Yesterday we headed back to North Alabama Nursery and picked up four apple trees. We set out two Arkansas Blacks and two Yellow Delicious. Including the Transcendent Crabapple we set out last month, we now have five apple trees in all! Since these trees will grow 15-20 feet high, right now five is all we have room for. As our field layout and garden plan develop, we’ll be able to add more.
Back in October, we double dug 4’x4′ beds and worked 2 gallons of wood ash deeply into each one (the wood ash is supposed to keep away wooly aphids). To plant a tree, we dug a hole in the middle of a bed, spread the tree’s root as we carefully put the soil back into the hole, and then tamped the soil gently to hold the tree in place making sure not to cover the graph joint. We didn’t have to water the trees in because the soil is very soggy from rain.
We pruned each tree leaving one main middle branch with four or five limbs. In mid-March we’ll turn 1/2 cup of our organic fertilizer mix ( 4 parts (by volume) Alfalfa Meal, 1 part Rock Phosphate, 1/2 part Kelp Meal, and 1 part dolomitic lime) into the top few inches of soil in each bed and stake the young trees just as they start setting new leaves. Next winter these trees will be pruned to an open-center by cutting away the middle, or leader, branch; this will open up the tree to more sun and air flow making fruit production and harvest more abundant.
To care for our tiny orchard, each tree will be pruned during winter dormancy to remove twisted or crossing limbs. Each spring the trees will be white washed to add calcium and other micro-nutrients to the soil. In the summer, the trees will be fed with Comfrey tea and birds and bees will be encouraged. During the fall the tree beds will be sown with Crimson Clover, and non-invasive winter grasses will be sown throughout the orchard. This is the plan anyway. 🙂