Fruit Planting Time

It seems spring has arrived amidst cold rain and the occasional freezing nights while the grouse drum their mating call – bringing on an urgency to get lots of plants in the ground.  We’ve been planting a variety of fruit and nut trees and blueberry bushes as well as early season crops such as peas, scallions, napa cabbage and lots of greens. 

Over the last couple of years we have pushed to get a diversity of fruit and nut trees and berry bushes into the ground knowing that we won’t be reaping the benefits for 3-15 years depending on the type.  Usually deciding where to put things is what takes us the longest.  We should have raspberries to sell this year, and pick your own blueberries within the next 3-5 years (when we get the last 10 planted we’ll have 90 in the ground). 

Small blueberry bushes planted in 2011. We first had to clear and chip around 15 mature pine trees. The stumps are still in place, just planted around.

With most of the other fruit and nut trees (Apples, Pears, Plums, Mulberry, Paw Paw, Hazelbert, Buartnut, Korean Nut Pine, Bur Oak, Chestnut, Elderberry, Hardy Kiwi, Honeyberry and more) our intention is more for our own fruit self-sufficiency rather than production on a commercial level.  As plants establish we may offer some value added products from them and be able to propagate larger plantings.   We like to think of these plantings as part of our retirement plan.  As our ability to do physical labor decreases with age, the mature fruit and nut plantings should be yielding larger harvests with less input from us.  We’ll see how that theory works out.

Young forest garden in spring. The dwarf apple tree and raspberries were already there when we bought the property and we have replaced the lawn and spruce tree that were previously around them with Aronia, Gooseberries and Currants, Blueberries, Cranberry, a variety of herbs and flowering plants and oyster mushrooms in the wood chips under that Apple tree.

Fruit and nut trees take up a lot of space when they are mature, so we have been utilizing a number of strategies to take advantage of the space beneath the trees while they are still young.  In some areas we are growing annual vegetables in beds all around young saplings (last year we learned that winter squash is a bit too vigorous for this partnership, they climbed up and yanked on the poor pears).  As the trees require more root space and create more shade over time we will give them more room and eventually the space will transition to an orchard.  We  have one small forest garden where small trees and bushes are interplanted with lower growing bushes, herbs and flowers fully filling the vertical space, attracting pollinators and enriching the soil.  We also have a north facing slope that is currently a windbreak and road block primarily filled with white pines and balsam.  We are planting nut trees that will need a lot of space as well as nitrogen fixing trees and bushes and low growing plants such as lupine in the open pockets while maintaining the current pines for wind break.  Eventually we will thin the older evergreens and have a small nut orchard ready to take off.

Autumn Olive, an example of a plant that needs very little human care for success. We have planted several bushes/trees of similar character (Siberian Pea Shrub, Seaberry) that provide food for humans and wildlife and fix nitrogen as well.

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