With no apple orchards in our area, and with an eye to the future, we decided to plant an orchard for a "small" retirement project. Our goal was to produce an apple orchard where families could come out and pick their own apples, make some cider, or purchased ready picked apples from our apple store. The Lake Ida Apple Farm was started in the spring of 1994 with the hand planting of our first 290 seedling trees. The six acre parcel of land is on the Northwest corner of Lake Ida. Lake Ida is located in the far Southwest corner of Becker County, Minnesota.
In addition to planting the trees, eighteen inch high tree guards were place around all the trees to prevent rodent damage. The trees were watered weekly with garden hoses. Seven varieties were planted. The local deer herd found all the trees in the grassy field and made a lunch of them.
In the spring of 1995 we erected a 9 wire electric fence around the orchard area and we planted an additional 240 trees, increasing the numbers of some varieties and planting two additional varieties. We also planted 250 asparagus plants. The orchard covers approximately 6 acres. We sprayed the herbicide Round Up around the base of each seedling to reduce the grass competition for the available moisture. No other spraying was necessary. Twenty bluebird boxes were erected to provide some insect control opportunities
The fence was successful in limiting deer access to the orchard area. We also planted three rows of evergreen around the western and northern perimeter for future winter wind protection. Again all trees were watered by garden hose during the summer.
In the summer of 1996 we started to install an irrigation system to each tree. With the use of many valves we were finely able to pump water directly to each tree in the orchard throughout the summer months.
The winter of 1996-97 brought over 120 inches of snow to the area. Many of the trees were covered with 6 feet of snow. Significant mouse damage occurred that winter. Over 40 trees were lost. A vigorous mouse control program has been undertaken yearly since then.
The first blossoms appeared on our Hazen trees the summer of 1998. We let a few develop into apples. In 1999 four varieties produced fruit in very limited numbers. We intentionally removed most fruit from the trees to allow them to grow. By 2001 we had enough fruit to begin selling 6 varieties: Beacon, Red Duchess, Red Baron, Hazen, Haralred, and Haralson. In 2002 we added two more varieties, Honeycrisp and Sweet Sixteen. 2003 saw the addition of our last variety, Northern Lights.
To date we have not had an insect problem that has required us to spray. Less than one in a thousand apples show any insect damage. Birds and hornets have also caused some minor damage. Hornet traps appear to reduce their damage.
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