Earth-friendly solutions for organic gardeners.

Planning My Orchard

I’ve been reading a lot about edible gardening…and forest gardens…and home orchards. I mean, a lot. So  it’s safe to say that there is a lot of information (maybe too much?) rattling around in my head at the moment. There are experimental garden techniques I want to try, and unusual edibles I want to plant. But I also want the best shot at being successful on the first go-around. Because, in case you didn’t know it, fruiting trees and shrubs take time to mature. And I would be very sad to invest several years in a plant only to discover that it wasn’t the right plant.

So I did the smartest thing I could possibly do and hired Monica Maggio of Core Fruit Institute for a garden consult.

Monica Maggio pruning an apple tree

Monica has been growing fruiting trees and shrubs here in the Pacific Northwest for over 10 years. Having taken one of her pruning classes, I knew that she was the real deal: knowledgeable, generous and practical. She spent a few hours with me “walking the property”. That is actually funnier than it sounds, because in this case, “the property” is comprised of my small backyard and even smaller front yard.

It was great to have Monica here, where she could evaluate both the space and the light. She is a wonder at finding creative ways (either through placement or pruning) to fit more plants into a small yard. Even given the constraints of my tiny garden, here’s what we’ll be planting this year.

  • an Italian Prune Plum tree
  • a Bartlett Pear tree
  • several gooseberry bushes, like Captivator and Poorman
  • ground cover raspberries
  • and a white current

That’s in addition to the Fuji apple tree and the various blueberries that are already producing fruit for me.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, I must say that Monica’s advice saved my bacon. She convinced me that I shouldn’t order a cherry tree unless I was prepared to spray and net (I’m not and I didn’t). And she nixed my idea of planting two trees in one hole to maximize yield (it promotes disease in our humid winters). Finally she saved me from buying a pear tree that would have been far, far too large for my yard (disaster averted!).

The truth is the the plants I did order, all of which have the Monica seal of approval, will completely overwhelm my yard unless I’m willing to prune, prune and then prune some more. So all in all, I’m thrilled that Monica will continue to be a resource for me going forward. She’s an amazing teacher (you should check out the classes she’s teaching this season).

Oh, and did I mention that next year we’re planning to plant a Mulberry tree and some grapes? Maybe hardy Kiwi too! So stay tuned!

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