Archive for the 'Fruit / Orchard' Category

mtp

Orchard Grass

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The orchard grass is growing. I sowed my Eco Lawn back in May and it has done wonderfully. I watered it every day for two weeks until established and now I haven’t watered it for about two weeks. It still looks great and is starting to throw up the odd flower. We often mow pathways into it. And when it gets too long mow it down completely and start again. I’m very pleased with it.

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This is what the orchard looked like back in February when I planted it.

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This is what it looked like last year when the orchard was a mere glint in my eye.

mtp

My Little Strawberry Picker

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This here is my little Stawberry picker. He knew when the Strawberries were ripe. He knew before me. He had been watching them all week. And yes there were a few green ones that came into the house ‘Can I eat this Mama?’ ‘Well I wouldn’t – and….” I was about to say and don’t pick any more green ones but he was already gone.

But today – yes! today we picked our bowl full of ripe, red Strawberries and ate them all as fast as we could.

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Not content with having one basket of Strawberries available my little Strawberry picker went to get the punnet of Strawberries that I bought at the shop the day before. I was amazed to see the difference. The store-bought ones were dull, and a little dry looking.

I suppose that’s why we grow our own, right?

mtp

My New Eco-Lawn

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Here’s a rare photo of me (in shorts!) sowing a new eco-lawn underneath the fruit trees in my orchard.

What’s an eco-lawn? Well, good question. It’s a lawn that is low-maintenance. Either it has low-growing grasses and therefore doesn’t need much mowing, or it uses drought-tolerant varieties that will resist going brown in the summertime. And they usually have some kind of low-growing flower, or nitrogen fixing plant in there too for good measure.

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I chose a mixture called Fleur de Lawn made by a local company but you can buy them anywhere. I used the bowls to divide it evenly across the space I have (I’m sure there are more scientific ways – like hiring a seed spreader). The mix I bought includes, ‘English Daisy, Baby Blue Eyes, Sweet Alyssum, Tiny Strawberry Clover combined with hardy low-growing grasses and other herbaceous plants.’

My plan is to let it get quite long – couple of inches, before I mow a pathway through it. Then after that I’ll mow the whole thing once a month. That’s the plan…

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This is what the orchard looked like before.

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…and a couple of weeks later.

Anyone else have any experience with eco-lawns? Any low maintenance tips?

mtp

Pear Blossom and the Fruit Loop

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At the weekend we drove out to see the Pear blossom in an area called the Fruit Loop near here. It’s where all the fruit farms are. There is mile after mile of fields that look like this. I was in heaven! It’s so interesting to see how gnarled the trees are and also how closely they are planted. The rows are far apart because they need to get a tractor down there but the actual trees couldn’t have been more than six feet away from each other. Incredible.

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The Orchard Is Here!

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This doesn’t look like much but believe it or not it’s my whole orchard! The fruit trees that I ordered back in December arrived last week when the snow was deep and the temperatures were well below zero. I kept them cold and moist in the basement until today when the snow began to melt and the soil was workable again. We planted all nine fruit trees and the three little white and blackcurrants too.

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Each one has two wooden stakes pushed into the sides of the planting hole. I also put a couple of Mycorrhiza packs in each hole. Read more about Mycorrhiza here. And the last thing to do will be to label them.

It looks a bit odd to be planting trees in the snow but it’s important to get dormant trees in the ground as soon as possible. And the temperatures predicted for the next week are positively mild for this time of year.

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So there you have it. The beginnings of my orchard. I feel like I need to pop the bubbly!

mtp

Planning my Orchard

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Planting and caring for my own fruit orchard has been a dream of mine for quite some time. I think I can trace my excitement to one day about eight years ago when I went to the orchard tea rooms at Granchester, just outside Cambridge in England. It was a beautiful sunny day and we sat underneath old Apple trees, in frayed deckchairs and drank tea from clinky china cups. There may have been an amount of cake eaten too but to be honest I can’t remember. The day was and is a complete haze for me. All I could do was sit there and dream of how I was to create my own little Granchester.

It helps my poetic idyll that Rupert Brooke also had an opinion on it. The final lines of one of his most famous poems is about afternoon tea at Granchester, “Stands the church clock at ten-to-three And is there honey still for tea?”

I don’t know what it is that makes orchards so romantic, but they are.

The photo above is the patch of land at the side of our house that was always going to be the orchard. We’ve been living here for a year now and I haven’t really done anything to this part of the garden except let it get hideously overgrown. As you can see I’ve been quite successful at that.

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But last month I decided that 2014 would be the year to plant the orchard. And if the trees are coming in the Spring then that only means one thing. The ground needed to be cleared, the stumps removed and the soil improved. I did not do it. We hired a group of guys to come and do the heavy stuff.

They brought a mini-digger in and removed all the larger bushes. They were mostly large Viburnums, Lilacs and very, very big Sword Ferns. I was sad to see the plants go but go they must.

And this is what is left. A frozen wasteland with sticks denoting where the trees will be planted. The trees will all be semi-dwarfing and so with pruning I should be able to keep them between 12 -15 feet. They need to be at least eight foot apart and so with this taken into consideration I can fit 10 fruit trees in.

Over the years I’ve done a lot of research on choosing Apple varieties. These are the trees I have selected and ordered from Raintree Nursery.

Apples:
Egremont Russet EMLA26 eating
Liberty EMLA 26 eating

Honeycrisp M26 eating
King Edward VII M26 baking

Pears:
Rescue
Conference

Sweet Cherry:
Black Gold

Persimmon:
Nikita’s Gift

Plum:
Stanley

I have grouped them here in pollination groups and will be planting those trees next to each other to maximise pollination. I already have a Crab Apple tree in the garden which I saved because it will be great for pollination too.

I also ordered some soft fruit bushes. White and Red Currants, Black Currants, etc. I’ll wait until the orchard is planted to put in some Raspberry canes. I’m not sure where I’ll have the room yet!

So there you have it. A planned orchard. Obviously I have quite a way to go before I actually harvest any fruit and I’m certain there will be lots of lessons to be learned. But it’s exciting to finally get operation Granchester off the ground.

mtp

The Solitary Fig

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Well, my Fig tree has one Fig on it. It’s a start! And everyone has to start somewhere, even a tiny Fig tree that in about 15 year time will dominate the garden (that’s the plan). But I’ll take one Fig. I fretted over whether to pick it (as you do when there is but one). And I observed it as it started to move from horizontal to the tree to more curved over like it was loaded with juice. Then yesterday I touched it to give it a squeeze and it came off in my hand. Now if ever there was a sign that it’s ready…

It tasted very fragrant, like the best fig flavour you can think of. But… it wasn’t very juicy. Almost dry. Maybe I let it go too long. Anyone have any nuggets of advice on Figs?

mtp

Tasting My First Medlar

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I planted a Medlar tree last Spring. I don’t know why but the moment I first saw a Medlar I knew that I would have to plant one at some time. And the minute I had the space to do it, I did.

I first saw one at The Courts Garden, a National Trust property near Bath that I visited a lot when I lived in the UK. The tree wasn’t very big – I’m estimating around 12 foot high but it was perfectly proportioned. It bloomed with white flowers in the Spring and dangled with brown jewel-like fruit in Autumn.

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I never dared to touch the fruit (someone might see me!) and so I didn’t know what a Medlar tasted like. I had heard that it was one of the oldest fruits that we still cultivate and that it had been popular in Medieval times.

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The fruits aren’t that big, say the size of a small Tomato, and they hold onto the tree way past leaf fall and into the Winter. Infact, the softer the fruit the better they taste. They need to be bletted or rotted before they are soft enough to eat. Before that they are just like hard crab Apples, ie. bitter and yuk!

My Medlar has done surprisingly well. It has coped with both my clay, waterlogged soil and near drought conditions in the summer! It also had some lovely orange leaves in the Autumn.

Now there are six fruits on my tree. I’m surprised since I only planted it last year. I could see that they were ready because they were drooping down and when I squeezed them they were soft and bouncy.

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So here they are. And it’s time to taste my first one! The taste is interesting. It’s like stewed Apple but fresher and with more caramel. I like it! There are stones in there so you have to avoid them. And the flesh is so soft that you really have to eat it with a spoon. And… there isn’t much of it. But… my curiosity is filled. I now have my very own piece of history, growing in my garden.

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Good question! You need a long, hot summer and a good location to grow Watermelon but if you’re lucky enough to have that then you may be able to grow Watermelon. The question is, when do you pick? Because after all that hard work you don’t want to spoil it all by picking too late or indeed too early.

But don’t worry there are signs that will tell you when is the right time.

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The first sign to look for is the nearest tendril to the fruit. It will be curled and, if the Watermelon is ripe, it will brown and shrivelled. The one in the photo is not, so this Watermelon is not yet ready.

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Next look for a small cup-shaped leaf near to the fruit called the ‘spoon’ leaf. It’s about the size of a teaspoon and different from the other leaves. If this leaf is brown and shrivelled or has even fallen off then this is another sign that the Watermelon is ready.

Lastly, inspect the underside of the Watermelon. Is there a white patch, or lighter patch on the Watermelon. If so then this could be a sign that it’s not ready. Ripe Watermelons should be a nice deep green colour all over.

So there you go. If all the signs are there, harvest now, before the weather gets any worse.

mtp

Family Raspberry Picking

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We went on our first Raspberry picking trip this weekend. We drove to a farm on Sauvie Island and found a sweet little place with Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries and cutting flowers available. It was family-run with mum and grandma weighing out the fruit under make-shift tents and people tripping off into the distance with cardboard flats and coming back laden with fruit – too much fruit in many cases but that’s what you do at fruit farms right?

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It was a hot day and our children were never going to make it all the way to the Strawberry patch so we stopped at the first row of Raspberries we came to. Predictably, the row had no ripe fruit in the first 20 paces or so but further in where fewer human hands had been the fruit dripped off the canes and we started filling our cases. The children loved it. They ran up and down picking (and eating, of course) like they had never had Raspberries before. Jackson took to sitting in the cart in the shade and eating directly out of the box as I picked them – well it’s much easier that way, he figured out.

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I loved our fruit-picking time. It was like stepping back in time to a ‘me’ in the thirties or forties. I imagined that I lived down the lane in my tumble-down cottage and this was my nearest farm where I collected my fruit. In my mind I was also dressed in a tea dress and heels with urchin, shoeless children and probably a husband in an army uniform somewhere. That didn’t happen. But it probably should.

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