Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Winter Orchard Care
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!