Something Most Folks Don’t Do With Their Fruit Trees; Plus a Newsletter!

Shot of the outer orchard with a Fuji apple tree in the foreground. This is part of the northeast corner, before last week's plant-a-thon when more than 22 trees and vines were added to the orchard!
Shot of the outer orchard with a Fuji apple tree in the foreground. This is part of the northeast corner, before last week’s plant-a-thon when more than 22 trees and vines were added to the orchard!

I’d never paid attention to this. You?

I had the great pleasure this morning to give my wife a brief tour of our developing home orchard. I’m not gonna lie—I’m proud of it, imperfect as it surely is.

As I explained to her the varieties and cultivars, the flavors we could expect, their flowering times and pollination needs, and even how each of the grafted rootstocks should respond to our range of soils, I think I was most pleased with one simple thing that no one ever seems to think of when designing their fruit tree plantings. I certainly never did: harvest dates.

Harvest Dates

In nutshell, our orchard runs west to east with trees coordinated by successive ripening dates. In this way, for as many months as possible, we can stroll out our front door and have fresh fruit to pick. Not just for a few weeks or a month, but for 7 months (as of right now).

The Ein Shemer apple tree at the “head” of our orchard. Actually, that's just for apples; there's an even earlier Black Tartarian Cherry 20 feet westward ahead of this.
The Ein Shemer apple tree at the “head” of our orchard. Actually, that’s just for apples; there’s an even earlier Black Tartarian Cherry 20 feet westward ahead of this.

For instance, our first Apple tree is an Isreali variety, Ein Shemer (Malus domestica ”Ein Shemer”). It ripens in mid-June or early July, making it a very early apple. The next apples in line are a Dorsett Golden and an Anna, later by a few weeks but still early apples. Thereafter follows Gala, Honey Crisps, and McIntosh (all August), Fuji (September), all the way to an Arkansas Black Spur at the farthest end (October)—and I want to go farther still with a Black Limbertwig and a King David (November)!

Stefan Sobkowiak of Miracle Farms in Montreal calls this type of planting a “grocery aisle” design, and he’s created his U-pick operation like this, where everything in each aisle ripens at the roughly same time from berries to veggies to fruit trees. Watching Geoff Lawton’s Urban Permaculture video again, I noticed this is also the same thing Angelo of Deep Green Permaculture refers to as extended cropping with his home orchard (Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Braeburn—he’s in the southern hemisphere).

I’ve planted not just apples but cherries, pears, plums, pluots, peaches and more this way in our orchard. It’s not rocket science, but it’s something I’d never thought about before. I hope it helps you extend your harvest all season long, and beyond!

Newsletter

Speaking of things that are helpful, I’ve produced a newsletter! You might ask, “How is it different than the blog?”

My answer is: the blog is a sort of daily journal in which I share my enthusiasm for everything going on in the garden and nature. Learning how to do that well involves a lot of research; I’m constantly coming across helpful and just plain neat information, most of which does not make it into the blog. I collect those bits and baubs and share them with minimal commentary in the newsletter. It’s weekly-ish. Certainly not more often than that.

You can subscribe here, and you just might want to: the latest is all about Raspberries, links to where I buy my plants, and a rabbit-powered lawn mower.

Gardening is Good,
~Ben

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