How do you like them apples?

Greetings from Minute Man National Historical Park, where the Branching Out Field Team has been working on both young and mature apple orchards.

How many apple varieties can you name? Our week started off with apple tasting led by technical expert Charlie Pepper, and we thought about the limited selection of apples commercially grown today as compared with the nearly 4,000 apple varieties recorded during the colonial era in the United States. The winning apple from our taste test was …*drumroll*… the Granny Smith!

We continued to snack on delicious apples throughout the week, including mature apples from the orchard at Noah Brooks Tavern on our third day of project work, as well as some apPEELing treats generously baked by our park partner, Margie Coffin Brown.

Our project work at Minute Man NHP began at two young orchards: the Thomas Nelson House orchard and the Hartwell Tavern orchard. Some of the apple trees at these sites were initially planted by Branching Out members during the school year program.

First, we completed condition assessments for the trees and for the integrated pest management structures in place around each tree. We found many maintenance needs: holes in the deer and rabbit fences, thick weed cover crowding out the apple trees, and some diseases (such as Cedar Apple Rust) attacking the leaves.

We cared for the trees by weeding and repairing the fencing, as well as learning how to identify and prune unwanted branches growing below the graft union. At the Hartwell Tavern, we added landscaping paper and mulch to the base of many trees in order to improve tree health and appearance. We returned to the Thomas Nelson Orchard on our fourth and final day of project work in order to finish weeding and improve the overall visitor experience of walking through this visible orchard planted right next to the Lexington Visitor Center parking lot. Nazia highlights how good the before and after transition looks:

On the third day of project work, we moved back in time to a much older orchard located at the Noah Brooks Tavern. Here, we assessed, mapped, and pruned 13 mature and fruitful trees. To care for these trees we used pole saws, loppers, and ladders to reach dead branches high in the tree. Jeff said that his highlight was “learning how to use a pole saw and then properly using it.” To map the trees, we used a Geographic Information System (GIS) program paired with a “bad elf” tool. Jairam’s favorite part of the week was working on these mature apple trees that were planted before 1950 and have lots of history.

This week we assessed and cared for approximately 78 trees. We learned from Charlie, Margie, and other park staff and volunteers, as well as an exciting opportunity to network with Branching Out alum Diego who has continued working with Minute Man NHP on carpentry projects for the past two years as he finishes carpentry school. A great way to celebrate the end of project work for the Summer 2018 Field Team!

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