Category Archives: Orchard

Building up the berry orchard

Last weekend we headed to Edible Landscaping to pick out some blueberry bushes for the front yard.  While I was a bit underwhelmed by the staff’s ability to help me pick out the ideal plants for our farm (question: what does well organic?  answer: everything we’ve got.  question: what do you recommend for our zone?  answer: everything we’ve got. etc. etc. etc.), the selection there really is incredible.

We picked up 3 O’Neals and 3 Tifblues, so we now have 6 blueberry bushes that should do well in the quasi-south that is Virginia (when it comes to zone hardiness – it’s all South when it comes to mentality).   We also purchased 2 Arapaho blackberries, which may be the same variety I bought a pair of last July from Whole Foods (never underestimate their garden center – they have great sales).

It was too early for planting raspberries, but we’ll pick up 2 more of those in another month or so, to go along with our 2 Carolines from last July.  We still need to find a good location for our strawberry patch before I can buy the Virginia Native Strawberry I’m eyeing.

Since we didn’t own any house plants, I also indulged in a Novak Super Dwarf banana tree and  Sweet Bay Laurel.  Who knows if I’ll ever harvest a single banana, but at least this way I can pretend my decorative plants serve a greater purpose.

Planting the Apple Orchard

I once heard the phrase “dig a $10 hole for a $2 tree,” which for you non-farm types pretty much translates to the bigger a hole you dig, the more likely you are to have your tree survive.  If that adage is indeed true, our apple trees will live forever.


Turns out the “root ball” of a 2 year old M-111 root stock apple tree is no bigger than a grapefruit.  And Will dug holes 5 feet in diameter.  Holes so big that when the Great Pyrenees lays down in one, you can’t see her.


So we spent last weekend shoveling back in the dirt that was so laboriously shoveled out while Alston and Scout alternated getting in the way of said dirt, laying in the hole or standing on the dirt mound.  But somehow, we managed to get them all planted.


Will even managed to stake and cage the trees during the week, as to protect them from nibbling sheep.  So now all we do is wait for fruit… three years.

320 bushels of apples

The general rule here on the farm is that Will announces plans to take on something new, say buy sheep.  I react by ordering a handful of books from Amazon, because that’s my idea of being prepared and because I know I probably can’t talk him out of it.  Said project occurs and only afterward does Will reference the small library of farm how-to’s we now own.

Last night, Will was flipping through The Backyard Orchardist when he muttered “oh crap.”  It turns out one mature apple tree produces about 20 bushels of fruit.  And we just ordered 16.

Friends and family can now rest assured that every Christmas we’ll attempt to unload our copious amounts of cider and apple butter on you in disguise as a gift.  Pretend to be grateful.

Starting our apple orchard

Good friends came down for the weekend to help Will dig the holes for our apple trees.  They’re headed to Argentina in January to be WWOOFers, so this was practice for them, free labor for us, and a good excuse to catch up.

After talking to the folks over at Vintage Virginia Apples, we ordered all 2 year old trees on M-111 rootstock of the following varieties:

Ashmead’s Kernel (2)
Albemarle Pippin
Arkansas Black
Baldwin
Black Twig
Gold Rush
Grimes Golden
Harrison (2)
Yates
Winesap (2)
Virginia (Hewes) Crab (2)
Roxbury Russet
Ralls
MonArk

Our main reason for wanting apples is to make cider.  The varieties we chose are mostly heirlooms, and while some will be highly astringent (like the crab apples), there are enough sweet ones to eat fresh, bake into pies and can as apple sauce and apple butter.

The trees should be ready to pick up in early December.  Yippee!