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Friday, December 13, 2013

Hedging time on the farm!

The temperature has started to drop and it is most definitely winter now. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were still enjoying our 70 degree days and wondering how long fall was going to last for us in the Central Valley. Now that the colder weather seems here to stay, the fall leaves are saying good bye as well.  After the leaves have turned their color and winter weather turns to cold, the trees go to sleep for the winter months. The fall and early winter is time to prune the trees and what we call hedge.

Hedging is essentially cutting the middle branches out of the center of the rows and creating space for sunlight to reach its way into the rows of the orchard. The trees need sunlight, just as we do, for nutrients to help feed the trees in the development of almonds.

Massey, our black Labrador Retriever, loves to walk through the center of the orchard with us to take advantage of the sun that shines through. When almond trees are fully grown they can get up to 30 feet tall and spread out their limbs to be just as wide. If we didn't hedge the rows, the branches would block all the sun from coming into the orchard. During harvest time, the large trees would also block the harvesting equipment from being able to drive through the center of the rows. So when the trees get to be big enough, you need to start hedging the rows.



The Hedger machine is an implement that is attached to the front of the tractor. It has sharp steel saw blades on either side to cut the branches as it drives through the field. The blades are designed to cut any branches that may be in the center of the rows. We run the hedger through the field alternating rows every year, so we don't hedge the whole field every year.  We don't want to cut every row every year, as the trees don't grow back enough to grant the need for pruning each year.  You do need to be careful not to remove too many branches because you still need those almonds on the trees when it comes time to harvest.

Once the hedger goes through the field, it leaves all the branches on the orchard floor. A tractor pulls a brush shredder through the field to turn the brush into small wood chips. The soil loves this part! The soil takes in the wood chips as organic mulch and uses the nutrients to rebuild the soil.

It is the life cycle of the tree branches, they come from the soil to build a tree, and we return them to the soil to help the tree produce fruit!

Until next time,
Almond Girl


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