Karen and Paul Teets hosted an apple tree pruning, maintenance, and grafting workshop at their orchard and nursery recently.
After 44 years of marriage, and years beyond that working with apple and pear trees, the couple has cultivated many tree philosophies and techniques that others now look to as truth.
The Teets’ orchards reside on the property in Eglon that Paul’s parents bought the same year he was born, 1953. P.Teets’ family and his parents still live on the property. The original orchard already existed on the property when his parents purchased it. Paul’s father bought and planted more apple trees.
There are four different sections of orchards on the property. Throughout the sections, there are 124 antique varieties of apples growing. “Our emphasis is on the antique varieties,” K. Teets said.
“It’s a hobby turned obsession turned business,” she laughingly admitted. P. Teets said he is looking forward to retiring from his day job at the end of the year to focus his energy on his family’s orchards; however, it sounded like his day job is not stopping him from working on the farm. He already grafted 285 apple trees and 57 pear trees this year.
The couple’s passion for trees is apparent in their work and attitude toward their guests. “What I really find fascinating are the trees themselves,” K. Teets said. “The interesting histories, the diversity between varieties, the similarity to humans and so on. The apples are the icing on the cake.”
About 15 workshop participants gathered on the cloudy afternoon to learn more about fruit trees. Some participants planted trees themselves, others inherited trees when they bought property, while others plan of having their own orchard one day.
Starting a new tree can be a tricky business, and so is keeping an old tree producing fruit. “Planting trees that are going to outlive yourself deserves some serious thought and effort,” K. Teets said. “The main thing I want to teach them is how an apple tree thinks.”
The workshop offered theoretical and practical applications of skills such as pruning, grafting, bloom dates, soil health, and protection from pests. There was an emphasis on pruning throughout the lessons, because, “A properly pruned and trained tree will look nice, be healthy, and produce nice fruit for a long, long time,” she said. “A neglected tree will look ugly, get sick, and produce small, misshapen fruit.”
Handouts, diagrams, and a plethora of resources were available for attendees to peruse.
Potomac Highlands Food and Farm Initiative facilitated this workshop and others like this between interested residents and local experts. Project DirectorKimmy Clements helped set up this workshop, as well as the first workshop at the Teets Orchard four years ago. “With our workshops, I like to get people that are doing it on the regular, and who are also in our community, to share their expertise,” Clements said.
She mentioned one reason why Potomac Highlands facilitates these workshops is to encourage people to grow their own food and learn a new skill. To learn about upcoming workshops, visit Potomac Highlands’ website, Facebook page, or stop by Highland Market.
Teets Orchard and Nursery provides apples and ciders to customers, as well as grafted trees to order. Highland Market stocks Teets apples and rhubarb.