Gardening · Homesteading · Urban Homesteading

Putting In An Orchard

When Kirk and I bought the house last spring, one thing we liked was the potential for long-term trees that could produce. In other words, an orchard. Growing up there always seemed to be old, neglected fruit trees littering the properties my family called home, and I wanted that for the boys to enjoy. But more so, I want our little suburban homestead to produce. Grow as much as we can, the way I want it grown.

I won’t fib though, it isn’t easy work. Living in town means the land was scraped clean of topsoil before houses were built, and that left Cascade Glacial Soil behind. What is that? Apparently 10 million rocks….of which it feels like I have removed 1 million of…..

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Up first was finding trees we liked. Our local hardware store has a well laid out garden center (it has greenhouses), with buyers who have a taste for the unusual. Potted trees cost more than bare root but I wanted the extra leg up on growing for the majority of the trees. They were offering 25% off if you bought 5 or more trees…that made it easier to deal with. Potted trees that are over 5 feet tall can start at $60 so it is an investment.

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PS: Wheelbarrows are awful! Gorilla Carts are so much better – and don’t cause you to hunch over! And happily roll over curbing and lawns, even loaded down. The little one on the left is a few years old, the big one is its new big brother, that Kirk brought home recently.

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The first bed we tackled was the one we put the gnome garden in (don’t worry! We kept it!). We removed the contractor special trees and shrubs (4 of them). Hard work, but worth it.

A few tips: work the soil as much as you can. Dig, dig and dig. Get down on your knees after and work the hole with a hand shovel. Remove all the rocks and set aside. Once the hole is ready, put in a good organic or natural fertilizer (I use 1/4 cup dry per tree), then the tree. Depending on what type of tree, follow the directions that come with them. If your soil is light, use it. If you have clay soil, you will want to add in amendments. Once filled back in, watered, and filled some more, you will want to add mulch around the area. It keeps down weeds, keeps water in, but also protects the roots in the cold season. For example, earlier this winter we had a couple of Arctic freezes where it is super cold and dry. During those the 2″ of bark mulch froze solid, but the ground under it was workable! As well, after a second good watering, I used organic fruit tree fertilizer sticks, about 3 feet out from the tree, 1 on each side (2 per tree), buried in the ground. I realize our soil needs help – so that the trees can get a good start on life! If your soil is a bit better you might get away with not doing it. Fruit trees usually need fertilizing twice a year.

Going in were two cherry trees, a Bing and a Rainier. Nearby is a Sour (pie) Cherry tree that will be a pollinator for them.

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The bed nearly done above.

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The bed finished with mulching in place and prettied up. I believe it can be pretty and functional at the same time. I transplanted two blueberry bushes into the front, from an area where they just didn’t get enough love. We shall see how they do here.

After that, I tackled getting into the ground another Rainier Cherry Tree, a bare root one (semi-dwarf), and a multiple graft pear tree, bare root and semi-dwarf as well.

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I indulged myself this winter with a new pair of Sloggers Garden Boots. They are made in the US and surprisingly affordable (under $32!). Good boots pay off when working in dirt and mud.

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Removing two Beech trees has been harder than some – they can have very deep roots. The big dig is still going in to get this last one out. The Beech trees were not healthy, nor attractive. They were tall, thin and spindly. This spot will eventually hold a last fruit tree.

We are turning the fence on the right of the back yard into the apple orchard. 3 full size apple trees are planted so far, the bare root will join them and at the end is a Crabapple Tree that came with the house. Again, it is an excellent pollinator tree. I started fertilizing it when we moved in, and that has paid off. Beyond, in the distance is two semi-dwarf peach trees, and in the far bed in the corner, a semi-dwarf multi-apple tree.

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I couldn’t resist getting an olive tree. Could you?!?

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I planted it in a sunny spot where it can grow happily.

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And then I saw it: An Improved Meyer Lemon. I couldn’t say no and got it for the greenhouse. It can summer outside, but needs to be inside till we pass frost point. It can go down to 20* and maybe a bit lower, but I would rather make sure it is kept warmer at night until summer comes.

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