Remember a few months ago when we began planning our homestead orchard? We'd carefully picked out the trees, each variety suited to our specific climate. I sat patiently… okay fine not so patiently… while I waited for the company's “East of the Cascades” shipping date of March 31st.
Twiddle thumbs some more.
Finally, on that windy and sunny April day, the fruit trees arrived. Tucked in a teeny-weeny little box. Shaye thought to herself “Self: How does one teeny-weeny-little-box like that fit so many fruit trees and berry bushes?”
Self quickly opened the box, so quickly in fact that she cut herself in the process, because the curiosity was killing her. Well, that and the fact that the box said ‘OPEN IMMEDIATELY'.
Nestled inside that tattered and now-blood-spattered-box the trees lay still. Dormate. Naked. Very twig like.
Did I just pay $30 for a twig? Yes. Yes, I did. In fact, I paid $30 for a bunch of twigs.
To make myself feel better for buying the box of incredible expensive sticks, I went to the local nursery to pick up a few green (and cheap) herbs like this rosemary:
And a wee bit of thyme:
And oregano, naturally. No garden would be complete without:
Phew. Now I feel better. At least something here is green and blooming. Even if it's not my fruit twigs. Included in the box was a new berry bush that was inspired by my obsession with River Cottage: Gooseberries. Not a common berry variety in United States but very common in England. And now, Beatha Fonn with be home to one of Hugh's favorites. See the baby gooseberry there? A real beauty:
The next berry bush included in the box was inspired by my former boss who grew currants in her backyard. I remember working them into bridal bouquets and corsages when I worked at the flower shop, admiring their ruby red color, glassy appearance, and beautiful drop pattern. Currants bring back that beautiful feeling of hot summer days in her garden, picking raspberries and currants to fill the bucket. This was a total nostalgia purchase (though Hugh uses these to make a homemade wine too, so let's just call it a ‘dual-purpose-breed'):
Now this one threw me for a loop. Asparagus? Where you are? Is that you? Did you have some work done? A little reconstructive surgery perhaps?
I've never grown asparagus before and though I wasn't quite sure what to expect, I assure you that this was not it. For one, it's climbing a trellis. What the heck? Since when does asparagus climb a trellis? Since it was in that teeny-weeny box? Was it trying to escape? I've been too scared to open this container yet but I promise to share what I find when I do.
I'm pretty sure there's an alien tucked in there. Surely, there's no asparagus.
Ah, finally. Something familiar. Sweet raspberries. Hanging in the South facing window until I can muster enough energy to dig giant holes to plant them. I'd also like to pretend, at this point, that I totally didn't break the top half off of one as I was pulling it out of the box with my bloody hand, trying not to prick myself on it's thorns:
And this gem? A nod to my time spent in the Deep South. A Meyer Lemon tree that shall be potted and loved on for the rest of it's days. Let's hope they are many.
Ah, finally to the tree planting business. As you can see, we had lots of ‘help' in planting these trees. Said ‘help' would be much more helpful if the littlest helper could refrain from climbing the steep, outdoor stairs, smearing his hand in chicken poo, and running down the gravel driveway in an attempt to visit with his BFF – the cow.
Georgia, on the other hand, was attempting to hand dig the holes and use the super expensive fruit twigs as walking sticks. So, obviously, she was pretty helpful.
How To Plant A Fruit Tree:
Step 1: Pick your site properly. Most fruit trees require lots of sun, so make sure to observe both winter and summer time sun situations on your property before choosing a permanent spot for your tree. Also, it's important that the planting site is not one that pools with water in heavy rains. Fruit trees don't like to have their feet wet. These can make the difference between success and failure – so choose carefully!
Step 2: Dig a hole, three feet across and at least a foot deep. This helps to loosen the soil and allow the roots to spread easily as they seek to establish themselves. Feel free to con your husband into doing said work for you, if need be. Shoveling is hard, man.
Step 3: Prepare the fruit twigs for planting by removing them from their container and laying them out. Our trees were bare-root trees, so the roots were simply wrapped in some wet wood chips and newspaper to keep them moist during shipping. If your trees come in plastic nursery containers, break up the root balls slightly before planting.
Yep. Still helping. Lest you think I ever have a break.
Step 4: Hold the fruit twig up in the hole ONLY TO THE ROOT LINE. This is a line, on the trunk, where you will visibly see the color change. You don't want to bury the tree any further than this line. Other than that, it's pretty simple. Put the NATIVE DIRT that you dug out of the hole back into the hole and gently press to firm the dirt around the tree trunk.
It's important to fill the hole back up with the native soil for a few reasons. For one, too rich of soil will encourage the tree roots to stay right where they are – in that little baby shallow hole – instead of venturing out into the wide, underground world like we want them to do. And for two, it helps to build a strong and healthy tree that is capable of withstanding hardship. Rich soil = sissy tree. Think of it as tough love.
Step 5: If your fruit trees came from nursery containers, go ahead and give the transplants a bit of water to get them settled nicely. If they were bare root trees, watering is usually not necessary for at least a few days until the tree ‘wakes up' a bit from it's dormancy. Once the tree begins to grow leaves, you want to make sure the soil stays slightly moist (but not soggy!) at all times.
Trees have an incredible ability to spread their roots and find water, so take it easy. More diseases and death in fruit trees come from overwatering than underwatering.
Step 6: Wait a decade for your fruit trees to begin bearing fruit.
Just kidding! It's not that long. Though, I'm sure it will seem like it. Growing fruit trees on the homestead is not for the impatient – usually requiring at least three years of maintenance before any sort of fruit harvest. That being said, there's hardly a better investment you could make in your homesteading future. Once established, fruit trees will bear fruit for decades. For your generation – and the next – and maybe even the next. How fantastic.
All in all, we added six fruit trees to our homestead this past week, along with a slew of berry bushes and perennial plants.
Sometimes, it's neat to think about the future holds for Beatha Fonn. Even if seeing that future realized requires digging holes, a bit of blood loss, and years of patience.