Seeing the wood for the trees

img_9118Our ambitions for this year are fairly limited, since time constraints make it impossible to do everything we would like to in the garden (in any case, we have enough projects to last us a good 30 years, and we could never do them all at once even if neither of us worked!). In autumn we talked about what we felt we could achieve, and settled on the following list of priorities:

  • plant some fruit trees, because they will take some years to become productive, if they survive at all on our exposed and cold site.
  • look into bee keeping, because it’s something I want to do, and it would improve pollination rates in the garden significantly, if the bees survived on our windy and exposed site (are you beginning to see a pattern here?).
  • build a hen house and acquire chickens after the summer holidays, when we’ll be away for several weeks.

Everything else, more or less, will have to wait. We have yet to clear our 4 small veg beds of last year’s growth, there are piles of leaves lying around in parts of the garden, and I haven’t harvested all the lavender. We do little bits here and there, when time allows.

But the fruit trees were the big project for this winter/spring, and to be honest, we’ve struggled a bit. It’s the same story of Beardy basically working far too hard, and on his days off, finding it was snowing or pouring with rain.

Finally, the gods smiled on us this week: we were both at home on a Thursday, and the few tiny flakes of snow swirling around weren’t going to stop us finally getting some work done on the patch we had earmarked as our future mini-orchard.

First, clearing. Beardy felled a couple of largish trees and a little one. This felt melancholy, but necessary, otherwise our fruit trees won’t get enough light. The chainsaw was temperamental but did the job in the end. Beardy chopped the trunks into logs for next winter, and we made a giant pile of branches for shredding at some point.

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Next, fencing. Our poor New Year’s Eve guests were made to dig large holes in the ground, and Beardy had already put the sturdiest posts in these. Between us, we bashed the lighter posts into the ground and Beardy fixed some railing and made a gate-shaped gap.

Now our mini-orchard was beginning to take shape, so much so that the trees have now been ordered. If I’m not mistaken, we’re going to try 6 apple trees (a mixture of cookers and table apples), a plum (this is optimistic on our part) and a crab apple. In between, the plan is to plant japonica, a sort of mini-quince which fixes nitrogen in the soil. We may also plant some berries or currants. Along the mesh fence, which we have yet to fit, we will grow raspberries.

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It was great to feel we were making progress with the orchard.

A little way along the path is another area which I have my eye on, as it could potentially be cleared and used for blackberries and raspberries, and perhaps wild roses. But that will have to wait until next year!



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