Early Spring in the Orchard

Thursday, 01 March 2018

Early Spring in the Orchard

With February’s very unusual, prolonged heat wave, there is little doubt that bud-break will be early this year. (That said, it’s within the realm of possibilities that our weather could dive into series of Arctic fronts, and slow things down a little). I am not going to count on this, though.
 
Early spring pruning can stimulate bud break, so it’s best to avoid it, especially with this year’s weather uncertainty. It’s going to be tough enough to baby the early blossoming of our fruiting plants past the always late (or even timely) cold snaps. A late, hard freeze rarely kills a flowering, well established fruit tree, but it could result in little (or no) fruit this year.
 
This is a good time for planting potted trees and shrubs, following our planting advise, and watering them in very well. This will give the plants a chance to develop their root systems a bit before the tree pops into its growth cycle. And it's always a good idea to soak the root ball in a Nature's NOG or other seaweed and humate solution for an hour or two. If the plant is root-bound, gently spread the roots as you place it in the soil. 
 
Fruiting plants are ecologically happier and healthier being in community. An island approach is an example of a permaculture design that will meet this purpose. Prepare an area in a “fat” boomerang shape: place your largest plant in the middle, and add smaller trees, shrubs and perennials for the side areas. This type of planting design creates a guild: an assemblage of plants growing together in their own ecosystem, each enhancing the health and vitality of the others. Just like Mother Nature!
 
This design approach creates a fruit system that is natural, interesting, and fun to be around, and also beautiful and fruitful. It’s also much easier to mow around a single shape than several isolated plants.
 
Andrew "Goodheart" Brown is a 40 year resident of WNC and a passionate home orchardist with over 46 varieties grown ecologically. Andrew is an international consultant in small scale sustainable agriculture projects, an endangered species observer, field biologist, naturalist, permaculturist, gourmet natural food cook, educator, gardener, and beekeeper. Andrew will be teaching several orcharding workshops at the OGS Spring Conference.