2.17.2014

Fruit Trees and Perennial Edible Garden Plants

Back in July I showed you what our vegetable garden looked like, and promised to show you the food crops that weren't in neat rectangular beds.  I finally got the gumption together to finish the tour even though it is now November, February.... and there is snow on the ground; a lot of snow on the ground.  At least I took photos during the summer.  Remember what summer looks like?

Here's what we've got: peach and cherry trees, blueberry bushes, asparagus and rhubarb.  All of these came in one order from Stark Bros. in early April.

The peach is in the left foreground and the cherry is behind it further to the left in this picture.  The shrubby bush up next to the house is a red bud (Cercis canadensis).
Peach and Cherry Saplings

We ordered two year-old whips bare-root from Stark Brothers during the winter and they arrived in April.


When you order bare-root you get what look like twigs that need to be soaked in water for a day or so to re-hydrate them before planting.  That's what's happening in the photo above.


Being from Iowa we were very concerned about cold tolerance since peaches almost can't grow in a zone 5.  In fact, I wouldn't have even tried to grow a peach in Iowa.  It's just too cold.  I didn't want to plant a peach only for it to die, so I chose a variety called 'Reliance' that boasted of being able to handle Zone 4 winters.

I should have asked around for suggestions, but the farmer's market was closed for the year when I decided to order.  This summer, after the peach had been in the ground several months, I asked a couple of the homesteading type vendors and found out that 'Reliance' doesn't taste very good.  In the middle of Indiana, I should have gone with 'New Haven' which is supposed to be tasty and cold hardy enough for our Zone 5b.  Jeff suggested we go for a second peach tree so we could get a 'New Haven', but I'm not too keen on taking up more of our yard.  My concession is, if this tree doesn't make its first winter we'll start over with a 'New Haven'.

Both the peach and the cherry are grafted on to root stock that will keep them dwarfed to between 10-15 feet tall and wide as full grown trees.  We'll do additional pruning and shaping as they age to keep them a size we can easily manage.


The cherry I picked is 'Montmorency', a sour cherry, again chosen for its cold hardiness.  I hope this is a good one flavor wise.  I haven't heard anything good or bad about it yet.

Both of our little fruit trees went in the ground in April and leafed out nicely in about a month.  We did have some issues with Japanese beetles making meals out of the tender new leaves.  Jeff and I both got in the habit of walking by and picking off the pests a couple times a day.  For such little trees that was doable.  In the future, as the trees get bigger and more established, a little Japanese beetle damage won't matter anyways.

We also had some mysterious bug that ate the tip off almost every branch.  Not sure what that was, but it stopped and the trees are still alive.

We did water at least once a week if there wasn't rain.  We will continue to water through next year then only when conditions get droughty.  With any luck we should have our first fruit in three to five years.

Rhubarb 


We planted four rhubarb plants, a variety called Starkrimson (r), a basic rhubarb plant with red stems.

Three of the bare-root crowns we got were large and plump and one was a puny little thing.  The runt of the litter took a while to catch-up and by mid-summer it was as large as its fellow rhubarbs. In the picture above you can see the little guy on the far left.

Later in the summer the rhubarb that was farthest from the cement patio was the undersized one because the other three got water from the kiddie pool.  The little pool came out during the hottest, driest parts of summer and since we emptied it to change of the water regularly the rhubarb and other plants on the edge of the patio benefited.

We didn't harvest any rhubarb this year.  Next year we might take just a couple leaves in June, and it won't be until the year after next that we can harvest regularly.  These perennial plants need a couple years to grow to full size before you can reap regular harvests.

Asparagus


I thought I was ordering 5 sets of 2 crowns of asparagus but I was actually ordering 5 sets of 10 crowns, so instead of getting 10 plants we got 50.  Whoops.

On the recommendation of Hawkin's Farm, I bought 'Jersey Knight' giant asparagus which is the same variety they grow.

Jeff digging the trenches to plant the asparagus.  

I gave away five plants, but the other 45 all made it into the ground on the north side of the house.   In April, I spent several days moving the ornamental hosta, coreopsis and fern to other parts of the yard to make room for Jeff to dig trenches to plant the asparagus.  Then we watered and kept watch through May until our first thin spears poked their way above ground. By the end of summer we had a mass of ferny asparagus fronds waving on the back of the house.

The asparagus looked healthy all the way up to our first hard frost in November.  I think the north side of our house will suit it just fine.  The north side is shadier when you live north of the equator. While that could be a problem for an annual vegetable, I suspect the perennial asparagus will like it just fine.  That will even give it a little protection from the hottest parts of the day.

Again we won't be harvesting for a couple years, but I'm looking forward to those early spring meals of grilled asparagus.

Blueberries

This is the only photo I could find of our blueberries.  I think I was so distraught by the red leaves that I didn't take any photos until November when the leaves should have been turning red!

Without sufficiently acid soil we are rolling the dice with four blueberry bushes.  I selected the Blueberry Patio Assortment from Stark Bros which includes two 'NorthCountry' and two 'NorthBlue' bushes.  These guys are only 2-3 feet tall and wide so we planted them by our side door.

To be honest, the blueberry bushes aren't looking real hot.  The leaves were a reddish green which is a sign that the soil isn't acid enough.  We dug a bunch of coffee grounds under the plants hoping that would be enough.  I bought some soil acidifier recently to add to the soil this spring in hopes of helping them along.

With lots of luck we might have some berries next year or the year after.

I'm crossing my fingers that all our perennial fruits and vegetables are protected under the massive amount of snow we have had this winter.  We are less than two inches away from being a record breaking year of snow for Northeast Indiana.  Good grief, finishing this blog post just makes me that much more impatient for spring!

4 comments:

  1. Reading this post has made me long for Spring and Summer even more! I am so over Winter at this point! We had planned on planting several blueberry bushes this year but with baby #2, I don't know if that will happen. I am interested to see and hear how yours do! We love blueberries!

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  2. Your photos look fantastic. I hope everything grows well too!

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  3. First, your posts are always an inspiration. I love reading them.

    Second, I wanted to share that my folks actually have a peach tree in west-central Iowa, which is a Zone 4-to-5 area, and they've had some luck with it. Some years it doesn't fruit, but other, it is tremendously productive. Good luck with yours!

    Third, I LOVE sour cherries, and I think Montmorency is a great choice. You guys might consider a summer vacation up to Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula this summer. It's the stone fruit capital of the country, and they have some intense winters. I have some friends with a farm up there. Email me if you interested in learning more - it's incredibly beautiful and fun and maybe you could tour an orchard to learn about what they do.

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  4. Love the pictures of you gardening with your little one. My three year is is so fast now, I can hardly bend down to pick a weed before he's gone. Enjoy them slightly less mobile!

    Best,
    Thomas

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