Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fruity Fun

Almond in bloom
Clearly the new year’s resolution to blog more often is going swimmingly...

So instead of agonizing over where to start I thought I would just hop right into the middle and work my way out. We’ve done a lot around the house in the year and a half since we bought it. Today, inspired by a post on Northwest Edible Life, I’m going to share with you what we are doing in the way of fruit production.

Bri and I both love fruit and eat a lot of it, if left to our own devices, so establishing fruit was (is!) important to both of us in our efforts in  building our suburban homestead.  Most types of fruit take several years to come into full production, so we want to get them established as soon as practical. Our goal is to be 90% fruit self-sufficient in about 5 years.
After much discussion and graphing, we decided to make the front yard into the main "orchard". Because we wanted to get at least some fruit started as soon as possible we made this decision early on. The front yard is 40’x60’ plus there is what we refer to as the “yardette” directly in front of the house with the walkway to the front door, a little grass, and bushes that were in when we purchased the house.

The Front Yard - a.k.a. The Orchard
When we purchased the house nearly the entire front was given to grass. We wanted it gone, but were unwilling to use chemicals so this is what we did:
We laid out our plan.
Bri drew the graph and I filled in the trees.
In the 40'x60' space we have 27 trees with one remaining empty spot slotted for a quince when I find one.
(Yes, this is to scale. Yes, the trees are in a nearly palindromic layout. Yes, we are both mildly OCD...)

Then we used wooden stakes to lay out the plan.
 This was mostly for me, as I don't conceptualize well. This also garnered a lot questions from neighbors!

On to actually getting it done! First we tilled the entire front grass area.

We watered the whole mess then tarped the entire lawn.
 This know as "soil solarizing", although we didn't do it exactly as a lot of sites direct.
This won us even more strange looks and questions.

Four weeks later we removed the tarps and tilled again.

Planting day! June 2010.

 Trees in and irrigation run.

10 months later and the trees are bigger and starting to bloom! Sadly, that is not grass, just mowed weeds :)

One of the spots has an experimental 2-in-1 planting of pluots.  We have one almond tree and the rest are fruit: three peaches, two plums, two nectarines, two apricots, two cherries, four apples, three avocados, two figs, a persimmon, asian pear, pomegranate, and loquat. Our front yard project for this spring is to replace the couple of trees that didn't make it, bury the irrigation lines, retill the rows and seed it with a mixture of orchard grass, clover, and dandelion.

The Back Yard

When we bought the house there were two established citrus trees in the back yard, so we decided to keep the theme and put all our citrus in the back. We ripped pretty much all of the plants the previous owners had and put in 9 more citrus and a bay tree.

These four are in pots on the patio:

Bay Tree

Kaffir Lime


Satsuma Tangerine
This tree was an extra "mystery" tree that was double labeled as a tangerine and a grapefruit. I stuck it in a pot and hoped it was a tangerine. I got my wish!

The remainder of the citrus are in ground:

This was established when we got here. It was a surprise, I didn't realize it was a fruit tree when we were purchasing the house.
I also thought it was a lime tree until about a month ago, but we don't need to talk about that.

Satsuma Tangerine

Honey Tangerine
It's smaller and more balanced now, we removed the tall scions that you see here.

Blood Orange
Meyer Lemon

Navel Orange

This is the other tree that was established when we moved in. It's in the critter area, the enclosure to the right is the poultry run.


Rio Red Grapefruit

Since the tree I thought was a lime is really a lemon we still need a lime tree. Also, we'd like a valencia orange; they flower at a different time of year from the navel, so between the two we'd have oranges nearly year-round. We just have to find room for them.

A couple weeks after the trees were put in our neighbor told us about some enormous pine trees the city was taking down a few blocks south of us. We asked the tree trimmers if we could have some of the chipped trees for mulch. They said yes:

Truck full of pine mulch.

And on our driveway.
(The neighbors love us...)

All the trees got a wheelbarrow full around their base, a couple of neighbors took some, and the rest was spread around the citrus tree, rose bushes, and paths between the garden beds. It has been so great as a weed suppressant, moisture conservation cover, and soil amendment. There is beautiful fungi structure developing where the much comes in contact with the ground! All for FREE, because we asked!

Looking Forward

Two blueberries in the "yardette".
We are interplanting the blueberries with the rose bushes we are keeping from those that were here when we purchased the house. 
Blueberry bushes in pots.

There are four more blueberries in pots on the driveway waiting to go in the ground as soon as the rain lets up.

These are going in the planter under the citrus in the back. I'll be ordering more crowns this week.

Strawberry Flower!

Boysenberries, raspberries, and perhaps blackberries will go up the fence along the driveway - we are already referring to it as "the berry patch". There is a substantial hedge between the orchard and our neighbor's property; we've talked to them about ripping that out and putting in elderberries or grapes. I would really like rubarb, but that will be an experimental crop since it really needs a good long freeze to do well, and we don't have that kind of climate.

Back Patio.
Our back patio cover is the open, slatted kind so the plan is to put grapes and/or kiwi's at each post and trellis them up so that they hang thorough and are supported by the patio cover. This picture was taken at the time we did our home inspection. The established lemon tree is just out of the picture to the rear right of the photo. All the other vegetation you see in the rear along the wall has been ripped out and that is where the tangerines, blood orange and meyer lemon trees were planted, and where the strawberries will go. That gawd-awful fountain will eventually be removed and we will build our wood-fired oven in that place.

Baby blueberries
There is little more satisfying than watching all our hard work bear fruit, so to speak.
What are you working on to make household and community more sustainable and self-sufficient in the long term?


Erica/Northwest Edible Life said...

Holy moly! I love your blog, thanks for pointing me here. It sounds like we are doing really similar things - I look forward to further updates from your little chunk

CM said...

NICE blog!

As former orchardist's wife I'm just wondering why you went to all of that hard work tilling up the lawn, solarizing it, and retilling before planting just to talk about reseeding the lawn?

Really. I'd just have augered out the planting sites and mulched well after planting thus giving the trees the relief they need from competing vegetation yet saving yourselves all that work.

To make less work down the road though you could mulch the entire front yard and not have to water or mow any grass/weeds.

I'm just tossing this idea into the ring. I'm terribly impressed with your front yard orchard and all you've accomplished at your site. Good on you!

Lily Girl said...

Hi CM, thanks for the question! This house was a short-sale, and when we got it the lawn had not been watered in months. Also, it was a creepy, matted type grass that had clearly been in place for ages and looked it - quite thickly thatched and impregnated with weeds. Additionally, the soil itself was sad. Tilling in the grass and solarizing was really the easiest way to deal with it (without chemicals) while also allowing us to build the soil.

We are going to be putting in a orchard grass mixed with clover as a living mulch and to hopefully continue building the soil. It will obviously require mowing, but that will be a good source of green stuff for the compost pile :)

CM said...

Ahhhh! Make sense now :o)

You Can Call Me Jane said...

Lily Girl! Thank you for your comment! It's so good to get reacquainted with you through this post of yours. I have to say, young lady, all your citrus trees are making me a tad jealous. Everything looks great. Thanks, too, so much for sharing about your new church home- I am more than thrilled:-). Have a wonderful week!

Carolyn said...

Oh my goodness! You even have a white picket fence! Your garden and all is just amazing! Congrats on the marriage. And the chicken post was hilarious! I enjoy all the info and progress I've read so far. We will be moving to Las Vegas and eventually buy our own property... so I day dream constantly what I might grow in that desert. Until then, I'll watch what you are doing.

Lily Girl said...

Hi Carolyn! Thanks for the encouragement :) I can't wait to see how you deal with the challenges of growing in LV. I've found myself sucked into your blog - loving it!