Tag Archives: Garden

Growing little fruit trees

I recently finished a book called Grow a Little Fruit Tree — a great, easy read for anyone interested in starting a home orchard. I learned about the book through NextDoor, my favorite social network of the last year. When I posted a photo of peach blossoms to celebrate early spring, I got a comment that it looked like I might not have pruned the tree recently and this book was suggested as a guide. I didn’t take it personally at all — this is a hobby and I am always learning from others.

I realized pretty quickly that I had done nearly everything wrong with the fruit trees I had purchased so far. Most importantly, I did not fully respect the full-grown size of these trees. Here are my notes:

  • The key to maintaining a small fruit tree is to prune every summer around the solstice. This keeps the tree small by reducing its vigor (typically this is the reason to avoid a summer prune)
  • Winter pruning increases vigor, use to thin out a fruit tree
  • Maintain 3-4 major limbs, the “scaffold”
  • 1 Apple requires 30 leaves
  • Compost goes on top, not in the hole, when planting trees
  • Planting a potted plant: as deep as the pot, 2x as wide, no soil on the surface, 4-6 inch berm around
  • The tardy prune (my situation for selecting tall trees and nit pruning last summer): at summer solstice cut the central leader down to knee height
  • 45-degree angle is ideal for an unsupported branch of a fruit tree
  • Too much water suffocates roots
  • Yellow leaf that falls easily = too much water
  • Yellow leaf that holds on = micronutrient defficency
  • Let surface soil dry at least a couple of inches (moisture = disease)
  • Water rarely, thoroughly
  • Add worm castings to mulch (compost) and apply each year
  • Figs fruit on new wood

And now, some before and after photos of my first solstice “tardy” prune. It’s all a learning exercise so I’ll watch these over the years to see how they do.

On that last Pawpaw I am hopeful one little sprout will get more nutrients as a result of this prune and add a third branch to my scaffold.

The next time I plant fruit trees I’ll start with bare root trees so that I can make this first hard prune right away. I’m still hopeful these trees will grow well, but probably not as well as they might have if I’d started from the beginning. Now I just watch and wait.

Early summer color pop

I’m enjoying this corner of the garden especially right now for its early summer pop of color.

I planted the anise hyssop (purple) and the mountain mint (silver/green) as plants from a nursery, but the echinacea grew from seed and has been prolific. I am amazed by how well it’s done considering my neglect – I honestly don’t even remember when I planted it.

Hedge design (Sweet Bay Laurel)

Just sharing something I put together for a friend that wants to block the view of a neighbor’s house from their back patio. It’s not totally correct with spacing and siting, but could be tweaked pretty easily. I chose Bay Laurel because it’s evergreen and the leaves can be used in the kitchen (bay leaves) and the shrubs and perennials provide a nearly year round color mix, attraction to pollinators and birds, and are low maintenance once established. If I were to actually install this I would follow the instructions in this “How To Create A Privacy Hedge” video by Urban Farmstead.

Good mornings

Yesterday morning I shared a sugar snap pea with my 18-month old while we watched bees forage on some Verbascum (Mullein) that I planted earlier this month. I’ve had some flops this year so far including beets, fennel, poppies, bachelor’s button, etc. I’ve already rearranged several plants that were either crowding each other out or not getting the amount of sun they require. So often, all I can think about is the work that still needs to be done, but in that moment, thinking about the benefits to nature and our quality of life, I was grateful for something going well. And considering the ease of use and the quick reward I will definitely be doubling down on these peas next year.

A is for Allée

I believe that the beauty of D.C. is the simplicity of a good plan: symmetry, long vistas, and grand terminals. All of these qualities are found in the allée.

Here is a photo I took while walking the National Mall:

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What I love about the allée is that it’s so simple. With a straight path and some lovely trees we could turn any formless green space into a memorable experience.

With the allée, a simple path becomes dramatic. A walk becomes an journey.