A Backyard Orchard

It was another beautiful fall day today, although a cold one after a hard frost last night. We continue to ready the vegetable garden for winter, today pulling the tomato plants and the last of the lettuce and greens. The chickens were very busy, on red alert for worms as we pulled the plants out of the ground. They’ve done a great job of cleaning up, although I feel bad about the vast number of worms they are eating. (And WHY won’t they eat slugs! We’ve got boatloads of slugs, they’d never go hungry!)

We worked on the blueberry hedge today, turning over the second half and adding 40 lbs. of gypsum, to help lighten the clay soil, and a mix of Espoma Holly-Tone fertilizer for acid loving plants, and Garden sulpher, to acidify the soil a bit — currently the pH is 6.5, and blueberries need a pH of 4.5 to 5.0 for best performance. The completed hedge will be 4’x25′ and hold 16 highbush blueberry plants. We currently have 7 in place, 2 each of Patriot and Blueray, and 3 unknown varities that came with the house.

We also worked a bit on a new bed we are planning for the spring as part of our continuing efforts at lawn reduction. This bed will run from the freestanding deck to the driveway, along the western border of the lot. Last week we added three hollies and an oakleaf hydrangea to the back border of the bed. Today we mulched with a thick layer of cardboard, and put some sandy soil (left from an earlier project) atop the cardboard to weight it down. I’ll add a thick layer of mulch hay and some Fertrell organic fertilizer soon –we hope to pick up some mulch hay Sunday morning.

The other very satisfying project we are working on is preparing for more fruit trees in the backyard. I have a Stella sweet cherry and a Montmorency sour cherry, planted 4 years ago. They flowered wanly this spring, but clearly resented the cold wet spring, and I got no fruit from either tree. Today we plotted the planting sites for an additional 7 trees, a mix of peaches, apples, and plums. I’ll add a pear tree next to our existing unknown variety of pear in a different area.

Now the hard part– how to pick just 2 or three of each fruit?!! We’ll get started on the apple question Sunday with a tasting party in the afternoon. We be tasting 7 varieties, Pumpkin Sweet, Winesap, Wolf River, Connell Red, Newtown Pippin, Spencer, Rome, Stayman’s Winesap, and Honeycrisp from Pleasant Pond Orchard. Check back later for the complete report.

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