Orchard Update

When my partner and I first started talking about an orchard last year, I had visions of bountiful, overflowing baskets of fruit, lots of pies, canning, and sharing with family and friends. Reality hit quickly when I realized that it would take several years before we could count on fruit production. Undeterred, we decided to jump in and give it a go. But last fall our orchard got off to a rough start.

We had picked an area in town between his shop and our old-church-turned-art-studio to put in fruit trees and bushes. We figured that since we’d be in town on a daily basis, it would be a nice place for the orchard. We bought the plants in containers late in the season, when they were on sale. Most of them were root bound, but we thought we’d give them a try anyway. Two out of six trees survived, and three out of four berry shrubs made it. Good thing most places have a “no questions asked” return policy on plants!

Then, plans changed, and we decided we needed a building for the equipment we use for the wheat cleaning business. The surviving trees and shrubs had to be dug up, which was done in the late fall after they had lost their leaves. We put them in 5-gallon buckets and stuck them in the church basement, where they spent a cool but unfrozen winter, being watered every few months.

Amazingly, they were all alive this spring (you could tell because the twigs were springy and green inside). This year we ordered bare root trees and shrubs through the Internet. After clearing a few acres of an old tree lot on the farm down the hill from where we are building the house, I got to work planting the new orchard. The soil out there is fantastic, and it’s in a little bit of a protected hollow, so we’re hoping it is a good spot.

The bare root trees look like sticks with scraggly little roots at the end, and I’m trying hard to visualize 10-foot-tall, fruit laden canopies. I have faith that they will make it if I do my part. I dug nice wide holes, made chicken wire barriers to keep the rabbits and deer from munching them, and installed irrigation drip lines with a timer. They’ll get plenty of water while they wake up and become acclimated to their new, permanent home. I’m giving each one lots of TLC, and keeping my fingers crossed.

I realize that the chances of all of them surviving are pretty slim, but I’m going to try my hardest. Even if they survive the transplanting, we will probably find that some of them like it in their new environment, and some just won’t thrive. We’re feeling so optimistic, we just put in another online order that will double the amount of plants that are in the ground now.

Some types of trees need pollinators, and some we just wanted more varieties, so we got a few of each kind. The orchard will have apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, nectacots, nectarines, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and a few hazelnut trees. There are also wild currant bushes growing in the orchard area, and a few wild plums, gooseberry bushes, and mulberry trees scattered around the farm.

There are emerging leaves and leaf buds on a few plants, which is really encouraging. Others just look like twigs stuck in the ground. Where there is now bare ground and a few pathetic sticks, I look at it and see full trees, orchard grass, and grandchildren swinging in branches and playing by a little pond with bellies full of fruit. Hey, a girl’s gotta dream, right?

Published on Apr 16, 2015

Grit Magazine

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