Planting a Fruit Tree or Orchard.
The best time to plant a tree? Last year, of course!
Health of the planet and it’s vast peoples; community-self-reliance and future abundance; the simple joy that overflows our bushel basket from a growing connection to the life in our own yards and homestead; Oxygen, water, food, flowers, mulch and soil fertility. Trees are effectively the mothers of life on this planet – giving love and wisdom to all who come into their presence. Planting fruit trees and orchards are an investment whose return increases in value with every passing season.
Basic Steps to Planting
Of course, the most important thing, is to simply plant. We often find that the knowledge of how to do so, is natural and inherent within each one of us, once we simply begin. Indeed, the joy of planting can become immense – once we forget about all the perceived rules of what to do or not do.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of encouragement and inspiration for planting your own home orchard and victory garden, here are some practical steps that we’ve found the most helpful to consider when planting the future:
1) Pick your location and focus your energy. Ideally this is somewhere you already frequent, or would at least like to spend more time. Planting too far away from your natural flow of energy can sometimes mean a season of neglect. It’s important to realize that fruit tree whips need the most TLC in their first year. But, once established, are nearly unshakable amidst the adversity of this ever-changing world.
If you plant in a thoroughfare that you already move through – like outside your window!, or walking to the chicken house, along the driveway, or near your favorite bench – you are much more likely to stay present and meet the basic needs of the tree(s) as they arise throughout the first growing season.
- Vision the trees as part of the whole. A favorite and proven starting point is to simply sit in your future orchard/food forest. Be quiet, breathe deeply, and release all thoughts and wishes of what could happen there, or anywhere else in your life. Clear your mind, and allow the natural inspiration of the land itself to share it’s potential with you.
This may involve the path of the sun and corresponding sun exposure in different spots (sun and shade); the slopes and contour of the land; the existing fertility of the area, and potentially much else. Don’t get caught up too much in what you are looking for; allow rather, Nature to share with you that which is most important to be aware of.
- Site your trees in the actual location. A personal farm-favorite method is head out to the new orchard with bamboo stakes (any stick will do!). Walk the area (with bare feet if possible), and feel the minor switches and swales in the landscape. Often you can identify the most fertile spots, based on where you feel a little dip or crevice. A little ‘pre-hole’ in the ground has an amazing ability to capture the water and fertility of the surrounding space, and therefore will often be much more rich, humus-y and moist.
In walking the area, stake liberally where you find the ‘fertile crescents’. Don’t get caught up on being perfect – all soil can be made healthy and rich. But it is good to prioritize the pre-exisiting richer spots; would Nature not do the same?
Proper spacing is a consideration – so as to give the trees enough room to grow up into their full potential – but as with the staking itself, don’t worry much about this either. General rules are 8-12′ apart, depending on the size of fruit tree. But we often plant closer, and it’s incredible to see how the trees will actually grow up together, happily.
In one garden, we have an especially productive red plum and apple tree growing about 1 foot from the other, with two blueberries and a prolific goji berry, all together in a 5′ space. So far, they are doing exceptional together. One day, we may happily (and spontaneously) thin and migrate them, but for now, it’s been simply joy to have them grow up together as one happy, productive family.
4. Select your trees and Varieties: follow your joy and plant what you love. Work with local farmers and gardeners to know the best variety for your area.
5. Pre-dig the holes. Once the holes are staked, make the process easier by pre-digging the holes. Put out the energy first! Get an idea of how big the tree holes need to be based on the size of the trees, and don’t feel like you have to overdo it. Trees are happy to be in the ground, especially when bare root or stuck in a pot.
A favorite farm tradition, though admittedly not for everyone, is to head out to the staked area in the evening hour with head lamp on, and dig the holes in the dark. It’s quiet and peaceful, and as if the devas themselves join the effort under the cover of night to make new beds for a new family of friends to be tucked into the earth in the coming days or weeks.
6. Add riches in the hole when planting.
In most all cases, regardless of soil type, an initial fertility boost for the tree is a good thing, though the trees themselves don’t ultimately need extra amounts of nitrogen or any other conventional fertilizer (so we don’t recommend the necessity of buying any artificial amendments). Ultimately, a nice, balanced and rich ‘forest floor’ is the goal. If you don’t know what that is like, I suggest digging into one as soon as possible.
Yet, to get the tree going in the initial stage of development, we have had success using coffee grounds, alpaca poo, comfrey leafs, kitchen scraps, chicken yard, compost, and much more, planted right into the tree hole on the day of planting. These and many other natural options all work fine, and should be mixed in with the native soil, not in replacement of. Often if we just tune in, we find we have our own fertility source and compost opportunities coming right out of the kitchen every morning!
7. Mulch the area around the tree, once tucked into it’s new home. We prefer the ‘donut method’, leaving an open ‘hole’ around the tree itself, maybe 6″ from the trunk, depending on how big it is. This way the water from a good rain and hose alike can easily penetrate to the roots around the trunk, which are just getting established this first summer.
The mulch itself, however, is essential in reactivating (and feeding!) the soil life, and turning what is often grass into food for critters and crawlers of the earth, and of course fertility for the tree itself. Soil life and fertility go hand in hand.
We’ve also seen that un-mulched trees grow at a much slower rate than a mulched one. So, mulch with joyful abandon.
Leafs, straw, woodchips, grass clippings, branches – literally any organic material is fine. This will certainly make you consider what you are doing when you send all that material away in the green bin!
8. Unity in Diversity – No man is on an island, said John Donne; nor is it a tree’s nature to be planted all by it’s lonesome, either. Watch a thicket of regrowth in Nature that grows to re-vegetate hillsides or logged forests – it’s like a giant mass of Nature exploding together as One united ‘Tree of Life’. Nature herself grows in absolute abundance, not as separate and individual trees and plants, which we may diagram and plan up in our minds.
Whenever possible, use the natural principal of abundance in nature to your advantage: plant companions in your mulch ring. Herbs, berries, comfrey, clover and alflafa, fava beans and garlic, even other trees and shrubs, can serve many additional purposes and make for an incredibly diverse and balanced family of life. This won’t always be necessary – maybe you are planting on the edge of a forest, for example. But be honest if it’s a barren landscape, and consider adding some companions.
The power of Community is evident throughout Nature. So, plant in community anywhere you can and realize anew, the wonderful unity that comes from abundant diversity – like a village, with people of all trades and skill sets, meeting every purpose and need, together as one, while fulfilling all their dharma as individuals.
Be willing to throw out everything above. Let Nature truly be your Guide. Rules are only helpful to the extent that they provide inspiration and general confidence to get the planting started. Though helpful in that regard, they are truly meant to be broken and not applied rigidly. Each of our own relationships with Nature and the Garden will manifest uniquely, and this basic truth is to be honored and celebrated. Fear not any wrong decision, or mis-planting here or there. Use common sense. Learn from everything. Stay open to Her guidance in every action taken. And remember to be still, and listen, for she will always help us know the next step if we but ask.
When in doubt – never hesitate to follow the joy. If strawberries do that – there is your answer. If heirloom apples, or juicy plums – waste not away. Plant, love and learn as you grow.
May the blessings of the Devas and Mother Nature ever guide us one and all back to the Eden of harmony and abundance with life on earth. And If we can be in any way of support to your efforts, or you would like to what is available in the farm nursery, please reach out to us today. Contact@anandafarms.com.