When we moved into this place, we knew we wanted to get some apple trees in straight away. 3 years is a long time to wait for fruit and we didn’t want to make the wait any longer. That was 2014, we bought three varieties at a local tree farm- McIntosh, Wealthy, Cortland and planted them in a neat triangle at the bottom of the garden space where the driveway veers towards the treeline.
You can see them over on the right side in the area labeled Orchard #1. They are paired with 3 flowering crab trees to aid in attracting pollinators.
Obviously years one and two were uneventful. Our only priority year one was keeping them well watered and mulched. We protected the bark from rodents and fenced them off to shield them from wayward deer teeth and antlers. Year two was more of the same, save the watering. I did some pruning last winter to encourage new, more desirable, growth and hopefully creating more spurs.
It worked! We got a nice crop of apples last summer/fall. So much so that we had to reduce the fruit on all but one of the trees because it was causing the branches to bend in ways that made me very uncomfortable!
The harvest was so enjoyable (apples were grabbed and shared between us when walking to pick up the mail, while mowing the lawn, etc) that we decided we would beef up the crop and plant a new orchard. As luck would have it, our Garden Club hosted a local fruit farmer as a speaker this winter. She had all sorts of tips, but she also spelled out which varieties were thriving in our shared climate.
I went to Fedco Trees and searched through the available trees (and got very distracted by the excellent descriptions and other fruit tree varieties). After ending up with 12 difrrerent apple varieties in my cart, I took a few days off to really think about what we wanted from the trees and for the space. I narrowed it down to four apples which I think is quite a feat of restraint and reason.
From Seed Saver’s Exchange (which does a selection of heirloom varieties each year): Pewaukee Apple (I just had to get this one since Pewaukee is my home town and this apple is in fact from my home town, circa 1842!)
I couldn’t help myself and also ended up ordering two plum trees. I personally prefer apricots, but we can’t grow them with any real success here so plums it was. Both of the plum varieties we chose were developed in our area so we know they will be hardy and produce well in our conditions. These were also from Fedco: Black Ice Plum, LaCrescent Plum (this is a golden variety with a mild flavor and can be used much like an apricot)
Now that the plants are ordered, the real question becomes where do we want to situate the second orchard? The obvious choice is at the very bottom of the hillside. There is a bit of a ridge that runs parallel to the path and is wide enough for two rows of trees while still providing a buffer for the farmer that works that bit of field (the striped area at the bottom). That is Option #1. Option #2 is to run the trees along the west side of the driveway. I’m less enamored of this choice as it would hit the hillside planting we’ve worked so hard on, but it would make harvesting a breeze and be quite the sight when the trees were in bloom. Option #3 is closer to the house, but I worry that having windfall fruit that close to the house and main garden is only inviting deer further into the garden- we all know that is an invitation better left unsent.
Running the trees down the East (right) side of the driveway isn’t an option as the trees would eventually interfere with the power lines and the Electric Company would come buzz them down.
It looks like Option #1 is the way we are leaning. We will have to do a good bit of site prep as that area is tall grass. Hopefully the blade on the John Deere will make short(ish) work of it? We will likely fence off the entire area rather than individual trees since it is near the deer path that cuts across our land. I can’t wait to get stuck in, just a few more months to go…