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Growing Fruit in a Health Orchard Ecosystem with Michael Phillips
Michael Phillips, author of "The Apple Grower" discussed fruit growing at NOFA Organic Land Care's most recent advanced workshop. The audience was partially AOLCPs looking to add edibles to their landscape, commercial orchardists, fruit-growing enthusiasts, and community gardeners. Phillips discussed creating healthy soil and making soil fungi and organisms work for you. He also emphasized the importance of growing a
diverse variety of fruits
together citing especially the benefits of growing blueberries near apple trees. Phillips focused on the value of soil fungi in a cultivated fruit growing system.
Phillips explained that a hand-full of soil from a forest floor is full of mycorrhizae (strands of fungal fibers that can fix nutrients in the soil and transfer them to roots). If you lined up all these strands of mycorrhizae found in a single handful of soil, they would extend for 26 miles. This natural system is far superior to anything we can create with the aid (or impediment) of pesticides and fertilizers. These growing choices don't just affect the environment, they affect the quality of your food! Apple trees treated with fungicide produce apples with as little as one-third of the healthy properties of an organic apple.
In the afternoon we all went to High Hill Orchard in Meriden, CT where Wayne Young showed us his grounds and co-taught with Michael Phillips.
Photos: Michael Phillips demonstrating how to direct the growth of fruit tree limbs, Wayne Young showing the group his orchard (you can see one of his older apple trees behind him), a photo of about half our group.