Archive for the tag 'orchard'

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.

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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

A Neat Little Box of Pears

One of our neighbours gave us this lovely box of Pears for a Christmas gift. Such a simple but beautiful thing, I was a little jealous I hadn’t thought of it first. The red blush on the fruit sets off the green packing nicely and gives it the perfect Christmassy feel.

Fruit is such a decadent thing that it’s the perfect Christmas present. When you think how long it takes to grow this many Pears (three years for a tree to come into fruition at least) and the care and attention that someone put in to produce such blemish-free fruit. They really are a treat and something to be celebrated, boxed up and given to friends and neighbours.

Once my fruit trees are producing enough I’m definitely doing this with my own fruit. I might even have a little photo on the lid that says ‘from the orchard of…’ Love it.

mtp

Apple Tasting Day

Now that I live in Portland I felt it was time to get to know my local Apples better. I know the names of British Apples quite well, Ashmead’s Kernel, Beauty of Bath, Blenheim Orange. They all have lovely traditional names. But when it comes to Apple varieties here in the Pacific Northwest I’m a beginner.

I’d love to turn part of my new garden into a mini-orchard. In reality that probably won’t materialise for about a year but that gives me plenty of time to research and prepare the ground for planting next Autumn. So when I saw that my local nursery was holding an Apple Tasting event I had to be there. For research purposes you undersand!

I’ve had most success with fruit when I’ve grown what has evolved locally. By that I mean that the variety has been perfected for my local climate and may have even originated there. When I lived in Bath, UK I grew an Apple variety called Queen Cox that was perfectly suited to the wet weather there. It blossomed and we dined on Apple Crumble all Autumn. So I’m planning to do the same here and grow what the local farms produce.

I sampled a lot of apples! To be honest by the end of it I couldn’t discern the sweet from the tart. But there were a couple of varieties that stood out for me and I’ll be trying to incorporate them into my orchard plan.

Ashmead’s Kernal – the old favourite reins. Good all rounder for eating, baking and keeping
Brock – sweet and tart and good for eating and baking
Buckeye Gala (red) – great tasting eating Apple
Cameo – Super sweet eating Apple
Cortland – Tart and great for baking
Elstar – for its taste and amazing colour, good for baking
Honey Crisp – Sweet eating Apple and a good keeper
King David – Sweet and tart and good for baking
McIntosh – sweet, good for eating, baking and keeping
Rubinette – Great for Apple sauce
Spitzenberg – Sweet and tart and can be used for drying
Swiss Gourmet – A sweet eating Apple

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Starkinson – for its sweet tast and amazing bright red colour

Asian Pear
20th Century – this had a really interesting almost flowery taste.