Saturday, March 24, 2018

Planting my American Hazelnut trees

 The Latin name of the American Hazelnut is Corylus americana. It's a long lived tree or shrub (depending on how you prune it) that will produce  lots of tasty nuts (a bit smaller than the European Hazelnut) for up to 80 years once established! So why aren't they in more gardens?
The answer is Eastern Filbert Blight,  a disease similar to the blight that destroyed most Chestnut trees in the US. While no European Hazelnuts have been bred that can resist this native disease, a breeding program with americana has produced resistant cultivars. I bought two of these, 'Yamhill' and 'Jefferson' from Territorial Seed Company last fall, and my plants arrived a couple of weeks ago.
I was really impressed by the roots on the plants! Here's a pic:

I soaked the roots in water for 4 hours, then planted them eight feet apart (they need to be close enough for cross-pollination) in the bed by the back fence, then gave them each about five gallons of water. The next day I mulched with the pile of hardwood mulch next to them.

It's been two weeks of wild weather, with temps down to zero, and lots of snow and rain, but the buds on the Hazelnuts are getting bigger and they are definitely alive! If all goes well I'll be fighting the squirrels for nuts in two or three years.
More on other tree plantings soon.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Expanding my home orchard

When we moved here 25 years ago one of the selling points of the property was the hayfield visible from our back deck. Now a house is to be built there this spring. Because we did not own the  field I always know this might happen some day. I'm sad, but also appreciate the years of memories of deer, coyotes and turkeys we watched in the grassy space out back.
But I'm not one to mope around and decry my loss. I'm putting up a six foot fence along the property line and planting fruit trees in front of it. I'll soon have a new view of flowers, fruit, and dancing leaves. The trees will also draw more birds for me to watch as they sip nectar, hunt insects, and share the fruit.
So what will be in my orchard? Well, not apples, for several reasons. Apples are tough fruits that travel well and are grown in large numbers in New England and nearby New York. That means I can buy lots of local apples at good prices all fall and winter. Apples are also not a prime fruit for preserving, one of the chief ways I intend to save my crops.
Peaches, apricots, persimmons and cherries all make delicious jam or preserves, and I hope to eventually have a pantry full of jars to feed us through the winter. They also freeze and dehydrate well. Finally, they are all more popular with the birds I enjoy sharing the garden with, especially the cherries! My plan is to keep my dwarf trees covered  (and or sprayed with grape koolaid) until I harvest about three quarters of the crops, and then to let the birds have the rest. This strategy has worked well with my blueberry crop. I already have a five year old Redhaven peach, and two pears planted last fall. The cherry, persimmon and apricot trees are coming in the mail shortly.
Now I have to plant the new  trees and keep them healthy until they fruit. This should take between 2 and 5 years. But that's ok- one of the things I love about gardening is that it takes time, that the gardener grows and learns as the crop grows. This orchard will be a new adventure, and I'm ready for it, up and downs and all.
Like the branch that broke on my peach tree last summer because I was greedy and did not thin the fruit:

Sigh-- one lesson learned. I'm now signed up to take a monthly class on home orchard care from April to October.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Pruning my blueberry bushes

It's February, but there's still some summer in my freezer and cabinets in the form of frozen blueberries and blueberry jam.  After several years of diminished crops due to the depredations of winter moth, 2017 was one of the most productive blueberry seasons in the 20 years I've been growing them. A big thanks to the folks from U Mass.  and the USDA who released a predatory insect that targets winter moth in my neighborhood!
I was also able to harvest more berries because of the grape koolaid spray I used to deter the birds ( I got this great hack from a U Mass. newsletter.  One packet unsweetened grape powder to one quart of water, spray to dripping, repeat after rain).
Picking all those berries was not easy, largely because I have neglected  winter pruning my oldest bushes for at least 5 years. This led to shrubs so tall I had to stand on the top rung of a 5 foot ladder to  pick some of the biggest, juiciest berries, as well as so tangled with growth lower down that reaching through them for fruit in the back was difficult and left me scratched or my clothes ripped. I promised myself in July that I'd clean up the bushes this winter, and this week I followed through.
Pruning older blueberry bushes should be done between January and March, when they are dormant. I pruned half of my main crop (12 bushes of classic New England selections, including Patriot and Bluecrop) last Monday.
First I broke off all the dead twiggy bits by hand. Next I tackled the older, thick branches, removing about 25%, selecting any that were crossed and rubbing, then those branches that seemed least vigorous (had the fewest fat buds). Finally I cut the tallest branches down to about five feet.
To finish up I spread about a cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer around the root area of each shrub, then mulched over the fertilizer with an inch of fresh wood mulch, courtesy of a neighbor who culled some trees this winter.
Here are some pictures:

Berries ripening in July!

The brush pile from pruning 6 plants.

After pruning.

Unpruned Bushes -- to do next week!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 2017 Video Tour

It's been a long wet spring-- and it is raining as I write. But I prefer this to last fall's drought!
Here's a tour of the garden from a few days ago:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

September 2016 Video tour

Here's a video tour of the garden from a couple weeks ago.  it's still dry, but I'm coping. Love my rain barrel!