Yep, we're growing that many different types of apples. It's an incredible collection of classic heirloom and wonderful connoisseur varieties. And almost none are what you'll find filling the bins of most grocery stores. Read more
Rooms With a View
Salt Spring Island is an idyllic place to visit. And where better to stay than a room at the B&B @ Salt Spring Apple Company? Perfectly located and open year-round.
Peri Lavender and Brian Webster are planting Salt Spring’s first high density organic apple orchard to use the ‘tall spindle’ method of growing trees.
We’re inspried and motivated by Salt Spring Island’s beauty and agricultural advantages, its history as western Canada’s one-time primary supplier of apples and the renaissance of apple growing that’s underway on the island.
We planted our first 360 dwarf trees in late 2011 and have been grafting our own trees to fill out the balance of our three-acre orchard. When it’s in full production, we expect to harvest something more than 30,000 kilograms of apples each year.
The Tall Spindle
The tall spindle is a training and pruning style suited to locations where land is expensive, as it packs a lot of trees into the space available. But it doesn’t crowd so many to require chemical fertilizers; after all, we’re 100 per cent organic!
The tall spindle involves training dwarf apple trees to grow relatively tall (8 feet) and narrow (4 feet). We train branches to grow our instead of up and prune them off before they become large enough to crowd neighbouring trees, which encourages new small, fruit-producing branches to grow.
This keeps the tree modest in size and encourages it to produce lots of fruit.
Why the Trellis?
Our tall spindle orchard uses a three-wire trellis to support the trees. We don’t train branches along the wires (espalier). The trellis is entirely to keep our shallow-rooted dwarf trees from tipping over when they are full of fruit.
With well over 1,000 trees to the acre, it’s more economical to install the trellis – which uses logs harvested from our property as posts – rather than to stake each tree. Our initial planting of 360 trees was just ten rows, each 44 metres long. The full orchard includes more than three kilometres of rows.
What it Means to be Organic
We grow organically because it’s good for our health and yours. It’s also good for our natural environment.
Going organic means adding only natural fertilizers and minerals to the soil. We use composted horse manure and naturally-occurring minerals such as lime, boron and rock phosphate. To ward off pests, we use small amounts of sulfur, baking soda and soap. We stifle weeds with mulch and pull them out by hand.
The result is healthy fruit and healthy land, an orchard that’ll be sustainable over the long haul.
Choosing Apple Varieties
Starting an orchard from scratch is a lot of work, but we get to grow exactly what we want. This decision is important, because apple trees are a long-term proposition; we don’t want to be ripping them out just because we change our minds.
We’ve ambitiously set out to grow about 300 different varieties, most of them heritage and connoisseur apples that are difficult (or impossible) for people to find in grocery stores. Our goal has been to grow unique varieties and little-known favourites that are well-suited to organic growing and will flourish in our coastal climate.