Gardening

A Micro Orchard in the ‘Burbs

I love gardening in theory, but I am fairly terrible at it in practice.  I am all raring to go come March, April and May…but once the temps and humidity start soaring, my interest plummets.  Add to this kids being home for the summer, an increase in activities, gatherings and just plain socializing, and any lofty goals I have quickly fall to the wayside.

Enter my love of fruit trees.  Growing up, our parents had several apple trees, and I loved picking them in the fall and all the different pies and bars my mom would make with them.  It also seemed like an unusual thing, since not many of my friends had fruit trees, so the cool factor was thus applied as well.

When we built a house in a subdivision 12 odd years ago, one of the things I was most excited about what a clean slate for my yard.  I had grand plans, well, I always have grand plans….but I was most excited to cultivate a beautiful and yet functional yard for my young and always hungry family.  I loved ordering my landscaping plants from catalogs, partly for the variety they provided, but also because they had wonderful lifetime warranties on their plants!  And believe you me, there were a few years that these companies replaced plants that one of my little darlings decided to abuse and kill.  Anyway, in those catalogs they always had fruit trees, and one year in particular, I decided to take the plunge and buy a peach tree.

Much to everyone in my neighborhood’s astonishment, that tree grew and flourished in our yard, and a few years later we had the MOST delectable peaches I have ever tasted.  We were lucky to get a few harvests before it got a borer and was destroyed.  That was a very hard year for me.

Fast forward a few years, and our family has moved out of the subdivision, into a fixer upper that has two GIANT pear trees in the front yard.  It was the icing on the cake for me, that’s for sure.  Our first pear harvest netted us 800 pears, and that was just from one tree, since the other one had a fungus and we didn’t know how to treat it.

Since clearly that wasn’t enough crazy for me, I immediately planted a cherry tree upon moving in.  I KNOW!!  And then, last year we got a peach tree, and just last week, my in-laws gave us their new peach tree since they are moving!  BAM!  Someone has a micro orchard!

Now, I know what you are thinking.  How can you have all of these trees on a suburban lot?  Well, there are a few ways I am doing this.

  1. We are using them as landscaping
  2. We are keeping them small (except for the existing pears which are too big)
  3. They are really the only trees we have in the front of our house
  4. WE ARE KEEPING THEM SMALL

Clearly, numbers 2 and 4 are the most important.  My sister recommended a book to me, titled “Grow a Little Fruit Tree” by Ann Ralph.  It is a manual for me, and a guide for keeping these trees manageable not just for our needs, but our small lot.  And while the greedy gardender in me wants them giant with amazing yields, I think back to those 800 pears and how much exhausting work it was to process them all (and let’s be honest – I wasted way too many by letting them sit around and not eating or processing them).

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