For me, the past two weeks has been spent putting several hours into researching fruit trees. I felt like a student again, as I constantly had a textbook (Holistic Orchard, by Michael Phillips) and a notebook, furiously scribbling down notes on anything that seemed like it might be important.
This was brought on by the expansion of the Hust Roost and the new access to the plot where we decided to begin our little orchard. When we go down to Glen Aubrey this weekend, we will stake out the exact locations of the future trees, take soil samples for Cathy to test (it is notably convenient that my step-mother works at a lab), and potentially order the trees for the spring.
To begin with, we are looking to plant sixteen trees next spring. Five will be apples, four peaches, three cherries, two pears, and two apricots. They will be twenty feet apart from each other, and we will have designated areas for future expansion should we so desire. In the meantime, we will make the soil as ideal as possible before Spring based on the test results. This will likely involve putting lime down to alter the ph levels of the soil, the calcium levels of the soil, and the magnesium level of the soil, composting manure to be prepared to use near the trees, and putting wood chips around where the trees will be to build up the good fungi in their future root zones.
Tom and I have spent the last couple of days reading through more types of apples, peaches, pears, cherries, and apricots than I ever knew existed, trying to find the perfect fruits for us. Obviously, we put a high value on flavor. However, we also had to give strong consideration to what cold hardiness zones the fruit could thrive in, what the fruit’s history in our region has been, how susceptible it is to common diseases for our area, when it ripens (we preferred to have the fruit mature at different times so that we could harvest apples for two months instead of two weeks), what was necessary for the best pollination, and what size tree is best for us. May I just say that my brain is in a bit of fruit shock right now.
Besides making my head spin, all of this research has gotten me really excited. We knew we wanted to have an orchard, but now I can picture it when I close my eyes (in fact, when I close my eyes, all I can see is fruit right now). We visited an orchard just yesterday, asked some questions, and bought some fruit. Now, as I look at that fruit in our fruit bowl, I can almost taste the fruit of the Loom (I have decided to call our little orchard, the Loom).
The next couple of days will be spent researching what nurseries we want to buy our trees from before we make our fateful purchase. According to everything I have read, it will be three or four years before our trees are bearing fruit, but our orchard journey has begun, and we are prepared to work hard so that we can one day enjoy the fruit of our labor.