This has been a year of maintenance for the orchard. We planted another 100 trees, some that were to replace the trees that we lost from last year's crop. We had a loss rate of about 5% or 50 trees. Our cost per tree for planting has been on average $12.00 per tree. That includes the cost of the tree, fertilizer, tree tube, tree ties and bamboo. The cost of the tree was actually increased this year with the purchase of rebar. Bamboo did not make a good stabilizer for the trees as it began to rot off about 6 months after the first trees were planted. After each heavy rain/wind storm, we have to replace the bamboo with rebar for 30-40 trees. Some trees are laying on the ground and we try to get to them within 24 hours so that the trunk does not snap and so that the leaves are not damaged. We have some loss due to the trees falling.
The main cause of loss this year has been due to drought and pests. Crickets, beatles and grass hoppers have been eating the foliage. A light application of Seven helped, but was probably a little too late. We used a 1 oz to 1 gallon of water mixture, trying not to damage the plant in the process. Next year we will move to a 2 oz to 1 gallon of water mixture, and will begin a regular spray season earlier in the year.
Other heavy maintenance has been weed control and mowing. Our orchard is rough and we are working the land to improve water management. Weeding has been done with the weed badger which has been great for the tree rows. Next season we are looking for a good herbicide that can be used closer to the trees, since this is the worst concentration of weeds. Mowing has helped stimulate grass growth. We also fertilized the grass rows with turkey litter this year and it has made a great difference. Where we were unable to grow anything, some grass is now growing. We will continue to use this method to build up the soil quality.
For the rest of the season, we just need some rain. The rest of the year will be spent on planning, budgeting and learning about chestnuts and chestnut processing. We are open to suggestions if you would like to share one with us.