Yesterday was probably the nicest day we have encountered so far this spring. After I let the dog out, I walked over to the mini orchard to look at the progress the trees have been making. That’s when I made the discovery I didn’t want to make; deer had been there. They bit the tops off of almost every branch on my Cox’s Orange Pippin. That’s bad news to me because it’s the smallest tree and the one i’m most worried about. They had bitten the buds off of a few other ones. The ground was wet and I have somewhat of a ground mole problem, so you could see the deer tracks plainly.
My best guess is that because of the flooding we have had this past week, the deer finally found their way into my front yard. Dave, my neighbor, commented on my facebook rant that he has seen deer tracks in his front yard. The only thing I think saved me is that a car probably drove by and scared the deer. I had to put my fencing back up around the trees to protect them until the flood waters recede and stuff starts growing back in the national wildlife refuge so they will leave my trees alone.
That is the question today. March was rather miserable with the cold and just enough snow to tease. Either give me snow, or let’s move to the next season. It wasn’t a total waste though. We did the usual Easter thing with the trees. I removed the fencing around them and we hung eggs with giant marsh mellows inside of them. Talking to my colleague Terry Moore, I learned how I should trim my transplanted Braeburn. The thing about it was the shape. It was horrid. Bent over like a 90 year old grandpa.
He told me to cut it off about a foot above where it branches out. I’m not 100% sure that’s what he said to do, but that’s how I interpreted it. Cut quite a bit off. Fine with me though! Not all crooked anymore!
Seriously considering planting some blueberries this season. I made an initial email to the folks at Russell’s Blueberry Farm. It’s pretty close to here and they also sell plants. Have been thinking about planting 10 high bushes of different varieties. To get that many and the kind I want, it might take buying some one or two year plants. They will be fairly small. If I can get them at the price I want, then it will be worth it.
Well, it was an interesting first season. The conditions were not that great and I had to water the trees a lot due to lack of rain. The other tree I got from my friends is doing alright. I thought it was going to die, lost all of it’s leaves, got them back, lost them again, got them back again, and stayed alive. It has a very big curve in the top branch, so I am hoping to field graft a different apple stock on top of it this winter. That will take some help from fellow orchardist Terry Moore. I will need not only his expertise, but scions from his trees.
About a month ago, I was able to get my fencing up around the trees. I haven’t had a ton of luck getting it to stay in place due to the wind, but the snow we got last week has really helped. It’s more or less frozen in place for now. I need to go pick the last of the leaves from the tree as they are long dead. A hard frost we got in the latter part of fall killed them off. Or at least I think they did because the leaves turned brown after that. Hard frost was the name of the game this year!
Last week, I was talking to my friend’s father in law about planting some trees. He wants to plant a few trees this spring and had a few questions for me about them. Mainly, how far apart do you plant them? I told him it’s based on rootstock and pruning techniques. Also, I gave him some links and the name of a book that should help him get all the information he could need.
That’s about all the update I have for now. Once I get the braeburn tree grafted to a new type, I will update on how I did that.
Yea, I suck at posting new items to this. The trees are doing alright, although the Newton Pippin has had some leaves eaten off from the upper half. There was a while in the late summer that there were tons of beetles all over the place. They ate the snot out of my weeping cherry tree. In the middle of my tiny home orchard I planted two pumpkin plants this spring. They have done very well. On Saturday, my wife and I harvested five of them. There are still plenty on the vines. That includes what we see as carving pumpkins. Many of the ones that did grow are fairly small. Also on Saturday, I weeded a bunch of the crab grass away. Most of the section I devoted to my apples has a thick layer of crab grass over it. Not much I could do about it unless I had way more time to devote. With it being football season and coaching the JVs, it just didn’t happen. I made it happen this weekend finally though.
Next on the agenda is to get some fencing around the trees themselves. I have seen 20 or more deer in the yard behind us last winter, so I need to ensure that I didn’t pay and care for trees that will be dead stumps by spring. I contacted Terry Moore and asked him about fencing. He told me that I could use fencing 5ft high and only do about 2ft in diameter. Next spring we are hoping to fence in part of the yard which will have the trees and some sort of garden. I want to grow more pumpkins and add some watermelon or something else fruity while my wife wants to grow some beans and tomatoes. Ideally, we would fence the whole yard, but it’s a bit expensive to put in an acre of fencing!
It’s been an interesting month or so. First, my Hauer Pippin tree had ants and aphids. I bought diatomaceous earth which kills ants, but it’s been windy around my place, so it didn’t work too well. Eventually, I used the old “kill it with my thumb” method. That has worked pretty well. I still see a few ants and aphids here and there, but i’m killing them with my thumb. Not exactly permaculture or a holistic approach, but i’m working toward it. I’m a newbie for goodness sake! A few of the other trees had ants and aphids, but none of them like the Hauer. Speaking of which, I need to name that tree still. I named the Newton Pippin this week. It’s named after Arthur Hill and Central Michigan standout, Brian Pruitt. He played ball here and was a huge reason that CMU was any good in the early/mid 1990′s. So, I have four of the six trees named. Well, seven trees if I count the Bollosh Tree…maybe that’s what i’ll call that one. It was given to me by the Bollosh Family, but it’s doing pretty poorly. Most of the leaves are dead. There are a few that are still green, but we moved the tree at the wrong time, it sat in the sun for most of one day, fell over once, was not watered properly for the first week or so, and it’s a dwarf tree to begin with. This is the tree I was talking about at the beginning of the previous post. Maybe i’ll call it BFT for Bollosh Family Tree. They were the ones that gave me the mulch, some great black dirt, ramial chips, and brought it to my house. Good thing he works at a golf course and has all that stuff on hand!
Speaking of mulch, I finally got my project finished. I had to rake out the growth first. There was a lot of plant life too close to the tree for my comfort. These trees need to have no competition in the first few years. After I raked out each tree, I put down the rest of the compost amendment that I got when I ordered the trees. I had only put 1/3 of a bag on each tree, so I put an additional 2/3 of a bag on each tree. Then, I scooped some of the black dirt I had gotten into a wheelbarrow and dumped it around the tree. After that, the layer of ramial chips were laid down. They were from the bottom of the mulch pile at the golf course, that’s also why I had some black dirt. After those were down, I put a layer of regular chips on top. I think this will be pretty good. It already looks nicer than it did before.
It took me three months, but I believe that the trees are ready to go. Now I just have to wait a few years until they begin to give me fruit!
I know it’s been over a month since I last updated. Not a whole lot has been going on. I did get another tree from a friend who was going to toss it out, but I didn’t water it as much as I should have initially, so it’s pretty brown. I’ve been diligently watering it now so I’m hoping it lives. My plan is to graft different apples on the ends so it will give me some variety when I go to harvest.
Also, I tilled the area again. It looks better with no grass and weeds growing. The same guy who gave me the tree is also giving me a bunch of mulch. I plan on covering as much as I can with the mulch I get, after I put a nice ring around each of the trees. All of the trees (except the mystery tree that I was given) look great. Even the Northern Spy, which I had figured was dead, has leaved out and is doing well. It leaved out in the past three weeks or so. Terry Moore from Moore Orchards in Midland told me that his Northern Spies took 16 years to come to fruition. I hope that’s not the case. My daughter will be getting ready to graduate high school by the time I get some apples!
We are planning on planting some things in the middle of the trees this weekend. I will be putting in some pumpkins and maybe another plant or two. It should help with everything and make it look more like a garden than some tiny trees.
I’ve named another one of my trees. The Ashmead’s Kernel will be named CRog, after Charles Rogers. I named it that because of the apple itself. They say that when this apple is on, it’s fantastic. Conversely, when it’s a bad year, the apples are pretty bad. Seems like Charles Rogers to me! When he was good, he was amazing. When he was off, all you could do is shake your head and asked what happened.
My apples were planted exactly one month ago today. Some of them are flourishing, while others have yet to bud. The Northern Spy has not budded yet, and it is beginning to worry me. Every other tree has buds popping through and some have leaves (or are in the middle of forming leaves). The White Pearmain is doing very well with the most leaves. I had to clip a branch from the Ashmead’s Kernel, it was broken during shipping and I tried to let it slide. It was not doing anything, so I clipped it to let the rest of the tree get the nutrients that were being send to that very small and broken branch. It is going to be slightly different from I wanted it to be, but what can I do?
I was able to visit with Terry Moore from Moore Orchards last weekend. He is a very nice gentleman. Terry told me about some of the big mistakes he’s made over the years, but he’s learned from them and is willing to share his knowledge with other people. Terry told me a story about when he was starting out and how some of the people helped him while others would not. He said if he was ever in that situation, he would help the newcomers. I think he may teach me how to graft this winter. That would be awesome. It’s a dying art that was once more common knowledge for farmers.
I believe that the Cottrells are going to plant a mini garden in the middle of my mini orchard this year. It will need to be fenced in to keep the deer out, but it should be helpful in getting decaying plants into the soil.
Here is a picture of the Blair White just a few days before it’s one month planted birthday.