Growing your own fresh fruit is as easy as 1-2-3; the right planting location for a fruit tree, the right fruit tree variety and a plan of attack for pests and disease. This approach will provide you with fresh fruit, fragrant blooms in the spring, landscape beauty, bird lodging and wood for the BBQ or smoker that will add flavor to home cooked meals.
Fruit trees can be planted any time of the year but fall is especially good because cooler temperatures are less stressful on the trees and less water is required to help establish them. Plant them in the fall and they have time to take root (literally) before the fast growth of the following spring. This planting approach gives your trees a head start that can lead to heartier growth and earlier fruiting.
Another benefit is that you can get trees very affordably this time of year. For most nurseries and growers their boom is in the spring. By late summer and fall, they are willing to let go of trees for rock bottom prices. Just this week I scored four trees for $10 each. They were very mature, potted fruit trees that were going for about $65 each just a month or two earlier. Save some pennies and plant when it makes the most “cents”.
Use these tips and get ready to plant some fruit trees this fall in your own backyard.
Select a planting location that will receive full sun and has good air circulation. A fruit tree will not bear well if it’s planted in a ‘frost pocket’ either. Observe the location on a few chilly fall mornings, if the location has a spot of frost on it while the surrounding landscape is frost-free, the spot is a frost pocket and another location should be selected for fruit tree planting.
Amend the Soil
In early fall, clear away all debris on the soil surface and till the soil in a 4 x 4 square or circle and 18 inches deep. Take a soil sample to your local county extension office to be tested and add whatever nutrients the soil may be lacking, then let the soil rest for two days before the planting the fruit tree.
There are many disease-resistant fruit tree varieties on the market, but you need to know which ones are best suited to your particular growing climate. Your county extension agent or local nurseryman will be able to provide information and help you select fruit trees best suited for your climate. Do your research and be aware of what kind of diseases and pests your trees may be susceptible to. A plan of attack can be formulated before hand if you know what might come your way. One tree variety may sound better than another too when you take all factors into consideration. Another aspect to consider is the possibility of selecting historic or heirloom fruit trees.
Dig a planting hole in the center of the prepared soil that is twice as deep and twice as wide as the root ball of your fruit tree. Back-fill the hole half-way with compost, then gently remove the fruit tree from its container and set in the center of the hole. Make sure the top of the soil around the root ball is even with the ground surrounding the planting hole, then finish back-filling the hole with soil. Water in well, then gently pat the soil down to ensure that all tree roots are in contact with the soil, then add a four inch layer of organic mulch on top of the soil to help retain moisture.
Organic Pest and Disease Control
Use a clay-based protectant spray on the fruit tree in the spring after the blooms have fell off. The organic clay spray will form a thin film on the tree foliage and budding fruit to create a chalky barrier that discourages most pests from invading the tree. A clay-based spray also protects fruit trees against sunburn and heat stress. Tree guards and tree wrap are also good for keeping rabbits, rodents, and winter weather from damaging the trunk.
Gardening is more than just a fun and productive activity. It is more than just a weekend hobby or a way to add a little extra food to the budget menu. For homeschoolers and for those interested in furthering the practical education of their children, it is also a great activity for helping kids to learn. Kids who garden and learn how to feed themselves and nurture the soil around them are learning practical life skills. It makes for a “groundbreaking” education.
How so? Here are some of the ways. Gardening:
Teaches Planning and Goal Setting – Great gardens actually begin months before the digging, planting, and harvesting. It is not only a great lesson in patience, it is also instrumental in teaching them that good things come to those who have goals and plans. Help your kids lay out their garden plan and decide which plants will go where, keeping in mind that companion planting will help a garden thrive. They also need to think about ways to attract pollinators and which plants and flowers will work best. They are creating a balanced mini ecosystem and that doesn’t happen by accident.
Teaches Them to Grow Food – Recessions happen. Times get tough and we need to live frugally and on less. It is always advantageous to know how to grow your own food. Relying on grocery stores exclusively makes you a somewhat of a slave. Growing food on the other hand teaches self sufficiency and survivalism.
Teaches Math Skills – Do some simple math to determine how much money it took to grow the garden and how much you saved by not purchasing that same food at the grocery store. Kids can also calculate square footage, create garden plan blueprints, measure spacing between plants, plot plant growth, and calculate how much wood is needed for raised beds.
Teaches Language Arts – Small children can read garden themed storybooks and then plant what they’ve read about. Older kids can be called upon to research native plants species, weed and pest control tactics, and other topics such as biodiversity and permaculture.
Teaches Science – What better classroom than a garden? Kids can learn about rainfall, climate change, life cycles, seasons, insects, animals, and soil conditions just to name a few.
You may just want to get the kids involved in gardening to make them more well rounded individuals. That is an awesome goal. If you are interested in pursuing the garden as an educational tool with some sort of curriculum then I suggest starting with this school garden curriculum. Also the book The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy, and Art is amazing. Enjoy!
Like many gardeners I start my seedlings indoors to get a jump on the growing season. This means I plant in containers and flats in February or March when it is still cold outside. I use grow lights, full sun windows, and some outdoor time when it is warmer and sunny to help them grow. Once the threat of frost has passed I plant them in the garden beds that will be their home for the summer.
What though if you had to plant a bit early, before the danger of frost has passed? This can be the case for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your seedlings got too big and needed to go in the ground. Maybe a flat overturned and rather than lose the seedlings you decide to plant them. Or maybe your perennials got an early start due to warmer than usual weather and they need protection. If you have plants in the ground when a frost advisory is issued then you need to take steps to protect them. Here are some tips:
* Water well before night falls. The soil will release moisture through the night, keeping the air temperature near the soil warmer.
* Use a fan to keep air circulating around your plants and prevent frost from forming.
* Create a tent frame using wood stakes, garden tools, or whatever you have on hand. Cover with weed fabric, a plastic tarp, or a bed sheet. Remove the next morning.
* A thin layer of straw can help protect plants and seedlings as well.
* Recycle plastic juice and milk jugs and use them as cloches to cover your seedlings.
* You can also buy them on Amazon. Check out these dome cloches and this garden cloche tunnel. They can be thrown over plants at night and removed easily the next day as it warms up.
* Move potted plants indoors for the night or wrap the the pots with towels, burlap, or bubble wrap to help insulate the roots from the cold.
Hopefully these tips will help you can ward off any damage to your plants if a frost advisory is issued in your area. No gardener wants to lose their summer bounty because of inclimate weather!!
My garden did really well this past summer and I am super excited to start planning for next year’s. No doubt most of the planning will happen during the dreary, cold winter but I just can’t wait. I have already been making a wishlist.
Garden victories for 2014 include:
* Growing flowers for the first time – calendula, sunflowers, lavender, nasturtium, and various wildflowers
* Growing three types of basil
* Growing three types of heirloom tomatoes from seed
* A great blackberry harvest
* A nice snap pea harvest
* First time growing potatoes and carrots
* Keeping birds out of the garden with a fake snake. It worked!
I recently posted about my garden and homestead goals for 2015. In order to make the goals happen I have started making a wishlist of things that would help…
Support hoops for garden fabric. This will help me extend the gardening season earlier in the spring and then also later in the fall. I have the raised beds, I just need the hoops. I like that they are steel and not plastic.
A garden cage or two would be nice to keep the birds and the deer out of my raised beds!! They have them in a variety of sizes but the large one (below) would be super handy!
I also need space. I have tools, pots, soil, and other garden goodies everywhere and I have no real work surfaces outside other than the ground or the railing on my deck. A potting bench would be heaven sent! I love that this one has an old farmhouse look and it is affordable.
What’s on your wishlist??
The gardening season has ended for 2014…for the most part. I still have a variety of peppers and some flowers doing well. I also have a cold frame with greens going strong but I have done a massive fall cleanup and most of my garden beds will rest until spring. With everything I learned this year I am already making plans for next!
My organic garden goals for 2015 are to grow everything I grew in 2014 and:
- Make potato cages and grow alot more
- Start my seedlings earlier!
- Add leeks and brussels sprouts for fall/winter
- Grow more carrots
- Grow different pumpkin varieties (jarrahdale and lady godiva) and grow more
- Add another raised bed and a hoop with a fabric covering
- Add more herbs and veggies
- Plant spring bulbs
- Add another rain barrel
My homesteading goals for 2015:
What are your goals???