Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mulches, Tools, and fruit trees

There is no time like the present to start planting trees.  Fruit and nut trees take a long time to mature to the point where they are producing fruit, nuts, and things that you can put to use.  So there is no time like the present to start.  One of the things that many people do not know is that many types of fruit trees require two different types of the same tree for cross pollination.  For example if you wanted sweet cherries you might plant a Bing and a Ranier cherry so that you have at least two different types for pollination.  So when you start to plant frees be aware of this.  Unless there is someone else around who also has some cherry trees and you know the variety you will want to plant those trees that need a second variety in pairs. 

Another thing that many people don't know is that the large majority of fruit trees today are grafted trees.  What this means is that a branch of a tree you want to grow is grafted into a root stock that is from a different type of tree.  The reason for doing this many times is to select the size of the root stock.  For example if you want a dwarf tree that stays somewhat small then you will graft the branch of the variety of fruit into a root stock that is a dwarf root stock.  The branch will grow and will produce fruit true to the variety that it is.  So if it is a Gala apple you will get a Gala apple from your branch that is grafted into that root stock.  BUT, if you were to save the seed from that apple you would not get a Gala apple when you plant it.  Apple trees also require two different varieties to be planted for pollination.  This cross pollination means that the seed that will be produced will be some cross between your Gala and whatever other variety it was pollinated with.  Secondly, because of the grafting of the root stock so that your tree remains a dwarf, or semi dwarf that tree variety is also mixed into the seed and what you get is probably not going to be anything like what you expected.  Now if you have the space to experiment you can plant these seeds and see what happens.  You may very well come up with a new variety of apple.  If not you can cut down the tree, use it for mulch or firewood and plant another and keep on experimenting.  

If however your trying to just get started, or your space is limited you may want to start with a grafted tree from your local nursery, or if you happen to know how to graft and have some root stock you can graft your own.  At least when it comes to apples that is the advise I seem to keep getting.  So I have a couple of apple trees I planted 2 years ago that were bought from a local big box store.  I am planning to purchase a couple more trees this year.  Possibly plums, pears for this urban homestead location as I understand they should do well here.  However things like peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots apparently are not very reliable here in our urban location due to late frosts and late snows.  So I am hesitant to spend money on nursery trees for this location due to that fact. 

I also have some trees I purchased from the state forestry department in Missouri that will be arriving in the last week in March.  This is the cheapest way I know to get started with trees.  I ordered some Black Locust, Mulberry, Pecans, Serviceberry, Dogwood, and one or two others I believe through this program.  You have to order them in the fall when the order window opens up or you wont be able to get the trees you want.  They continue to take orders through April I believe, however to get the trees you want you need to order early.  I ordered during opening day of ordering and they were already out of Serviceberry, but sent me a notice last week that I could now get my Serviceberry trees.  So I got lucky I had tried to order them right away.  So don't wait.  I will explain the reason for the trees I ordered in another post.  There is a reason for each one in a Permaculture design. 

Now when it comes to stone fruits, peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, apricots etc you can plant from seed.  However keep in mind that the varieties that need cross pollination the fruit you get will be some cross of those varieties.  So the seed you plant will very likely not come back as the same fruit you ate.  However reading what others have done and the results I think this is very much worth experimenting with.  Budgets are limited and any time you can get essentially a free resource like a producing fruit tree just by saving some seed from something you bought for food at the store is simply a bonus.  So we are going to run off and get some starter seeds this weekend when we go grocery shopping.  We will explain the process and tell you how it goes.  We will see what we have available at the store this time of year to give this a shot and if we have some decent little starter trees for planting in the spring of 2016 that would be fantastic.  If not, nothing is lost.  Keep in mind these trees will take 5-7 years from some things to produce like peaches, and 7-10 years for a cherry tree.  So there is a time investment.  If our budget allows we will try to buy a couple trees of each variety that we want from a nursery  and get those in the ground ASAP so that we can have fruit in the next few years instead of the much longer time horizon from planting from seed.  In the mean time we will experiment with starting some of our own and see how that goes also.

So why not take free seed and start your own orchard today?  I will post some links as we start to do this process ourselves and document how we did it, and if it works for us.  Stay tuned...

There is nothing like FREE!  Especially when it is something you need.  Mulches for your garden can be free.  Seriously.  In the fall every year people are paying someone to haul off some of the most perfect composting, worm feeding, garden feeing material on the planet in the form of leaves.  Why are leaves so important?  Trees dig deep into the ground for minerals and water.  Those minerals are not easily accessible by you and me, but these deep tap rooted plants get down to where these minerals are and bring them up.  They are deposited in the wood of the tree and in the leaves.  These leaves then drop and begin decomposing and start to feed the tree from the top of the soil down.  When we remove the leaves to the tree we really are robbing it of nutrients, water, and beneficial bugs, insects, fungi, and bacteria.  Most people seem to be unaware of this and cannot wait to get those leaves out of there!  And are paying people to take them.  Here is a great article at Mother Earth News talking about this free super mulch.  Save it, use it, you will be amazed how effective they are in your garden.  You can never have too many leaves.  Check Craigslist, and ask around to your neighbors to see if you can get their leaves from them.  My urban homestead location is semi arrid so trees can be sparse in some parts, but there are trees in other parts of the city.  Again keep your eyes open for free leaves.

The Perfect Free Mulch

Now one last thing I wanted to bring up since we are talking about trees.  That would be tools to keep those trees pruned back and managable.  I have been watching a lot of Back to Eden Garden videos and the Back to Eden videos posted on L2Survive's channel are very good and very helpful.  Fantastic insight into Paul and how he gardens.  The videos on pruning are very good.  I will post a couple here.  But the tools of the trade appear to be a good pruning saw, and some pruning sheers, and a good leather scabbard so you can keep them at your side and handy.   My two apple trees in the yard right now have never been pruned so it is time to experiment and begin learning how to prune these trees.  I follow many permaculture forums and people also and some people say don't prune your trees.  Let them do their own thing.  Once you start pruning you will have to always prune.  Or so goes the conventional wisdom.  I am torn on the topic and once out on our acreage I will experiment with both methods, but for now I think I will prune these trees on our urban landscape to keep the size manageable and see if I can promote the tree growth that I am looking for.  So we will see. 

Invest in good tools, learn some skills.  Practice, practice, practice.  This year we will be getting some practice.  Looks like a set of good sheers, and pruning saw will get added to my arsenal of tools.  You want to invest in something invest in tools and learn how to use them.  The value?  Priceless! 

Have a wonderful day!  God Bless!


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