Thursday, 20 October 2016

Rooty fruity

As part of our plans for the garden we want to surround the plot with native hedging and plant numerous trees. Although the smallholding is not very big, by careful planning and planting we will have space for plenty of fruit trees in the Food Forest.

Today we headed to a supermarket that had bare-root fruit trees for sale for £4.50 each. I expected to find small trees or whips, but to my delight they are healthy looking plants around four feet high. The roots are wrapped to keep some moisture around them and as yet I haven't inspected their root systems, but the top of the trees look good. They are grafted onto M26 rootstock and other semi-dwarfing rootstocks, so the eventual height of each tree will be around ten to twelve feet. For us, this is an ideal height, not so short that the trees look out of scale in the available space, but not so large that we'd need ladders to reach the fruit (or not for many years at least).

The fruit trees that I selected are

1 x Apple Cox's Orange Pippin (which were my father's favourite apple)
2 x Apple Elstar
1 x Apple Jonagold
2 x Cooking Apple Bramley

1 x Pear Doyenne Du Comice
1 x Pear Conference

3 x Plum Opal
1 x Plum Victoria

2 x Cherry Stella
3 x Cherry Morello

All these for a little over £75!

These will be the bulk of the fruiting trees in the food forest together with an apple tree from my neighbour (not sure what it's called but the fruits are delicious) and a mirabelle tree that I lifted from the root system of a mirabelle tree in the duck enclosure. I'll also plant some young hazelnut trees and elderberry trees moved from behind the piggeries. I'd like to find some quince, mulberries and a medlar tree, but those will have to wait until I find them at a reasonable price.

Tomorrow I will start to prepare for their planting by digging holes and incorporating plenty of well rotted wood chippings and garden compost, I will add a very little granulated organic plant food and prepare a mycrorrhizal fungi gel which should encourage root development and give the trees a good start. Where I can't dig down into the soil, I will build Heugelkultur mounds, piling old logs onto the ground with smaller branches on top, then cover them with a mix of topsoil and composted wood chippings before planting a tree on top of the mound. The mounds will be ideal on the areas where there are gentle slopes, so that water naturally gravitates towards the tree mound and the woody material will absorb the water, giving the trees access to moisture when they need it.

I plan to under-plant the trees with comfrey that has deep roots to draw up nutrients from the lower levels of the soil and leaves that can be used as a chop-and-drop mulch and also strawberries which will wilt quickly when they are lacking water and give me a hint that the trees may need a drink too.

Hopefully by next spring the trees will be settled into their new positions and will reward us with a lovely display of blossom.

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