Phillips Orchards & Cider Mill

  (Saint Johns, Michigan)
Life on the Farm
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Spring Is Coming On Slowly

What a change from last year.  Last year we had an early warm up, followed by our typical late spring frost/freezes which destroyed most of the fruit crop. This spring it has been warming up slowly, so the buds are just now starting to open.  The mad dash toward the end of the pruning season is on.  We've been pruning the apples everyday since January.  I actually pruned a little bit back in December.  We'll prune the peaches this weekend, then back to work on the apples for another 3 or 4 weeks.




Honeycrisp are Back!

We sold all the Honeycrisp that we grew this season.  However we were able to locate another local grower who had some for sale, so we now have more Honeycrisp available.  $7.50 1/2 peck

Fresh Apple Cider is Here!

Our fresh pressed apple cider is now ready.  We'll press fresh cider several times a week, through December 31st.

More Apples

More apples are now ready.  We now have Paula Red, Gala, McIntosh & Cortland.  Empire will be ready this Saturday, 9/11/10.  Jonagold will be ready beginning 9/15.

Many more to come, and we'll have most varieties from our cold storage through December 31st. 


Apple Harvest Has Begun

The apple harvest has begun this weekend with Paula Red apples.  The store at the orchard will officially open for the season next Thursday August 12th, and we'll remain open 7 days a week until December 31st.

Harvest 10 - 14 days Earlier than Normal

Because of the warm weather early this spring and the continued warm weather all summer the apple harvest will begin earlier than normal this year.  It looks like most varieties of apples will be harvested 10 - 14 days earlier than normal.

Therefore Paula Red apples, will begin approximately August 6th this year. The other varieties to follow will similarly be early.  Please check with us to confirm the exact start dates of your favorites.

Of course we will have apples in the cold storage until New Year's Eve, but to get them at their just picked perfection, you'll need to plan a little earlier than usual. 

Gatehouse Market Opening Labor Day Weekend

We are very excited to be opening our 2nd location, the Gatehouse Market this Labor Day weekend.  The Gatehouse Market is located on the NW corner of US-127 and Gratiot County Line Rd.  It's just 3 miles from the orchard, but will provide easy access for all the those traveling North and South along US-127.

We are busy with all the remodeling of the old historic barn to be ready for the fall season.  Look for our signs on US-127, about 9 miles north of Saint Johns.


Summer Is Here

The crops keep growing.  We have a better idea on the size of the apple crop now that June drop had finished and the apples have grown enough so you get can see them better in the tree.

The crop will be extremely variable by variety this year.  Some varieties like McIntosh, Ida Red, and Jonagold seem to have a real nice crop.  Others like Cortland and Golden Delicious have a moderate crop.  Still others like Empire and Fuji are very light this year, and many of the apples we do have will have frost damage and will have to go into cider.

All in all it looks like we'll have between 1/2 to 2/3 of the crop we had last year.  That seems in line with the overall Michigan crop which is estimated at about 14 million bushel this year compared to 2009 crop of over 28 million bushel. 


Peaches - Thinning and Crossing our Fingers

Thursday I'm calling the peach thinning for the year about 90% complete.  I've thinned all the peaches twice already, but as they continue to grow, you always notice some that should have been thinned, so we'll have a little touch up thinning to do over the next month or so.  The fruit set was much lighter this year compared to last season.  I believe this was due to several freeze events during and shortly after bloom that reduced the fruit set.  When I did the first pass of thinning on the 3 year old peach trees, I thought we would have a nice crop on them, however now it's looking quite a bit lighter.  Hopefully as they continue to grow, the crop will look better.  The older trees have a better crop.  This is probably because they are higher off the ground, and therefore withstood the cold nights better.

Now I need to figure out how to keep the deer out of the young peach trees. Last year, they ate almost every peach off our young trees, just a day or so before I was ready to pick them.  I'm resigned to the fact that a real deer fence will be the ultimate solution, but I'll have to come up with something in the next month or so to give us a fighting chance this season.

Tomatoes - Red, Yellow & Roma

Wednesday was tomato planting day.  We decided to recycle the black plastic mulch we used last year for melons and get another crop on it before it's pulled up.  So we transplanted the tomatoes right back on the plastic from last season.  We'll see how it goes, but getting two seasons out of the mulch seemed like a great idea.  We planted 4 varieties of red tomatoes, one variety of yellow tomato and of course some Roma tomatoes.  So, in a couple months we should start having some awesome fresh tomatoes.

Pumpkins are in the Ground

The weather has certainly warmed up and we have the pumpkins, winter squash and gourds all planted.  This year we planted approximately 1 acre of pumpkins and squash.  So the battle to keep the deer, woodchucks, etc. from doing too much damage.  We've planted several new varieties of winter squash this year, so with some luck we'll have some great new treats come August & September.
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