This weekend we did a few things to mentally get ready for spring. Saturday we attended a beginner bee keeping class conducted by the Stark County Bee Keepers Association. Christine’s been reading her bee keeping books but it was good to hear first hand from experienced bee keepers and learn many of the ins and outs of how to take care of our winged little friends. One exciting tid bit I heard was that with our bees our garden, and the gardens of our neighbors, should really take off in the coming years. With about 20,000 – 80,000 bees per hive we’ll have plenty of pollinators for the neighborhood. Bees travel an area of about 2-3 miles in any one direction. I’m becoming more excited with every passing week.
So with all the bee business in order I’ve turned my attention to my outdoor endeavor this year: my apple trees. We’ll be getting approximately 3 of each of these varieties: Fuji, Gala and Yellow Delicious, based on our landscape plan. I picked up a book called ‘Grow Fruit‘ to give me a cursory overview of what I need to know. I know apple trees come in generally three types or sizes. Regular apple trees grow to be 20′ tall, take a while to grow and are difficult to harvest apples from. Semi-dwarf apple trees grow between 10′-15′ tall, and may not need to be supported after the first three years. They’re easier to harvest from and can be planted 15′ apart, just like our landscape plan shows. Dwarf apple trees grow upto 10′ tall (I believe), and need supporting, sometimes with a trellis or arbor. I’m looking for semi-dwarf trees. I found some sites, and a local nursery that list trees with a caliper of up to 2″ and 10′ tall but I can’t determine if those are semi-dwarf or full size trees. I really want the biggest trees I can get so I don’t have to wait for fruit – hopefully get some this year or next. Trees take so long to grow, I don’t want to be gone before they finally grow up. What I believe I’m going to do is get some trees that I know are definitely semi-dwarf even if they are smaller and I have to wait a few years. One plus is the price on the smaller trees is in the $50 range for a 5 gallon / 5′ tree vs. $175+ for an 8′ tree (that may or may not be a regular apple tree). Tomorrow is Monday, I’ll make some calls.
Soil wise I’ll have some work to do when I go plant my trees but with some manure or compost (store-bought this year) we should be okay. And I think the tree planting areas drain well enough, or as best as can be expected. I do have to figure out a way to test my pH levels in the soil but I’m sure my garden center has the tools to do that job.
So our bees will be super happy when they see apple trees at their new house this spring. In addition hopefully our blueberries, raspberries and blackberries come back from last year too. And don’t forget the kiwi plants. Reading my book it turns out many of these, including the kiwi, like support in the form of wires or lattice-work. When we get a warm weekend day I’ll go out back and plan out the veggie garden and around that I’ll insert some posts to define the area. I may also post around the raspberry bushes since they like something to crawl around on. My plan is to make the posts out of the timber we felled to clear the house site a couple of years ago. I’m thinking 6’ posts, buried 2-3 feet in the ground. I’m pretty sure from our local lumber supply or Tractor Supply store I can pick up some deer wire to act as support and to keep the deer out of the veggies.
Raw material wise I plan on ordering about (I think) 10 yards (a truck full) of natural organic mulch from our supplier for the existing beds and new plant beds that I want to form this year. In addition to that I’ll get a truck load of that playground mulch and we’ll use that to create pathways in the back yard and up to the bee hives. This will make it easier for friends, family and guests to get around out back. The back yard is basically all mud so paths will be helpful. I’m on the fence whether to get top soil, as my reserve pile still has a fair amount of the stuff we scraped off when building the house. I may get a few yards just to have for the apple trees, veggie garden and new beds. We’ll see. I’m using the wine garden area, just off the driveway as my raw material storage area, and I’ve got the room.
One of the reasons we’re doing everything we’re doing is to share what we’re learning with other people. The bees and garden will be a great, full circle, demonstration of how food is created (it’s Sunday night, I can’t describe it any better than that right now). Bees are so critical to everything we eat. Without bees we’d all starve in short order. All the chemicals we’re using are decimating bee populations, as well as other insects. Soon we’ll find we’ve committed mass suicide if we’re not careful.
On site education wise we also have the man-made systems demonstrating energy efficiency, all of which have been talked about at length on the website. And we have our water system that I’m particularly proud of. Beyond all that I also have my eyes on animal habitat projects on the property. I’d like to pick up at least one bat box (bats are endangered and they help with mosquitoes). Some bird and butterfly boxes would be nice too. We’ll see. Point is the place should become a great place to spend time, learn, relax, meditate, create art and whatnot. As restorative a location as one could conjure.
Lot’s to do but it’s all do-able. And shouldn’t cost too much. I just need to get my ducks in a row, get some things ordered and get some warm dry weather out there.