A Little Help from My Friends

Thursday, May 31, 2018

I’m enjoying a beautiful day thinning fruit in the organic plot at North Star Orchard when a gentle breeze exposes a “coworker" hanging out on the underside of a leaf.

Growing apples organically in Eastern Pennsylvania poses many challenges. Luckily, we’ve got a little help from our friends! A sharp eye will catch three examples of organic orchard stewardship in this photograph. Do you see them all?

1) The beneficial ladybug munches away on aphids at the rate of 40 per hour. Yum! 

2) You know the feeling of those last few grains of sand in your sandals after spending the day on the beach? That grit is annoying, right? Refined kaolin clay particles, seen here coating the leaves and fruit of apple trees, act in a similar way. The tiny particles deter insects such as apple sawfly, plum curculio, and codling moth (the unholy trinity) simply by making the environment uncomfortable. The little critters move on to other locales that are less “gritty" in order to lay their eggs. Later, guys! The clay also prevents sun scald on young fruit and actually enhances photosynthesis carried out by the leaves.

3) Did you find the third example? It is perhaps the least obvious. In the upper left-hand corner can be seen (albeit out of focus) a portion of the organic block’s birdhouses. Bugs like to eat apples. Fortunately for us, birds like to eat bugs! It turns out, if you provide free rooming accommodations then birds like tree swallows and bluebirds are happy to spend their evenings picking away at the insect population.

Keep on working, little friends. Thanks for all of your help!