Tag Archives: fruit trees

Growing a Little Fruit Tree

My gardening life changed the moment I stumbled across a book called “Grow a Little Fruit Tree” by Ann Ralph.  I have a large yard, but it’s still a city yard. I have no room for fruit trees…or so I thought, until I read this book. Now I have 22 fruit trees – and I’ll be adding a few more next year. And this does not include bushes,  like blueberries or gooseberries! (I have many more of those.)

A few of the trees are traditional espalier trees, that I grew from one year-old “whips” (basically a skinny little stick on roots). One of my espalier pears is blooming this year for the first time.

It’s four years old, and I’m hoping for fruit, even though its pollination pear is not blooming this year (it’s a year younger). Maybe a neighbor has a pear I don’t know about? I can hope, right?

My four year old espalier apple is also blooming.

Apple blossoms are so pretty.

I like the art of espalier, even though I’ll probably get more fruit from the “little tree” method. Supposedly, about 100 apples per tree. Given that I currently have seven apple trees, that is a very nice number!

I also have a couple of columnar apples, which are really taking off, and looking quite gorgeous.

I could be pruning them into more of an exacting columnar shape, but I rather like the extra branches.

All of the “little trees” were planted last year, and although I chopped their little trunks off even with my knee immediately after planting them, they have grown immensely.

I have two peaches, both planted together only about a foot apart. This distance helps keep them small, and of course is great for pollination.  Both peaches bloomed this year, so I’m hoping for a few actual peaches!

One of the trees was covered in the brightest pink blossoms possible. I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of the entire tree in bloom, but here’s a close up the flowers.

I have four plums, and am planning to add a couple more next year.

Two of them produced a handful of flowers, so probably next year I’ll see fruit.

Last year, I planted two sweet cherries.

And this year, two sour cherries. These are hard to see, because they haven’t leafed out yet, and are just sticks in the ground, cut off at knee level.

Can you see them? Look for the blue and yellow tags!

The cutest little tree I have is my Dolgo crabapple.  (Ignore the cardboard, we’re expanding our Back to Eden garden, and are anxiously awaiting a load of wood chips to cover said cardboard!)

Planted last year, it astonished me by producing exactly one little apple. This year, it’s blooming quite well, and I expect to get several more. See how perfectly adorable it is? And see how many branches it’s grown in one year?

I love this method. Basically, I will always keep these trees small enough to reach all the branches while standing with both feet on the ground. No ladders, no picking hooks. I could not recommend Ann Ralph’s book any higher!

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Bees, Quail, Fruit Trees, and Ducks

The peach trees are still doing fantastic. No leaf curl here!

And the peaches themselves are still growing!

The rest of the garden is looking great, too. I love this time of year.

The wood chip mulch makes everything so woodsy. And so far, it’s really helping with the soil. Although we’ve had some record scorchers, I haven’t had to water anything – other than a few things that I just put into the ground. When I pull back the chips to plant, the ground is dark and rich and full of earthworms!

To the chickens’ great sorrow and lamentation, I blocked them out of the east section of the side yard.  The plan next year, is to turn this part of the yard into a colony setup for meat rabbits. Right now, I’m growing a few excess squash and other things that the chickens would rip apart.

The strawberries are loaded with green berries, and see the little apple espalier in the corner? I love espaliers! So much fun!

And this year? I think the bees are going to make it! The queen is laying up a storm, and they are so self-suffient that they completely ignored the sugar water feeder I set up for them. Once I realized I was only feeding ants and hornets, I took it down.

Also, don’t you love the little waterer I set up for them? It’s a giraffe footstool (formerly inside the house until I got tired of it) with a shallow bowl on top. I’m glad I thought to do this, rather than just donate the footstool!

The newest trees, two little plums, are so cute.  I did a count the other day, and I have TWENTY-FOUR fruit trees in my backyard. And this is not counting the bushes, like the gooseberries and blueberries.  Grow a Little Fruit Tree changed my gardening life!

One of these plums is actually a plum/cherry hybrid, so I’m really hoping it fruits before too terribly long. I’m quite anxious to taste them!

The three new ducks are all grown up now, and they are all three boys! Since I wanted a drake, and only intended to keep one anyway, it doesn’t mess up MY plans, but the friend I was planning to give the extras away too already has a male and needed females. So I have two cute little guys up on Freecycle as we speak. Anyone out there want some ducks?

The one I’m keeping, I’ve named Montgomery.

Maisie, Millie, and Montgomery!  See the new pea gravel bedding inside their coop? They like it, and so do I. Much easier to just wash the poop away with the hose set to ‘jet’.

Oh, and look! My teeny tiny little mulberry tree is producing mulberries this year! I’m so excited, because I’ve never even tasted a mulberry, but folks say they are wonderful.

The most exiting news, however, is what’s currently in my incubator. While I am still absolutely keeping my coturnix quail, I’m branching out to bobwhites! I found a seller with Snowflake and pure white bobwhite quail eggs, and of the 12 I put in the incubator, 11 are currently developing into chicks. When they had only been four days in the incubator, I candled them, and was able to see their tiny hearts beating! Such an incredible experience!

Snowflake bobwhites are gorgeous.

bobwhiteAnd the whites are so floofy!

bobwhite2

If you’re interested, I do recommend this seller. His eggs were wonderfully packaged, and although how they are treated by the post office is out of his hands, I’m impressed with getting 11 out of 12 to develop. Sounds like he raises his birds really well, too!

 

New Edible Trees for 2016

I wasn’t going to add more trees this year, because I was going to get into meat rabbits/ducks. But it looks like we may be delaying getting into the meat animals until Fall, or even next year, so I’m going ahead and bringing in more fruit.

Four more apples.

Granny Smith, for my mother who likes her apples tart.

granny-smithAshmead’s Kernel, for me, who likes the very old heirlooms. This one sounds interesting, as it’s a dessert apple that tastes like a pear!

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Greensleeves. This isn’t an old variety, but it’s a British apple, and it sounds perfect for what I want.

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And a crab apple, Dolgo.

dolgo

In addition, I added two more plums.

Shiro, a Japanese variety.

shiro plum

And something really interesting, Nadia, a plum x cherry hybrid that’s getting some rave reviews. Supposedly, it’s like a huge juicy cherry!

nadia

Plus I bought six more raspberry plants. “Meeker”.

AND some Black Caps. (Basically black raspberries. We can’t have too many raspberries!)

From Baker Creek (rareseeds.com) I found a variety of strawberry I’ve never heard of before. From their website:

This is a cold hardy old variety from Denmark; it was found growing in an ancient, viking village site. Plants are low growing which makes them harder to spot by birds and also protects the delicate fruits from frost. These are a medium sized June bearer with a great flavor; fruit sets early. Very rare and hard to find.

How could I resist that? Viking strawberries!

Although it’s not quite spring here, spring is definitely on the way. These last couple of weeks, it’s been nice enough to get out and start doing some prep work in the outside garden, and I got a few hardy seeds (spinach and lettuce) planted in the cold greenhouse.

The birds also feel spring. The quail are laying again, and the males are amorous, so I’ve started saving eggs to hatch. Probably by Monday or Tuesday, I’ll have enough to fill the incubator.  These will be the first quail hatched from non-shipped eggs, so I’m excited to see how that works out.

Also laying eggs are the baby chicks from last year, now fully grown.  My new favorite breed is the Buckeye. If Charlotte is any example, they are placid hens that don’t get up to mischief or bullying, but also stand up for themselves, so they don’t get bullied themselves. She’s fit right in with the old girls. She’s a great forager, too.  I don’t have a recent picture of her; I’ll have take some soon. She’s a very pretty red, like a fancy Rhode Island.

The Americauna, Freddie, had a name change. It just didn’t suit her crazy temperament. She’s now Boadica, the British Queen who took on the Roman invaders. For a long time, she was simply known as ‘that crazy hen’. She’s calming down now, though – less crazy, more eggs!  She lays these pretty green eggs – kind of an olive green.

And the odd thing is, she never bothered to lay those tiny pullet “starter eggs”. She went straight to full-sized. And she’s the smallest hen I have. Ouch. No wonder she’s a bit crazy.

Garden Update

Everything is growing and green!

Every year, I’m chasing my tail trying to accomplish a long list of projects, remodels, and maintenance in the garden.  And even though I never get anywhere near the end of that last, it always feels so good to be out there working.  Even the total grunt-work and the occasional icky bits are so much more enjoyable than not being outside.  And slowly, we are getting things done.

This year, building the greenhouse has been pushed back until next year, in favor of building the paver patio addition and pathway.  It’s a good tradeoff.  We’ve also put up a clothesline in the back yard.  I love line-dryed clothes.  They smell so incredibly good, plus they have that fresh stiffness that is so preferable to soft.  Can I say that I just hate fabric softener?  Ick.  (I also hate thick plush towels that are too plush to properly soak up water, and too thick to wrap around your head.  There’s a reason I always buy the absolute cheapest towels I can find, and it’s not because of cost!)  Anyway, that was a digression…we’re here to talk garden!

I’ve also chosen and planted a bunch more fruit trees and shrubs.

Three more blueberries: Jersey and Bluecrop

Two red currants: Cherry Red

Two peaches: Indian Free and Charlotte

One pear: Seckel

One apple: Arkansas Black

Two cherries: Tartarian Black and Royal Anne

Two plums: Coe’s Golden Drop and Mirabelle

Purple raspberries: Brandywine

Next year, I hope to put in four more apples, and then we’ll be done…except for possibly another couple of grapes.  I’m thinking the chickens need a Concord grape in their run.

All of the new trees are leafing out, which is always good to see.  Following the directions in Growing a Little Fruit Tree, we’ve chopped them off to knee height.

The columnar apples I put in last year are blooming for the first time.  They are so pretty and SO sweetly scented!

Plus, I put in a bunch more strawberries, of a variety called “Mara des Bois”, which is a cross between a regular strawberry and an alpine/wild one.  It’s supposed to be similar in flavor to the tiny alpines, but in a standard size.  If that’s true, it’ll be amazing!

The duck coop is almost done.  The foundation is in, the top part mostly just needs hardware and doors attached, and then it needs a roof.   Weather permitting, we just *might* get it done before next week…which is good because that’s when the ducks are arriving!

Ducklings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And because I don’t have any duck pictures, I’ll end with a few pretty blooming flowers.

The smell of pansies is the smell of Spring, to me.

This is one of the new lavenders that’s blooming. It’s called “Raspberry Ruffles”. Perfect name. I hope it survives in my garden. Fancy lavender is sometimes iffy for me.

On Quail Monogamy & Remodeling a Garden

Loki the quail is being a bad boy.  Or a good one, depending on whether you are the female he loves…or the female he hates and was chasing all over the pen, causing her fly into walls out of sheer panic.

I’m starting to think coturnix quail are monogamists.  They’re fine kept in a group of a male and several females in the fall/winter, but once those spring hormones kick in…oh boy.  So right now I’ve got Peabody and wife together, and Loki and wife together.  I’ve had to put the other Italian girl in her own little wired off area, because she was going to hurt herself, trying to escape.  Cinna is still with two girls, but even he clearly has a girl he’s bonded with, and one he ignores.  I think once I either give away one of the pairs (or a male dies) I’m going to keep two breeding pairs, and one cage of only females for egg production.  They are definitely teaching me what they like, these quails!

And in spite of the fact that we are counting down to April 17th, and the arrival of three little ducklings, we haven’t started building their coop.  Instead, we are remodeling the back yard.  I’m of the persuasion that more than a small patch of lawn is a waste of space.  Mom is very attached to her lawn…or was.  I don’t know what I said, but suddenly she came around to my way of thinking, and we are getting out of the backyard lawn business.  Except for a few small areas.

We are also putting a paverstone path instead of the grassy area that always gets the most foot traffic.  In the winter, this area turns to mud, and I once used it accidentally as a very effective slip n’ slide.

Also, thanks to the influence/encouragement of Grow a Little Fruit Tree, I have planted two peach trees.  One Indian Free, the other Charlotte.

The boards are there because Dexter has discovered the joys of digging disturbed dirt.  Joy is a muddy, filthy corgi!

I also planted two cherries: Black Tartarian and Royal Ann, and have two plums on order: Coe’s Golden Drop and Mirabelle.  I’m especially excited about the Mirabelle, because there used to be house nearby with a plum tree producing mini yellow plums.  They were so good, but neither the owner nor I had any idea what they were.  Finally, though, I’m sure I figured the mystery out.  Since the house near me was sold and the tree removed, I’ll be so happy to have one of my own.

Also, I was in the local paper Sunday.  After being interviewed on keeping backyard chickens, a photographer came and took some pictures of my setup.  It’s too bad everything is in winter ugly mode right now, but the article did come out well.  I did not say I used ‘fine sawdust’ as bedding in my coop, however.  That would be a recipe for disaster!  Large flake shavings, that’s the ticket!

It was a surprise to find I’d actually made the front cover…sharing space with the human trafficers, no less!

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

So normally I save up my favorite books for a blog post at the end of the year.  I’m breaking that tradition in order to tell you about this fantastic book I just finished.

It’s brilliant, people.  If you’ve ever had an interest in growing fruit trees – lots of fruit trees – in your yard, but never thought you had enough room, this is the book you need.

book33I pre-ordered this on a whim, and it was delivered to my kindle last night, around bedtime.  I started reading it…and let’s just say I was late getting to bed.  I couldn’t put it down.

Everything you ever learned about growing and pruning fruit trees is wrong – and everything she says makes so much sense.

Totally going to get a peach tree this year…and a cherry…and a plum…oh yeah.  I love my espaliered pears and apples, but stone fruit don’t work well as espaliered trees (unless you fan-shape them, which I don’t care for, AND I’m running out of good espalier garden spots.)  I’m so excited to give this a try!