ANZ's Farms

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter Orchard Care

They don't look like much right now ... my 8 fruit trees. They are still babies and need care to grow a into healthy, productive orchard. If you are blessed to harvest a bounty of delicious fruit from a mature orchard, well-cared for over the years, you have something rare! When we were thinking about moving to the country and visited farms for sale, I was surprised that so many either didn't have fruit trees at all or they had trees that had been sorely neglected.

In March 2009, as part of homesteading in earnest, we planted our first five trees -- 3 apples (Gala, Winesap and Black Arkansas), 1 peach and 1 pear. We bought from a local farm, Woodard Pecan Nursery in Selma. The most surprising and helpful piece of wisdom Mr Woodard shared with us was how to plant fruit trees in NC clay soil -- don't get fancy. Just dig a hole and put the tree in it. Works for me! These full size varieties are planted to the north of our 3 new semi-dwarf trees that went into the ground last month -- 2 apples (Fuji and Golden Delicious) and an Ayers pear. I confess I succumbed to the half-price sale on fruit trees at Lowes this fall and bought there, rather than from a local grower. These trees come from Tenessee (not terribly far away!) and are the same size now as our other 3 year old ones.

Trees are best planted while they are dormant in the winter months. After planting, I watered them in and mulched heavily. I pruned them all, training the growth into a cup shape no more than 7 feet tall. Because I am an organic minimalist, I do not have plans to spray. Mulch around the trees and grass under the canopy are two techniques to promote orchard health. I recently read that hens under the trees is another good way to keep unwanted insects away. I will fertilize with composted goat manure in early spring before new growth begins. The bee hives are located right next to the orchard, so pollination and cross-pollination are good to go.

The greatest threat to the health of these trees are my goats, as seen in the picture above. The saplings are the perfect size for scratching the itch between their horns, not to mention their tasty limbs and leaves. When I let the girls out to graze, I have to keep a close eye on them, but when I get distracted, the fruit trees pay the price. On the to-do list is 1) research the best way to protect/heal the trunks where the bark has been rubbed off and 2) fence in the trees away from the goats ... or should that be fence in the goats away from the trees?!

I also planted 2 pecan trees last month. They say one plants a pecan tree for the next generation. Sadly, that's true, as they have to be at least seven years old to even begin producing. But the LORD kept His promise of you reap what you sow -- we received two gift bags of pecans for Christmas this year! Yum!


  1. Your hens will eat the bugs out of the mulch, but will "scratch" the mulch all over the yard (and away from the trees!) Congratulations on your new trees!

  2. I don't know if you have heard this, but peach (any stone fruit actually) leaves are toxic to goats, especially the yellow ones. I don't know this for fact, but haven't wanted to test it. Do you know anything about that one way or the other?

  3. Is it me or are the girls looking very pregnant?!

  4. Monica, I know! The girls has "escaped" several time and they play havoc with my rose bed. Mulch EVERYWHERE!

    Jordana, Fortunately I only have one peach and it is the farthest from their pasture area. Thanks for the heads up about that ... I didn't know. And yes, they are looking very pregnant :). Bella is starting to develop an udder and very nice teats!

  5. I keep looking for the "like" button, lol! Tell Bella to hurry up and have those babies! I'm having a hard time waiting to see them, and how many she might have. You sure had a full barn last year!