Sunday, February 27, 2011

Green Acres Weekend Update

I know, I know.  Most of my posts lately have been Weekend Updates.  I've downloaded photos to update you on our house progress, and hope to find the time within the next couple days to put those online.  For now, I'll enlighten you with an exciting and frightening tidbit we came up with yesterday: we have room for 26 fruit-bearing trees!

Byron and I did a little research and measured the area we want to use for an orchard, which is something I definitely want as part of our little homestead.  Initially, I thought we'd plant about six trees or so, in addition to the four we planted last summer/fall.  But after spending some time outside with a tape measure, some string, and some rocks (to mark the tree "sites"), we determined that we could fit 26 trees in this area!

One of the first determinates was spacing.  Apparently, 20' is a good, general rule for spacing fruit trees, though some might have more specific requirements.  Another savvy piece of advice was to go with fruit trees that you know do well in your area, no matter what the nurseries tell you.  Don't get me wrong; I like our local nurseries, but they are in business to sell.  So we need to think about what grows well for other people we know, and perhaps even cultivate some trees we see growing well in the wild, such as persimmon.

Another initial thought I had was to plant only apple trees, but we're now thinking a more diversified orchard would offer us better variety throughout the growing season, and not bombard us with one type of fruit in a two- or three-month time span.  One website even mentioned that certain trees can act as "detractor" trees for birds; for instance, plant a mulberry with some cherry trees, since the birds will prefer the mulberries.  A diversified orchard has us thinking of some more uncommon types of fruit as well, which is an exciting prospect.  So far, here is a very rough list:

Apple (varieties we're considering: Pink Lady, Enterprise, Arkansas Black, Liberty, Honeycrisp, - though we're not sure how well it does in our zone - and Granny Smith)
Pear (the hardiest of the common fruits)
Paw Paw
Che (pronounced "shay")
...and maybe a nut tree?

In our future orchard, we'll plan on letting the chickens loose to help with pests, and one of these days I'd love to undertake bee keeping, which would help with pollination.  But enough of the lofty goals for now...didn't I mention last week that I have a portable hen house to design?  Yeah.  Better get on that.

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