Quick Spring Update

Lots of life stuff to deal with so far this year, but I wanted to just get a few notes in about what we’re working on this spring. So far it’s been very wet, so I think it’s going to take a bit longer to get certain things in the ground than last year. That being said, the soil structure in the garden continues to improve, so that helps.

Last week we planted probably the last larger order of fruit trees in the orchard. At this point there are probably enough trees out there. Still a chance we’ll include some additional fruit trees in a food forest/ wind break or something elsewhere on the property, but we’ll see. This year we planted the following:

  • Ashmead’s Kernel – great heirloom, good for cider, drying, etc.
  • Chisel Jersey – this one isn’t much use for anything but cider
  • Dabinett – another English cider apple, we already have one of these started from a previous year. Makes an amazing single varietal cider.
  • Golden Hornet – cool crab apple type with yellow fruit, very nice in the spring as well and a great pollinator
  • Redfield – another cider apple
  • Spitzenburg Esopus – second one of these as well, the first one we planted is probably one of our best trees so far. This is one of the varieties Thomas Jefferson was infatuated with.
  • Mount Royal Plum – first plum tree, hardy to zone 3, curious how this one does
  • Northstar Cherry – not having great luck with getting cherries started, so planting another. Much more susceptible to transplant shock than apples.

 

I did a count and I think this brings us to around 30 trees, give or take. If I can get even half of these to thrive, we’ll have more fruit than we know what to do with. We’ll let you know when that happens in case you are close enough to enjoy some yourself.

Otherwise, seed starting continues to go well. Tomatoes are going gangbusters and I’m running out of room to the point that I’m already putting some extras in the greenhouse. Calculated risk as it may still get too cold, but if not they will be hardier and bigger when we transplant. Probably going to share some seedlings as well. We started some seeds Kristin saved and got really good germination on all of them, so we’re curious to see how true to type those are. This was a bit of an experiment to see how well we could do at growing our own saved tomato seed, so this year we may be a bit more intentional to avoid cross-pollination.

We aren’t doing a ton of new things this year, but Kristin is getting more and more interested in medicinal herbs and plants so we are trying to grow a few more of those type of plants. We are also trying to get comfrey going in the orchard (non-invasive type that makes sterile seeds). Comfrey is great for all kinds of things and will outcompete some of the undesirable grasses and weeds in the orchard to eventually become a living mulch. When it gets tall, it falls over so it almost does the mulching for you. Tons of nutrients and minerals and good for the soil as well. I’m also trying to see if I can start some perennial shrubs from seed (sea buckthorn, service berry, Siberian pea shrub). This requires cold stratification (basically starting for a few months in soil in a fridge) and getting to transplant stage takes two growing seasons, so it’s a multi-year experiment.

The other big spring project is re-doing our back deck. This will be a lower deck, almost at grade (basically 1 step down to the ground). We plan to put some beds around the perimeter of that and probably some cedar planters so we can have some herbs and flowers within steps of the back door. Hope to post pictures of that process once we get started.

Garden and property June 2016

Here’s just a few shots of what’s going on with our gardens and rest of the property near the beginning of June. We had a mild spring that wasn’t too wet and actually got very hot towards the end of May. Just had a nice rainy day yesterday after about a week without, so everything is pretty happy at the moment.

Here’s the back garden in a couple of wide shots.

Those are potatoes in the foreground.

BackGardenJune2016

A shot from the front to show off some flowers already blooming.

BackGardenFrontJune2016

Hops are already going nuts. These poles are about 15-20’ at the top.

 

Hops2016

Here’s the front garden. Look how big the garlic is already. It’s pretty happy this year. By the way, all the green is partially due to the cover crop of buckwheat that we are leaving in place for now between rows and where we haven’t planted yet. A bit of an experiment and in some ways makes it harder to see the rows, but hoping the benefits make it worthwhile.

FrontGarden1

Here’s the orchard. A couple of the initial plantings are finally starting to show some growth.

OrchardJune2016

Here’s a similar shot from around the same time last year. Notice how much we filled in the middle section this spring.

orchard061315

And finally, another shot of the ducks at 6 weeks just for fun. They are now outside in their permanent spot, although not free ranging yet.

Ducks6Weeks

Red, green and blue

After a very nice May for the most part, June has been nothing but rain. Sometimes terrible torrential downpours, sometimes just annoying bursts here and there to ruin the day. I hate to complain about water when other parts of the country are dry, but my plants are drowning over here. It’s a good thing we put in the swales in May or it would be even worse.

In spite of all that, we are somehow getting our first crop of the sweetest strawberries we could hope for.

strawberry1

Don’t blink, you’ll miss them.

strawberry2

At least the cooler weather plants like it. The greens are going nuts.

Greens1

Greens2

Onions seem much happier in a raised bed than in the garden, to no one’s great surprise.

onions

The hops have already made it nearly to the first wooden support.

hops1

The fifteen raspberry plants all made it and are getting plenty of leaves now. Here are 10 of them, they are even bigger today.

rasp1

And finally a view of the orchard, where all of the trees seem to be relatively happy so far and surviving the onslaught of water.

orchard061315

The orchard, year two

We’re continuing to build the orchard this year, adding four more apple trees and 3 cherry trees.

orchard1

The apple varieties for this year are:
Northern Spy
Wickson Crab
Newtown Pippin
Golden Russet

Most have multiple uses, but the primary purpose of these is to provide blending options for hard and sweet cider. Despite the tough skin, I really like the taste of the various Russets I’ve tried. Northern Spy is quite nice as well, although it takes a long time to start fruiting. Once it does though, these trees can last 100 or more years if they take off and find a good growing environment.

Orchard2

The cherries we got are some basic sour varieties:
Morello
Montmorency

There are a couple reasons we want cherries. Besides the obvious use in pies, we also like making our own maraschino cherries for Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, etc and eventually I would like to try using cherries in sour beers. We are also getting a sweet cherry separately from a local nursery that is a bit older and should start bearing a little sooner. That will be mainly for fresh eating and juice.