by Scott Neuffer

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May 1, 2012
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Wellington family farm shares method of growing fruit trees

A sneaking frost last week reminded orchard-keepers of the persistent threat Northern Nevada weather poses to tender spring blossoms.

One Wellington family farm, however, is fighting back against Mother Nature by manipulating Mother Nature in what's called the "easy-pick method."

Gary and Debbie LaFleur, owners of Open Water Nursery and Growers, is hosting a fruit tree seminar 10 a.m. Saturday at their 20-acre farm in Smith Valley, located at 67 Jessen Road. The event is free, but re-registration is required.

"We have 40-45 people signed up already, and we'd like another 20 or so," said Debbie LaFleur.

A fruit tree expert from L.E. Cooke Co., a wholesale plant company based in Visalia, Calif., will be speaking at the event and explaining the easy-pick method.

LaFleur put it in simple terms. A grower takes a standard-sized fruit tree and trains the branches about 3 feet off the ground, keeping the entire tree under 5 feet. Essentially, the grower is turning a standard fruit tree into a dwarf tree.

"But there's a lot of fruit because it's a standard and not a dwarf," LaFleur explained.

Keeping the tree at a manageable size means better control of the growing environment, and concentration of fruit-bearing buds.

"You can throw a net over for birds, spray for insects, put Christmas lights up, keep it warm and cover it," said LaFleur. "Especially at my age and Gary's age, we don't want to get up on ladders."

The majority of trees offered at the couple's nursery are grown on the family farm, including half a dozen apple varieties, two kinds of apricot, two kinds of peaches, several plums and pears, and even an Idaho walnut.

The couple's two boys, Justin and Larry LaFleur, run Nevada Landworks in Gardnerville, and get most of their inventory from the farm. The couple's daughter and grandchildren also help out.

"We grow trees, annuals, most perennials, ornamental grasses, vegetables and some of our own shrubbery," said Debbie LaFleur. "We have just about everything. People are pleasantly surprised when they come out."

Regular business hours for the nursery are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, or to register for the fruit tree seminar, call (775) 465-0074.

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The Record Courier Updated May 2, 2012 11:47AM Published May 1, 2012 03:37PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.