The contract to buy Fairy Wren Cottage was signed in Spring but I had to wait until Winter to purchase bare rooted fruit trees.
*Check with your local nursery when they expect their bare fruit tree order to arrive so you can be one of the first to see it and have a good selection of fruit trees to choose from (before they are sold out) or if you have certain varieties in mind ask if the nursery can order them for you.
In those first weeks of buying the property I was impatient, wanting to plant everything yesterday but those months of waiting gave me time to make wiser decisions.
Having time gave me the opportunity to do research on what varieties grow well where.
As per usual I made a wish list, it consisted of every fruit tree Michael, Lil or I liked the sound of then narrowed that list down to how many fruit trees we could possible plant on our property.
Some of the questions I considered were:
How big an area of the property to devote to small fruit tree orchards.
Fruit trees grown on standard stock vs dwarf fruit tree stock.
Planting the fruit trees in straight lines vs planting them around the path ways.
How many espaliers?
Considering the actual mature size of a fruit tree in relation to placement of the trees growing close to each other.
Walking paths. Gateways.
Other plants to have growing in the orchards to promote bee numbers, beneficial insects.
Wind barriers, what to plant around the perimeters of the garden.
Access to gates, taps.
Who would be living in the orchards? Ducks, Hens, Roosters, Guinea Pigs.
Access to Hen & Duck Houses and Guinea Pig Hutches.
Access to the fruit trees when they have reached maturity. eg. pruning, picking fruit. Consider proximity to fencing, paths, the tap, hutches and hen/duck houses.
Tree guards & mulch for young fruit trees.
Placing compost bins/piles close to young fruit trees, when the compost has matured spreading it around the tree. Saves time shovelling matured compost into a wheelbarrow and shifting it to another part of the property.
During those months of waiting I knew we had to put money aside and save for those trees.
It is a large initial investment at first that can put a lot of people off because it does take a few years to get good harvests and a lot of people do think what is the point when you can buy a bag of apples for little cost, but the returns are higher than I could have ever imagined.
We grow heritage varieties that you can’t easily find in the shops.
The fruit we grow is chemical free, it is organically grown using permaculture principles. Safe to eat.
Planting an orchard adds capital to your property.
The orchard provides a habitat for birds, wildlife, insects and bees.
Shelter & shade, beauty & bountiful harvests.
The learning experience of planting and tending an orchard is life changing.
The orchards have become a quiet place for meditation, contemplation. So much can be learnt about a garden and the land where it is created and the animals that live in it and visit it just by watching and listening, turning off the inner dialogue and just being present.
What varieties to grow?
Different varieties of fruit are harvested at different times of the year, there are early, mid & late season ripening fruit. This can be an interesting fact to realise since so much fruit can be bought at anytime of the year but it is true and adds an even greater layer of understanding when it comes to following the seasons.
We didn’t want all our fruit to harvest at once. Harvesting fruit is time consuming, by choosing fruit trees that are harvested at different times allows more time and makes it easier to process/store the fruit. Harvesting becomes an enjoyable process instead of being rushed, there is also time in the day for other gardening jobs like watering, collecting the small zucchinis before they triple in size over night and picking flowers. It’s that time of the year when the garden needs tending the most and is abundant.
Months before the fruit is ready to pick it is Springtime when the fruit trees are flowering/blossom (the blossom turns into fruit) the weather can be unpredictable. If you had all your fruit trees fruiting at once that means they would be flowering at once. One awful storm could wipe out all of your fruit harvest for the year.
Lil made a chart for each fruit tree variety that we grow and when it is expected to be harvested. It lives permanently on the fridge, it is an easy way to become familiar with what grows where and what to keep an eye on.
To stand in amongst the branches of a fruit tree I have helped plant with Michael while a much younger Lil played close by with her flock of hens and to pick the fruit years later and eat it right there, still warm from the summer sunshine is one of life’s true joys for me. I close my eyes and can here the familiar sounds of chooks and ducks, the New Hollanders flitting around the garden, the Fairy Wren’s with their two little chicks chatting away to each other as they skip from the Kitchen Garden across the Pittosporums into the Back Orchard to the Ranelagh Apple and White Pearmain, coming that little bit closer curious as always to see what that human is doing standing very still in between the branches eating fruit with her eyes closed. These are memories I cherish, heartfelt memories Michael, Lil and I have created for ourselves. Our lives are richer for it and for that I am beyond grateful.
Establishing our Garden: Fruit Trees.
January 17, 2019