Orcharding, or, Greater Field Domination


Soon, poor neglected tree, I will bring you friends!

‘Tis the time of year for lots of planning. Right now, I am planning my first orchard.

‘Tis true, I have apple, plum, (and one) peach trees extant on this farm already. I’ve got currants, gooseberries, blueberries and strawberries, and that elusive lingonberry, too. And I am in the Fruit Belt, which means that relying on others’ efforts to sustain our fruit habit is actually a very inexpensive endeavor: I can get bushels of fruit for an eighth of what you all are paying for it, or less, with no exaggeration.

So I will let the Fruit Belt sustain us with the genus Prunus persica (peaches). Peaches are beautiful but fussy things, well suited to folks with deeper pockets than my own. And I’ll look elsewhere for blueberries, though we have them too here on the farm; for vast quantities, I easily can just go to a friend’s farm, or, if lazy, I will go to the fruitstand and shell out a whopping $18 for 10 pounds. Yea, people: behold, the Promised Land of fruit production.

(I once went apple searching when I lived in Minnesota. They wanted–I shit you not–$48 for a HALF bushel of McIntosh. It was dispiriting, and it factored in to my desire to move here. Apples should not cost $2 per.)

Why plant my own, if not doing so is so cheap? Oh boy, if you have to ask that question, well, you’ve only started reading this site then. Let’s just say I ADORE a challenge, and am very interested in permaculture. So I am platting my land for the fruits of the genus Malus domestica (apples, baby. Lots of apples: twelve varieties to complement my native two). Pears as well: these are always welcome. Oh, and apricots and cherries. These latter fruits are bird-prone, and will be put at the north of the main garden to act as a windbreak, but also to help me keep away the birds. Throwing nets over them will help.

There are also plans for an arbor of just hops. (Beer.)

Of course, I am looking long-range: I won’t harvest my first apple until probably 2010. Do I mind this? No, I do not. My first pawpaw will be harvested in 2019! My first wine grapes (the ones I planted in 2005) in 2009! In other words, if you’re planning an orchard, you are planning to stay put and, uh, put down roots.

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8 responses to “Orcharding, or, Greater Field Domination

  1. gigi@roadsidescholar

    oh my stars this is a very ambitious plan, but if anyone can achieve this it’s you el!

    michigan produce rules. it is ambrosia and it RULES. i hate that even when i go to whole foods in the city the frickin apples come from california and washington (not that there’s anything wrong with those places, but obviously i would rather see the food come from someplace closer). ultimately, i spied and purchased some michigan jonathans, but it was not easy to do.

    so, if i plan ahead now can i bring myself and all my friends up for some u-pick fun in, say, 2012? 🙂

  2. two words….Stayman Winesap. Best.Apple.Ever. Hey, I think your seeds will get mailed this week!

  3. El – have you decided where you are getting your trees from? Are buying mail order? Local? Bareroot? I assume they are heirlooms. I am planning a small homesteading orchard in SW Wisc and am considering Fedco Trees or a small heirloom producer in Northern Wisc (whose name is escapes me right now). Just wondering what you’ve found out. Thanks.

  4. I’d get a couple more peaches anyway. They’re one of those fruits where you’re supposed to plant at least two for good production, and because they’re fussy and can die in this climate, you’ll want that little bit of insurance just in case something happens to your one.

    And, as a man who was a boy on a small farm with a fruit and apple orchard, there is nothing so sweet as a peach picked off your own tree.

    Plus peaches ripen earlier in the year, and help fill the fruit gap between cherry season and apple season.

  5. Gigi, you flatterer. See, the thing is, you’ll get conscripted to do more than just u-pick fun: how about digging some holes?

    Meredith: glad you are back amongst us. Winesaps, yes, but Stayman. Not carried by my guy, but I will do some digging.

    Angie: Shameless plug for my neighborhood orchardist: Grandpa’s Orchard (www.grandpasorchard.com), two miles down the road, has a fantastic selection, and good advice…but I will be doing root balls, as, well, I am a local. Fedco is great, but for less money I am getting stuff that will work better in my warmer climate. Yes, what I am ordering is mostly heirlooms, though my hubby is partial to Honeycrisp (bleh) so I have to buy one of those MN newbies.

    Robert: shockingly, my solo peach tree has self-pollinated…though my town has a peach festival, so there are peach trees everywhere. Hmm. Maybe I need more. (What’s a few more holes in the yard, eh?) But I think homegrown fruit, period, is just wonderful, so I think you’re dead-on.

  6. You ARE the gal! Enough said!

  7. Wow! 11 years more to wait for a paw-paw? Can you say: anticipation?? I have always wanted to try one of those!

  8. Nada: Naw, I really am just a masochist.

    Artemisia: I know! What a long time to wait! I just felt like I needed to grow them, though, considering they’re natives.

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