‘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.