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An Apple a Day

an apple a dayA few weeks ago I submitted my first article to West Kentucky Journal hoping to share with the readers what has inspired and influenced me over the years to pursue gardening as not just a hobby, but now a career. I appreciate all the positive comments I have received concerning that article and now hope to pass on some of my knowledge about several different areas of gardening that interest me and I hope you also.

Some of the subjects I plan to explore are antique roses, heirloom vegetables, organic gardening, and growing vegetables in hoop houses. If there is any subjects you would like to read about, please let me know and I will do my best to oblige.

One thing I have learned over the years about gardening is that there is always a new facet of gardening that I feel a need to explore and learn about. This spring I had several customers ask me about growing fruit trees and I realized that starting a home orchard was a subject that I really did not have a lot of knowledge on. Being the inquisitive person I am, I decided to do some research so I would be more prepared next spring when a question arose on that subject.

I guess the reason I never pursued planting my own home orchard, was that I had assumed that it would take years and years to reap any benefits from my efforts and it was just easier to buy the fruit from my local orchard or the grocery store. I didn’t realize that you could actually harvest fruit from your very own trees in as little as 2 to 3 years. I had visions of Johnny Appleseed planting all those apple starts and never even getting to eat one of those apples and I am just not that patient!

One of the most important things I learned from my research was that in our area, spring really was not the best time a person should be considering putting in a home orchard anyway. For our area, late October through the end of December is the ideal time for planting these types of trees. The science behind this is that even though the air is cool the ground remains warm enough for a tree to put out roots all the way until the ground freezes. If you try to plant in the spring, your trees don’t have enough time to root in before the stress of heat and drought sets in. This would definitely be the case for this past summer with the type of heat we had! An added bonus is fruit trees planted in the fall have a “head start” over those planted the following spring so they could bear their first crop a year sooner than trees planted the following spring.

Along with planning where you are going to have your orchard, you must decide what kind and size of fruit tree you want to grow. There are a number of wonderful varieties that are now available in three or four sizes, thanks to the process of grafting. Most home gardeners prefer the dwarf size as they only grow 8 to 12 feet tall, so harvesting can be done from the ground rather than a ladder. This is especially true for us baby boomers as ladder climbing is not as easy as it used to be. Dwarf size trees usually begin bearing crops years earlier than a standard size tree. A person can easily incorporate fruit trees into their existing landscape plan. Not only can fruit trees offer all-season ornamental value to their property, but of prime importance is the good-tasting, healthy fruit they produce. Fruit trees can offer colorful blossoms in spring, followed by attractive foliage and the developing fruit year after year.

A pear tree As my daughter and I were decorating our garden center, Beans to Blossoms, for the coming Christmas season, I had a wonderful thought. What a wonderful Christmas gift a fruit tree would be for someone. Instead of giving some lame gift made from some country overseas, why not give a present that would keep giving for many years to come? We could wrap that tree container up in some colorful paper, put a nice big red bow on it and presto- you have that perfect gift you have been searching for at the very economical price of $20. We offer a 100% guarantee on our fruit trees for 1 full year. If your tree dies within the first year, we will replace it for you. We have some trees in stock right now and can order a large variety and have them on hand in a matter of a few days.

There are some ground rules (no pun intended) you have to follow to be successful in your endeavors. Fruit trees are either self-pollinating or require another variety for pollination. Peaches, nectarines, tart cherries and apricots are self-pollinating so you could plant just one of them. On the other hand apples, pears, sweet cherries, plums and prunes need a pollinator although there are a couple of exceptions to that rule. Golden Delicious and McIntosh apples are self-pollinating so they will bear fruit on their own but if you plant them with at least one more variety their fruit will be larger and more abundant. Sweet cherries will not pollinate with tart cherries and Orient Pears need a pollinator other than Keiffer. Before purchasing any fruit tree whether from us, another nursery or online, be sure and find out what pollination requirements it has so you won’t be disappointed on down the road.

One last requirement for a successful orchard is proper pruning. If a tree is carefully pruned when the tree is young, only a minimum of pruning will be needed as the tree gets older. Pruning of young trees establishes the shape of the tree so limbs will be well distributed up, down and around the trunk. Also, pruning stimulates new growth of mature trees for continued productivity and long life. Removing diseased, injured, weak and dead limbs reduces stress on the plant’s health. Pruning opens the tree to sunlight and air, reducing the incidence of disease and insect damage. Apples and pears are pruned to a main trunk with horizontal limbs every one or two feet up the leader. Much like how a pine tree does naturally in the woods. Peaches are pruned using an “open center” style so that it ends up looking much like an inverted umbrella. Any knowledgeable nursery should have books or information should you need help before pruning for the first time. If not, there is an abundant amount of information on the internet which is just a mouse click away.

Beans to Blossoms prides ourselves on being able to help our customers have a positive growing experience whether it is picking out that perfect heirloom tomato variety, culinary herb, or fruit tree.

Give us a call at 270-753-4050 or better yet, come by and see us. We have lots of other ideas to make this the “greenest” Christmas ever. From mixed herb pots for your culinary friends to gifts made from recycled newspaper, we have something for everyone.

Visit our website at beanstoblossoms.com or follow us on facebook.com/beanstoblossoms. Hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks for listening,
Suzanne


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