Orchard Insanity!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's confirmed. I am certifiable. I'm more than ready now for a nice padded room with no sharp objects. Heck -- you might as well throw in a strait jacket for good measure.

The proof of this insanity? It's in the pudding. Clearly identifiable. When Reggie Bush was busy fumbling away a punt during the close of the first half of the Saints-Vikings NFC Championship Game -- what was I doing? Watching the game? No. Try digging holes in the front yard.

You see -- this just isn't the norm for most sane men. Not at all. Most normal men would be screaming at the top of their lungs or throwing the nearest cat/sharpened object at the TV screen after watching Reggie cough up a punt. This is what Bill Bird would have done -- the normal Bill Bird that is.

But Bill Bird is no longer normal. He's so eager to dig in the dirt now that a steady rain doesn't matter. The NFC Championship Game doesn't matter. Cleaning out the litterbox can come later. I've got nectarines on the brain instead of football.

Quick! Somebody call Bellvue!

I blame Ken Menzer. He's the responsible one Your Honor. The Folsom City Arborist filled my head with all sorts of funky ideas and plans during a recent Orchard Management class. Thanks to Ken's "you can do this" brainwashing techniques -- where I once saw "landscaping" -- I now see endless orchard opportunities.

Bare Root Season is now nearly over -- and quite frankly -- it's been a bust for a lot of people. Why? You can buy all the bare root trees or bushes that your heart desires -- but when it rains so hard that the backyard turns into a lake -- there's little you can do. Sure -- you can try to plant a tree. But you'll need a rowboat to reach the spot you've picked out in the backyard.

But -- as of yesterday -- I had just about had enough. You see this tangled mass of jungle to your left? This ladies and gentlemen -- is part of "$15,000 in free landscaping." Basically -- it's what you get when you buy into a cookie cutter subdivision like I have. Landscapers throw in a bush here and a plant there -- a few blades of grass and some lawn sprinklers -- and announce that you've just received: "$15,000 in free landscaping."

Actually, it's more akin to paying $15,000 for a well used, 1963 Dodge Dart with pushbutton transmission. There's nothing special there. It's just a rusted out car with an old slant six engine that leaks oil. Badly.

As of yesterday -- that "free landscaping" went where it belongs. Those confounded bushes were blocking the path of my nectarine orchard. They weren't just blocking the path -- but the actual orchard itself.

An orchard? In that small a space? Yes sir! The new term for this planting style is called "Backyard Orchard Culture." But -- basically -- it's throwing anywhere from three to four trees into a space the size of a coat closet and watching it grow.

Does it work? Ken Menzer says it does. Farmer Fred Hoffman -- a big advocate of Backyard Orchard Culture -- has been pleading with me to adopt this practice for years. I didn't listen then -- but I see the big picture now. Where some people see bushes? I see fruit trees that are trimmed into a well managed hedge.

The technical explanation for Backyard Orchard Culture -- as explained by Dave Wilson Nursery -- is... "the prolonged harvest of tree-ripe fruit from a small space. This means planting close together several or many fruit varieties which ripen at different times, and keeping the trees small by summer pruning."

So why have three bushes when I can have three nectarine trees? Make those FREE nectarine trees while you're at it. Ideally? You want to purchase your bare root trees at a nursery. They have a better selection of trees to start with. Plus -- overall -- the stock is also a tad better.

But when someone like Bill Bird is armed with a $100 gift card for FREE CRUD at Home Depot? The Big Box store wins. Nurseries lose (although I'm still looking for a white Nectarine to finish out the planting).

That photo to your left? Those are the tops of the two bare root Nectarine trees that I purchased just yesterday. They happen to be the "Flavor Top" and "Fantasia" varieties of nectarines -- which happen to be two of the most popular varieties grown in California today. That's why I found them at the Man's Toy Store (Home Depot).

Can you just imagine what those tree tops will look like this spring? Can't you just imagine now nice and leafy the growth pattern will look? Can't you just imagine what kind of fruit will come from the tops of these trees?

Don't imagine. Because -- the last step in the Backyard Orchard Culture planting process is perhaps the most criminal and perhaps the hardest thing to do. These two trees have just been sentenced by the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. The verdict is in: OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

That's right -- these two trees have (or had) a date with my Corona Loppers. That nice collection of branches you see in the photos? They are long gone -- into the Green Waste can they went.

This is how both trees look today -- in the here and now. This was the hardest part of my planting efforts on NFL Championship Sunday. Tearing out those old bushes? Piece of cake. Amending the wide hole with the right amount of soil, compost and fertilzer? A pleasure. Planting said trees with loving care? A snap.

Cutting off the tree at knee length? It's enough to bring tears to the eyes of your fruit tree sap. But there's a method to this madness. Soon -- spring will come. These trees -- if I haven't shocked them too much during the planting process -- will produce new shoots and new branches. And I can control where the tree grows and how high it grows through the Backyard Orchard Culture process.

All you need is a good pair of loppers and the determination to trim trees three to four times per year rather than just once.

The payoff? Different varieties of nectarines during the summer months -- without needing a ladder to reach them.

For more information about the Backyard Orchard Culture process -- visit the Dave Wilson Nursery information page here. Farmer Fred Hoffman also has similar instructions -- plus a few other handy tips -- here.

As for me? I'm hunting for a white nectarine to finish out my coat-closet orchard. Just don't tell her what's coming.


Roya Rose said...

If and when we ever meet, my husband is going to take off YOUR head for giving me all sorts of crazy ideas:)

The Vintage Vignette said...

WOW!! You have really outdone yourself with this project! I can't wait to read the blog post about your first harvest...keep us posted. :)

Daffodil Planter said...

I guess you'll read the comments one of these weeks, when you come back indoors again. Was that gift card the one you won at my blog? If so, perhaps plant a couple of daffodils in your orchard?

An exciting garden project!

Bill Bird said...

Yup, that was me DP. I won the card! Whoop! Can't remember what I used it on -- but I can tell you it's long gone and went to good use.

Venus has daffodills popping up all over the yard. About 50 of them at last count. Two of them look like they could pop open at any minute. I'll post up some pictures when they do!