This will mainly be a short post to point to the video I made for this, but a couple of notes. I was looking at some photos from the very first planting (2014) and it was a bit surreal to see how empty this space was at the time. We planted a lot of trees the first three years and then slowed down a bit. We’ve lost a few. Figured out the lower end of the slope is just too wet for apple trees to thrive, so going to discontinue using those spots. I’ve tried a few trees there, none of them are happy. This year I moved up to the top of the slope and out towards the swale a bit more. I think those will do better.
We’re also trying cold-hardy peach and apricot this year, as I probably mentioned elsewhere. These are not in the orchard, but on the northwest side of the house where there is a lot of shade in spring and the ground warms slowly.
Also, this year I bought some root stock and I’m going to try to graft a few trees myself. If that doesn’t end up too terribly, I’ll try to show some pictures of that at some point.
Here is the second video showing the windbreak area we’ve been trying to establish on the northwest to north side of our house. It’s probably going to end up being a visual or noise break more than a windbreak. It won’t quite be tight enough to completely break up the wind, but hopefully will at least disrupt it a bit. The wind on this side of the house hits our bedroom directly and there are always some nights every year where it is so loud it is hard to sleep. In addition, we actually get a lot of road noise from the main road running not too far from our house. So trying to break that up a bit as well.
Initially, we planted a few evergreens and those are the oldest trees. A few years ago, we worked with a local agro-forestry expert to come up with more of a plan. The result of that is the two lines of trees you’ll see in the video.
We’re also hoping to start to fill in some of the space between the house and the windbreak with edible landscape plants. Hoping the shelter of the trees starts to create a bit more of a micro-climate, with some wind protection and temperature moderation. I’m also still on a quest to reduce the amount of lawn on the property and replace it with more diversity. Gradually moving towards a more permaculture way of approaching the landscape.
Lots of life stuff to deal with so far this year, but I wanted to just get a few notes in about what we’re working on this spring. So far it’s been very wet, so I think it’s going to take a bit longer to get certain things in the ground than last year. That being said, the soil structure in the garden continues to improve, so that helps.
Last week we planted probably the last larger order of fruit trees in the orchard. At this point there are probably enough trees out there. Still a chance we’ll include some additional fruit trees in a food forest/ wind break or something elsewhere on the property, but we’ll see. This year we planted the following:
Spitzenburg Esopus – second one of these as well, the first one we planted is probably one of our best trees so far. This is one of the varieties Thomas Jefferson was infatuated with.
Mount Royal Plum – first plum tree, hardy to zone 3, curious how this one does
Northstar Cherry – not having great luck with getting cherries started, so planting another. Much more susceptible to transplant shock than apples.
I did a count and I think this brings us to around 30 trees, give or take. If I can get even half of these to thrive, we’ll have more fruit than we know what to do with. We’ll let you know when that happens in case you are close enough to enjoy some yourself.
Otherwise, seed starting continues to go well. Tomatoes are going gangbusters and I’m running out of room to the point that I’m already putting some extras in the greenhouse. Calculated risk as it may still get too cold, but if not they will be hardier and bigger when we transplant. Probably going to share some seedlings as well. We started some seeds Kristin saved and got really good germination on all of them, so we’re curious to see how true to type those are. This was a bit of an experiment to see how well we could do at growing our own saved tomato seed, so this year we may be a bit more intentional to avoid cross-pollination.
We aren’t doing a ton of new things this year, but Kristin is getting more and more interested in medicinal herbs and plants so we are trying to grow a few more of those type of plants. We are also trying to get comfrey going in the orchard (non-invasive type that makes sterile seeds). Comfrey is great for all kinds of things and will outcompete some of the undesirable grasses and weeds in the orchard to eventually become a living mulch. When it gets tall, it falls over so it almost does the mulching for you. Tons of nutrients and minerals and good for the soil as well. I’m also trying to see if I can start some perennial shrubs from seed (sea buckthorn, service berry, Siberian pea shrub). This requires cold stratification (basically starting for a few months in soil in a fridge) and getting to transplant stage takes two growing seasons, so it’s a multi-year experiment.
The other big spring project is re-doing our back deck. This will be a lower deck, almost at grade (basically 1 step down to the ground). We plan to put some beds around the perimeter of that and probably some cedar planters so we can have some herbs and flowers within steps of the back door. Hope to post pictures of that process once we get started.
After a very nice May for the most part, June has been nothing but rain. Sometimes terrible torrential downpours, sometimes just annoying bursts here and there to ruin the day. I hate to complain about water when other parts of the country are dry, but my plants are drowning over here. It’s a good thing we put in the swales in May or it would be even worse.
In spite of all that, we are somehow getting our first crop of the sweetest strawberries we could hope for.
Don’t blink, you’ll miss them.
At least the cooler weather plants like it. The greens are going nuts.
Onions seem much happier in a raised bed than in the garden, to no one’s great surprise.
The hops have already made it nearly to the first wooden support.
The fifteen raspberry plants all made it and are getting plenty of leaves now. Here are 10 of them, they are even bigger today.
And finally a view of the orchard, where all of the trees seem to be relatively happy so far and surviving the onslaught of water.
We’re continuing to build the orchard this year, adding four more apple trees and 3 cherry trees.
The apple varieties for this year are: Northern Spy Wickson Crab Newtown Pippin Golden Russet
Most have multiple uses, but the primary purpose of these is to provide blending options for hard and sweet cider. Despite the tough skin, I really like the taste of the various Russets I’ve tried. Northern Spy is quite nice as well, although it takes a long time to start fruiting. Once it does though, these trees can last 100 or more years if they take off and find a good growing environment.
The cherries we got are some basic sour varieties: Morello Montmorency
There are a couple reasons we want cherries. Besides the obvious use in pies, we also like making our own maraschino cherries for Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, etc and eventually I would like to try using cherries in sour beers. We are also getting a sweet cherry separately from a local nursery that is a bit older and should start bearing a little sooner. That will be mainly for fresh eating and juice.