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franken-fruit trees

February 22, 2008

zora naki

treespring is in the air around here, and i have 3 franken-fruit trees waiting to be planted. I don’t know if it’s particularly fashionable, but semi-dwarf stock trees with multiple grafted varieties seem to be very popular around here.

I bought an espalier apple (red delicious, yellow delicious, gravenstein, braeburn, fuji, red mcintosh) to train along the fence, a multi-pear (anjou, bartlett, red bartlett, flemish beauty) version for the bed between our house and the neighbour’s and a multi-plum (shiro, beauty, green gage, stanley, methley) for somewhere in the backyard.

In theory, the idea seems good – each of the trees are self-fertilizing, so i don’t need to worry about planting additional trees in a very limited space. In my wildest dreams, if they all take off, I have visions of strolling through the backyard and deciding – do i feel like a gravenstein apple or a fuji today? – and then plucking them off the heavily laden branches – like an open air farmers market, only better.

treeI was plenty paranoid getting them home though – cramming three small-ish trees, 2 blueberry bushes and 3 packages of seasoil into the car amid the other normal inhabitants of the space (the stroller, car seats, a large pair of shoes and a curling broom) wasn’t easy, not to mention the baby, who kept batting away the branches that were encroaching on his space. His mama’s frantic cries to the contrary – “be gentle with the tree – nice tree!”, as i had visions of losing bushels of fruit as his pudgy little fingers grabbed a branch and squeezed.

We all made it home safely, and i’ve given the trees a few days to recover from the trip while I dig holes for them. It is best to mitigate the stress of transplanting by letting the tree first soak in a tub of fertilizer bath, then mixing a scoop of bonemeal into the soil at the bottom of a huge hole, and then topping up with soil composed of old soil (from the bed) and all the lovely composted, amended soil you are providing in an attempt to ensure a fruitful harvest. It is also very important to leave the grafting bump at the bottom of the tree above the soil level. I was told that this is where the tree breathes, and if you cover it up with soil, you will suffocate the poor thing.

treeI took a pass at the seed aisles and went a bit hogwild. It was hard because I like to browse the packages, pulling off everything I think I might want to buy, and then winnowing down the selection to a reasonable number at the end, putting the rejects back on the shelf. But on this visit, the baby took charge and insisted on holding all of the seed packets for me. Which was great, except that he wouldn’t relinquish them when it came time for the winnowing (i really like that word for some reason) and it took a somewhat embarrassing tug-of-war at the cashier’s station before I could even pay for them.

This is the first year I’m going to try and grow tomatoes from seed, and I picked up sweet million, gardener’s delight, black krim and amish paste to try and cover my bases (finger food, salad, sauce). I recently read an article on the delights of homegrown dried beans, so i’ve lined up some speckled bays and black turtle beans for next winter. Squashes, and peas and beans – oh my! I’m also planning to grow marigolds from seed to discourage insects from devouring everything. Gardening is afoot!


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