One of the first thoughts we had about our property was, “this place needs more fruit trees”. We have a small orchard that we have certainly made use of, but this year we are finally making an effort to put resources into adding new trees and grafting onto the trees we already have. Apples, pears, wild cherries, and plums are the basics we have been working with up until now. This past week, we began increasing the variety of those fruits, as well as adding in citrus and figs.
Let the grafting bring! Here is a photo of one of our established apple trees (originally some sort of yellow delicious) that has just been dramatically altered through some serious (much needed) pruning and the addition of roughly one dozen grafts for new apple varieties. Many thanks to Thaddeus, who had made this his project!
A gopher. A gopher…ate the roots of two of our fig trees! The anger and disappointment of it all. Sigh. But, we rallied. We made cuttings from the eaten trees and have set them in dirt to re-root. And, impatient, we bought an older tree at a local nursery to replace the 4 year old tree the gopher destroyed. This is our new fig tree, planted back into the hill where the previous one sat, but this time equipped with a loose, chicken-wire, root protecting cage. Round two begins.
Never ones to deny the kid his love of shoveling, we had Archimedes out helping us plant five new trees in the orchard. It was raining and the ground was so wet, but we got it done: a peach, a cherry, two persimmons, and two ume (Japanese flowering plum, the unripened fruit is used to make pickles).
Now the orchard is starting to take on more of the shape we have been wanting. This is a very exciting project for us!
This weekend we set up some temp fencing on the steep hill between the garden and the house, and let the sheep come eat down the tall grass. We’re keeping them off the pastures to try to recover from the hard year last year, and they’ve been stuck eating hay for weeks, so they were pretty excited for the break. Well, the adults were, anyway.. the lambs took a little training before they figured it out…
But once the lambs got used to the idea, they settled right in on the garden steps and organized the cutest photo op ever!
While the lambs napped, we hauled compost to repair the garden beds, and pulled weeds. Last frost date is fast approaching!
Now that we have a greenhouse, we can get a real head start on the garden. Being able to do this is more important than ever, because the average temperatures in 2016 are expected to be even hotter than 2015, and that was the hottest year on record!
Why does heat matter? Well, plants don’t grow just through sunlight alone – differences in temperature change the speed with which plants mature. Especially in our small gardening space, it is important to understand when a crop is done producing, so that it can be pulled out and replaced. Being able to take advantage of ‘degree days’ means being ready with seedlings as soon as the last freeze happens, so that when the hot days come, we have plants at the right stage in development to take advantage of it.
And what that means is: seeding!! Grandpa John and Archer helped mix potting soil and fill 4″ pots, and Megan has spent hours in the greenhouse setting tiny seeds in their first homes. We’ve got cabbage, kale, chard, onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, leeks, and cauliflower started, with salad, arugula, carrots, snap peas and fava beans in the ground. This summer is going to be delicious!!