Sunday, January 26, 2014

Expanding the Homestead Orchard

    The past several years have been a running test in home fruit production; the results have been as varied as the weather. Many of our plants were still in their 'pre-production' season when a devastating drought hit us. Despite our best efforts, the succumb to the stress and were lost. Little by little we are striving not only to replace, but to introduce new plants to the home orchard.
     Let me start by saying: I have learned over the years we have to know our area and know our supplier. Many nurseries/home improvement stores offer a wide variety of plants/trees for the home grower; not all of them are actually meant to grow in our area. Having purchased several trees in the past that never did anything but provide leaves drove me to dig a bit deeper in my understanding of my particular growing climate. Here in the south, I am limited due to humidity, heat, and lack of frost. If I am going to grow fruit with any success, it has to be reasonable for these conditions.
     The other nugget of wisdom I have learned is: most fruit trees for my area have to be grafted onto rootstock that will survive my extreme climate. There is in the key. If the peach tree doesn't have a grafted root stock there is no point in planting it here; even if it survives, it won't produce. Know your supplier and purchase only what is recommended for your specific area!
     Finally, for me, I have to evaluate space/worth. Fruit production takes a lot of space, therefore, I have to determine if the space it is taking up is worth the harvest I will receive. My area works wonderful for pears, figs, and blueberries, but is rather low on the plums and apples. For the space I have available considerations had to be made based on yield (oh, and whether anyone even liked the particular fruit).
      So, what did we plant? Satsuma oranges, kefir limes, figs, and strawberries and blackberries were already in the ground from last season. Today we added blueberries, more black berries, pomegranate, goji berry, jujube, Asian pears, and a miniature peach. Two lemon trees are waiting in the greenhouse until the winter storms have passed (the one year it ices in southeast Texas). If you are wondering where we put all this, most of our 'field garden' has become an orchard area while a few of the smaller bushes now reside on the side of our 'victory garden' sight.
       If you are considering fruit production on your homestead, be sure to check your county's specific climate/needs, and be sure to take into consideration the mature size of the plant before planting. I can't wait to watch these new babies grow!

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