I’m very sore, having not swung a pick ax in some time, up until the last two or three days. But it’s done. Almost a year to the day since we moved in, we officially have an orchard. Nine little apple trees now dot what was previously just a big square of dried mud.
First off we decided to turn the outdoor wine / sculpture garden into our orchard. We figured it’d be twenty years before we could ever build, need, use a wine /sculpture garden and we didn’t want to obscure the front view of the house with apple trees. Plus there isn’t enough space in the front yard for nine trees anyway.
The wine garden area had a nasty cut in the ground from where they had started to, but never finished, grading. So my first job was to try and even out the terrain. I dug into the fairly hard clay with my pick ax and then raked it down to try and smooth things out. Back breaking work to say the least. I borrowed an electric tiller from the in-laws to churn up the veggie garden soil, so I used that to great effect in the orchard as well. At least until I broke it (it overheated and gave up the ghost). Then I had to rely on just my pick and determination. Most sane people would’ve rented a piece of equipment or hired someone to do all this but not me. I needed the exercise and needed to save a buck.
I went to the garden center and picked up some Tree-tone, compost / manure, and was sold on some fertilizer (I’ll have to look up what I bought). To plant an apple tree you need compost and fertilizer. I also got these little root fertilizer packs with the trees as well. In addition to all that I picked up some grass seed and grass growing fertilizer. I’ll plant grass throughout the orchard (though each tree gets a circle of mulch). One other thing I picked up, just cause they were so darn cute / cool looking, were some of the new Miracle-Gro Growables seed pods for our vegetable garden. I figured I’d try them.
Back at the orchard I dug up four-foot diameter holes for the trees. I spread some Tree-tone plant food, the two fertilizers, compost and some topsoil together. I hammered in a wood post 2-3 inches from where the tree was going to go, on the side where the wind most likely comes from. The posts were about 4-5 feet long and I sunk them 1-2 feet into the ground. I used 1×2 pieces of wood left over from construction. I’m thinking round stakes would be better but it’s not a big deal. When I was ready to plant I made sure my trees had been soaking for at least a half hour in water (I unpacked and soaked them as soon as they arrived actually). I pulled a tree out of the water and placed it on a little mound of dirt in the center of the hole. I then tied it off to the stake with pantyhose. Next I spread out the roots and covered them in my soil and compost mixture. Beyond that more top soil with the clay and what not that I excavated previously from the hole. Some watering and mulch and I was done.
Tomorrow I’ll secure a new tiller from somewhere and rough up the ground, rake it and then spread my grass seed just in time for next week’s rain. I also have a few other plants to plant, they’ve been waiting oh so patiently. Until then, I need to get some rest. Never a free moment it seems.