Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fall Orchard Update

We are entering our second year of planting and maintaining our survival orchard. (Here's my original post on the subject. I've made a few additions and changes to our plan since I first posted it.)

Apple trees, comfrey, and newly planted almond. Blueberries on the back right. 

The comfrey we planted thrived. Hopefully I can divide them sometime next year and get more plants to spread the happiness throughout the orchard.

Speaking of spreading something, I have been dumping duck poo and litter in the areas in between the trees. Duck poo is wonderful stuff for plants and will help improve the soil, which is something our hard-packed clay desperately needs. I am careful not to get it too close to the trees lest it "burn" the them, but that seems to be less of an issue with duck manure than chicken manure.

All the trees and bushes we planted over the past year survived despite the drought that continues unabated. If we do not get a lot of rain and snow this winter, the powers-that-be are going to add more water restrictions which are going to make it hard to keep things alive.

"Bluecrop" blueberry

Our blueberries will technically be old enough next year to give us a crop. They still seem pretty small to me, so I'll be interested in seeing what actually happens. Look how pretty blueberries get in the fall! Blueberries don't only produce delicious fruit; they also are beautiful landscaping plants. All you suburbanites with hoity-toity neighbors should take note! ;)

A sloooooow growing pecan tree

Last weekend we did two important fall orchard tasks. First, we put tree guards around the trunks of our trees. The tree guards will help keep voles, mice,and rabbits from eating the bark off the trees. Since the guards are white, they will also help reflect light on sunny winter days and prevent southwest injury. We will take the tree guards down in the spring because, according to The Holistic Orchard, they hold too much moisture against the trunk and provide cover for borers.

The fun (albeit exhausting) task was to plant our new trees: two pears and an almond.

Our new All-in-One Almond tree

I think nut trees are an essential part of any survival orchard. Last year we planted pecans, this year we planted an almond, and we will be adding walnuts in the future. You might be surprised to learn that folks as far north as Zone 5 can grow almonds. There are two varieties that will grow here, Hall's Hardy Almond and the All-in-One Almond. It seems that more people like the taste and texture of the All-in-One Almond and so that is the variety we went with. Either variety will make lovely ornamental trees in addition to producing lots of nuts.

One of our new pear trees. 

We planted two varieties of pears, Maxine (also known as Starking Delicious) and Seckel. These two varieties will cross-pollinate each other and have different strengths. Maxine is your typical Bartlett-type pear. It is great for eating fresh or canning and supposedly will last in cold storage for a while. Seckel pears are a smaller pear that are great for fresh eating but also dry well. We planting standard-sized pear trees so they will grow between 18-20 feet tall and 12-13 feet wide.

A drawing of the orchard layout, mostly to scale
The dots with circles around them are current plantings; plain dots are future plantings

We're making slow but steady progress. I look forward to the day when all this hard work will pay off!

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