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Adaptable to Other Areas
on January 21, 2012
Southern California is three thousand miles and six climate zones from Northern New Hampshire, but I found Michael's book more relevant to growing apples in my area than all the garden books I've seen written for Southern California. He explains the mechanics of what constitutes soil heath and plant vigor and how to build it. Of course the particulars and strategy will vary from region to region, but to quote Liberty Hyde Baily, "If a grower knows why, he or she will teach themselves how".
As such it is relevant to growers outside of New England, even to my apple growing friends in Equatorial Africa, as many of the spray mixes and culture methods are available there; this is opposed to the latest pesticides which are expensive and hard to get for them. The book has the best section on pruning I've ever seen; especially how to train shoots into fruiting buds, and also how to invigorate an old tree.
He reviews the whole orchard operation, from tools and ladders to picking bags and fruit storage. I would have never figured out how to get neem oil to spray otherwise and would have ended up with a real mess. The photographs and illustrations are excellent, many taken at his beautiful farm.
He presents a myriad of operations and sprays for pest and disease control, and thankfully summarizes them with a calendar to help organize your year. The review of fruit culture for other stonefruits and berries is also helpful, using many of the methods utilized in the apple orchard.
Commercial growers may sniff at it and grumble that these methods will never produce marketable fruit on an efficient, competitive scale to stave off foreign imports. On the other hand home and small specialty orchards may be wondering if there's any way to get apples besides spraying with expensive and potentially harmful chemicals 12 to 20 times a year. This book presents a way to do it in a much gentler fashion and is a fascinating read.