Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lawn to garden conversion: the fruit trees arrive!!!!

The words I'd been waiting to hear. "Mom, there's a box on the porch and it's bigger than you!

Since we moved into Several Gardens Farm, the front yard has always been a bit of a question mark for us. It's gracefully sloping green lawn looked nice until the first time David almost fell of the side while trying to mow. Anyway, we are farmers, not lawn people. We wanted it to grow. But it's steep and huge, and at first it wasn't obvious what to do with it. Over time, I had an increasingly strong vision of turning it into a pleasure ground where we would wander around eating fruit of a dozen varieties, while the scent of herbs and nectar providing flowers wafted up to us from the low growing cover at our feet. I wanted so much fruit we willingly shared with all the birds, and so many flowers we could hear the garden buzz when we went outside.

For more of the back story of grass removal and soil prep, see the lawn to garden conversion tab.

Yesterday the trees came in the mail.

Here they are, all wedged into the box that was taller and wider than me.

We got them from Raintree Nursery, where we have had excellent success in the past.

We loved their packing. All the trees were lashed together, with a small, delicate plant tucked into their branches for protection.

The smaller potted plants were bagged and taped together.

Then there were bags of shredded paper at the edges to soften any impacts they might meet along the way.

The plants were in great condition.

While I dug holes for them, I soaked all the plants in buckets of water.

I felt a bit silly doing it. To the left is the park across the street from our house.

The tennis court is underwater. We joke that we have a great park -it has a tennis court and a pool, all in one.

We've had lots of rain this week. After an extremely dry first half of the winter, precipitation was welcome, but it was still uncomfortably wet.

But you never know how dry the plants may have gotten in transit.

So I put them in to soak.

The trees stayed together.

Blueberries and other less spreading berries went into one bucket. The raspberries got another. Raspberries need a part of the garden where they can spread without getting in any other plant's way.

 My apologies for this horrible picture of the peach tree.

I planted it in the greenhouse. Peaches are very prone to peach leaf curl, which causes them to lose their leaves under damp conditions.

I am going to see if growing it under cover can give me a healthy, curl-free peach tree.

The olive is another experiment.

They do well in regions as cold or colder than Seattle, but they do like summer heat, which we aren't famous for.

I planted it near the south wall of our house, high up on the hill to give it the best drainage we have available.

Last summer we mulched the whole planting area with several inches of wood chips. They have been grow all through with white mycelia, the underground part of mushrooms and other fungus. Fungi in the soil is supposed to set up good growing conditions for trees and long lived perennials.

If so, we are in good shape here. The wood chips formed a mat held tightly together by all the mycelia.

After the peach and the olives went in, we planted all our big trees. Future big trees - here's Noah with a quince tree. 

It's roots are in a hole, waiting for us to fill in with soil. I am of the school of digging a hole just big enough to spread the roots out a bit.

I don't add anything to the soil when I plant, but I've been amending the soil to get it ready for the trees.

Once the tree is positioned, we shoved and scooped soil in around the roots, packing it in tight.

Soil can fluff up when you dig, and leave air pockets against the roots of your plants. Then they can't grow.

Watering is really important - even if you plant in the rain, as we were doing. It's also important to stomp the soil in around the new plant.

So we brought our hose out and watered everything in. 

Noah earned his name today. 

He worked on and on through the pouring rain, until we finally got a few sun breaks near the end.

More fungus. I know no one else wants to look at this, but seeing it made me happy. Our mulching worked. Our wood chips are being broken down, slowly and without heat or sudden bursts of nutrients, by the fungus that came with them or was already there. Jubilation!                                                          

In all, today we planted:

 2 Apple trees - varieties Bramley and Karmijn de Sonnaville
 1 Pear - variety Rescue Pear
 1 Quince - variety Van Demen
 1 Flowering crab apple tree, variety Pink Cloud
 2 Plums - varieties Schoolhouse and Stanley
 2 Sweet cherries - variety Black Vandalay*
 1 Pie cherry - variety Evans
 2 Nanking cherries - a bush cherry - total experiment
 2 Paw Paws - varieties seedling and Pennsylvania Gold
 1 Persimmon - variety Nikita's Gift
 1 Peach - variety Q-1-8 (I know, great name)
 3 Grapes - varieties Einset and Interlaken
 Assorted blueberries, serviceberries, raspberries, olive and white and pink currants.

*Note about Black Vandalay cherries. We sampled these at a fruit picking event, and all three of us, without consulting each other, decided they were our favorite. MUST. HAVE. THIS. CHERRY.

I'm personally most excited about the crab apple. It's a double flowering crab. I've seen what I think is the same tree in a park in central Washington, in late May, absolutely covered with bees of many species. When I stood back from the tree, I could see them flying in and out like a busy airport. I want this in my yard!

But we are also excited to have some varieties we've sampled and loved, and that are not available at the fruit stand. We'll keep you posted as the trees leaf out and the hill (hopefully) springs into life in a few months.

shared on: frugal-days-sustainable-ways , Farm Girl Friday

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