, the Fruit Tree Stewards have done a great job making sure that trees within parks and other urban orchards are protected. One example of that is the Burke-Gilman Fruit Tree Stewards (did you know fruit trees were along the Burke-Gilman trail?) — they’ve been super active caring for the fruit trees along the trail and most recently applied a bunch of bags on the low-hanging fruit on some trees. And using some footies City Fruit is supplying, they’re in the process of finishing off the trees by adding additional footies to the fruit higher up.

Their work is turning these previously neglected trees into productive, healthy trees that produce tasty, beautiful fruit.

Interested in learning more about how to apply footies or bags to your fruit trees to help keep pests away? Check out this video from our resident fruit tree expert, Don Ricks. As you can see it’s super simple.

Feb22

Seattle Orchards: Piper’s Orchard

[This exerpt is from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

The historic orchard at Piper’s Canyon, photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Piper’s Orchard at Carkeek Park is one of the oldest orchards with an abundance of fruit trees in Seattle. As the “Piper Oral History Meeting” of February 20, 1984 recounts, the first owner of this land was the Piper family, which included Bavarian-born Andrew W. Piper, his wife Wilhelmina and their children. The family originally settled in what is present-day downtown Seattle, where Piper ran a konditorei, or a confectioner’s shop that sold baked goods and candy. However, his shop was burned down in Seattle’s Great Fire in 1889, and soon after, the family moved up north to an 80-acre plot of land by Piper’s Canyon, located in what is now Carkeek Park. The family planted an orchard on the land with many pioneer varieties, such as the German Bietigheimer, and a large vegetable garden. The “Piper Oral History Meeting” notes state that while Minna and her son Paul were the main caretakers of the garden, her husband often used the fruit harvested from the orchards to make pies. Minna and Paul took the fruits and vegetables from the orchard and their vegetable garden into town to sell. However, Piper died in 1904, and the City forced his family off the property a little while later to create Carkeek Park.

Carkeek Park was one of the first parks established in Seattle. Brandt Morgan, author of Enjoying Seattle Parks, a description and history of the parks that had been established by the time of publication in 1979, relates that Morgan J. Carkeek and his wife, Emily, settled in Seattle in 1875. Carkeek was a stonemason from England and one of Seattle’s best early artisan contractors. The park originally dedicated in Carkeek’s name was located on Pontiac Bay on Lake Washington 1918; however in 1926, the land was turned over to the federal government in order to operate a Naval Air Station. Consequently, Morgan states that Carkeek donated $25,000 in 1928 for a new park to be located at Piper’s Canyon and the City put up $100,000, to create the park. Carkeek Park opened for operation one year after this plan was finalized.

Since its creation, Carkeek Park has been utilized for a variety of different purposes. Some of the more notable uses were a sawmill company that was operated on the parkland in the 1920s, which usurped all of the timber in the original forested land, and the Whiz Company, whose fish traps were used to collect salmon until 1932. The park was then used to create work for those who were hard-hit by the Depression to make camp buildings and forest trails. Later, the park was used for a loop road, shelter, and picnic area in 1953, and a model airplane field in 1959. The park then slowly evolved into a place for community gathering, in part because of the discovery of the orchard after many decades of abandonment in the 1980s.

Map of Carkeek Park. Piper’s Orchard resides within the park.

In 1981, Daphne Lewis, a landscape architect, stumbled upon Piper’s Orchard, covered by layers of blackberry bushes. Lewis discovered the orchard in the process of surveying Carkeek Park in order to create a master plan for park restoration. Bob Baines, a SPD employee who was involved in the original restoration project, recalls that the restoration team consisted of volunteers, descendants of the Piper family and members of the newly formed Piper’s Orchard chapter of the Western Cascade Tree Fruit Association. The Piper’s Orchard chapter adopted and began to take care of the orchard. As part of this restoration effort, more pioneer varieties of apples were planted, which included Wagener, Red Astrachan, King, and Wolf River. The first wave of orchard restoration brought together the knowledge, expertise and resources of different members of the community.

Interest in taking care of this orchard has wavered over the years. However, a new era of the Piper’s Orchard restoration project began about five years ago, asserts Brian Gay, a naturalist for SPD at Carkeek Park. At this time, SPD and orchard volunteers put together a sustainability plan complete with recommendations for future care of the orchard. Afterwards, there was renewed interest in the educational opportunities that the orchard offered.

Today the orchard includes 82 fruit trees, 30 of which were originally planted by the Piper family. There is an abundance of apple, cherry, chestnut, filbert, pear, walnut and hawthorn trees all planted on the park hillside. Don Ricks, president of Friends of Piper’s Orchard, mentions that many of the fruit trees suffer from apple scab, a fungal disease, but they are putting up pheromone destructors and nylon socks in an attempt to counteract the incidence of pests.

While SPD owns the land, the non-profit organization Friends of Piper’s Orchard tends and maintains the orchard.

Jun10

Does Bagging Fruit Work?

As you’ve read numerous times on our blog, facebook page, and twitter account, we’re big supporters and practitioners of bagging fruit. Just last weekend, in fact, a group of us were at Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park placing foot socks on trees in the historic orchard there.

I’m a big believer in using data and hard evidence to inform where to invest energy, so I started wondering about whether or not all this bagging of fruit really makes a difference.

We’ll be able to tell ourselves a bit after this year’s effort, led by Don Ricks, to place foot socks on apple trees in several parks, but I also found a couple pieces of information that help demonstrate that if used properly, applying foot socks or bags can make a significant difference in yield of quality fruit.

Take this article a few years back in the Seattle Times. The evidence is mostly anecdotal, but compelling. But I also found this article written by the University of Kentucky. Within that they have the image at the top-right of this blog post — showing the results of a several-year apple bagging study. Washington State University Skagit Extention also touts bags as an approved method for preventing apple maggot infestation.

And hey — Ciscoe promotes using them, citing recent research.

Add all that up and it appears that the foot socks and bags are an effective deterrent against apple maggots. It was fun just putting foot socks on the fruit, but would be great to get some tasty fruit out of the deal. We’ll see how the fruit turns out that Don & volunteers have been protecting and we’ll make sure to share our story.

Jun07

Foot Sock Party: Piper Orchard

Over the weekend, Don Ricks led a buch of volunteers at Piper’s Orchard in placing foot socks on fruit to help protect against apple maggots & coddling moths. The idea is to increase the yield of some of the historic varieties in the orchard there.

I went along to learn how to propertly put foot socks on and lend a hand in pretecting this valuable fruit. You can check out some photos on our Facebook page and below is a video of Don explaining how it’s done:


May24

Foot socks: Apple Maggot or Coddling Moth?

Courtesy of OregonLive.comWe’ve been focusing a lot recently on fruit tree pest control, but ’tis the season. As part of that and in the run-up to this weekend’s activities, we wanted to address a question we get a lot: Will my footies help prevent coddling moth as well as apple maggots?

The answer: It depends.

There are a lot of variables that determine whether or not the footies will be effective on coddling moths. Some communities have a more intense infestation than others. But there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success:

  • Use super strong footies. There are foot socks that are extra thick to help protect against coddling moth as well as apple maggot.
  • Follow the example of the Portland Home Orchard Society and soak your footies in kaolin clay — a harmless inert organic material — before using them on apples.

No matter what technique you use or which fruit you’re trying to protect, the key is to get out there and start trying different solutions. What’s right in one yard might not work in another.

Either way, the apple maggot is not flying yet and won’t be flying for a few more weeks.  You still have plenty of time to apply your foot sox for that particular pest.

Thanks to Don Ricks for all the great info for this post.

May20

Latest Pest Report & More Chances to Volunteer

As we’ve mentioned previously, our resident fruit tree pest expert, Don Ricks, is constantly monitoring the situation in Seattle. We hope to save a good number of apples and pears from infestation this year, allowing us to put that fruit to good use for the first time. And latest word is that the codling moths have been seen flying around a few Seattle neighborhoods. So getting these footies on to the fruit in the coming days is very important.

We could use your help!

There are a number of opportunities to help apply foot socks to small fruit. The more fruit we cover, the more fruit we can use.

Saturday, May 22

  • Bellevue, Holy Cross Lutheran Church (map), 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.  For more info, Roger Ledbetter: (425) 888-0644
  • Wallingford, Good Shepherd Center (map), 9 a.m.-1 p.m.   For more info, Don Ricks: DonnieAppleseed@yahoo.com
  • Carkeek Park, the Piper Orchard (map), Noon-3 p.m.  For more info,  Bob Baines: (206) 684-4075

Sunday, May 23

Wednesday, May 29

Saturday, June 5

  • Carkeek Park, the Piper Orchard (map), Noon-3 p.m.  For more info,  keeping checking this site.
May11

Help Apply Footies in Seattle Orchards

Courtsey of Seattle Tree Fruit SocietyAs you know, we at City Fruit are passionate about pest management. We’ve blogged about it, sell City Fruit Shields to fruit tree owners, and are working to apply the footies on healthy trees in the city.

To help us with this, we’re working with Don Ricks to determine the status of apple maggot and coddling moth in the city, when to start applying pest prevention measures, and which to use.

We’re looking for volunteers to help him apply footies to fruit trees in two different orchard in the city:

If you’re interested, you can find more details on the Piper Orchard website or e-mail Don directly.

Courtesy of Friends of Piper's OrchardDon is continually monitoring the situation in Seattle and has sent us this dispatch:

As of today (5/10/10) I am still not seeing codling moth in the trapsbut what I did see over the weekend is that some of the apples at the Good Shepherd Center are now big enough to apply footies to. Everywhere else, the apples are still too small or we haven’t even had complete petal fall yet.

One month ago it looked like we would have an exceptionally early season this year,  but we have had some cooler than usual weather the past few weeks and this has changed the picture. Neither the bugs nor the fruit is developing as fast as we once thought, but we expect the weather ahead to be warming up shortly. Warmer climes, like the Rainier Valley, will need earlier attention. Cooler climes by the Puget Sound, or at higher elevations, might be a little later.

Consequently, the indications are now that the best time to apply foot sox will be the week before and after Memorial Day.

If you are spraying the organics Neem Oil, kaolin clay, or Spinosad products as your first cover spray for the codling moth, then probably mid- to late-May would be a good time to make the first application. This will have to be followed by sprays every 10 days or so until either harvest time or until you have covered them with foot sox. 

The apple maggot fly will probably be flying in early- to mid-June, but stay tuned for further updates on when the fly is flying and (later in the season) when the fruit will be ripening.     

Feb22

Historic Orchard Gets Pruning

An historic orchard owned by the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Bellevue received a major ‘haircut’ Saturday, Feb 13, thanks to Don Ricks of City Fruit, Holy Cross volunteers, and a crew from the Compass Center Lutheran fellowship in Seattle.  The church has decided to renovate more than 20 apple, pear, quince and plum trees on its property — and to create a major garden plot — as part of its effort to grown more food.

Referring to itself as “the Church in the orchard,”  Holy Cross volunteer Janet Farness writes:  “It was a joy having City Fruit and Compass Center partner with us as we embark on the journey to revitalize our orchard and create some Pea-Patch gardens — all for food growing.  May the fruit and food abound for all!” 

By the end of the day, orchard prunings obscured the volunteers. Additional photos on our Facebook page.