Jan 262011

Thurid Clark approached the Heritage Trust about the idea of planting some fruit trees on the Curry Preserve. The Trust Board came back with a quick and generally positive response to the idea but had some questions which we could use some help in answering. They are as follows:

1) How will the group of orchard stewards be recruited and trained to provide consistent care for the orchard area (mowing) and the trees (pruning, watering, fertilizing, harvesting)?

2) Will the orchard stewards be willing to help prepare the site for planting after blackberry removal?

3) Growing trees is a long-term proposition.  How will the orchard stewards address this long-term commitment; how will the group replace, add and train new stewards over the years to provide consistency?

4) Will there be any relationship between the new orchard steward group and the existing community gardeners?

5) What are some of the basic costs orchard stewards will need to cover to start phase one (planting five trees); how will funds be raised and/or donations solicited to cover costs?

6) How will the group communicate with Heritage Trust staff and board?

If anyone reading this would like to pitch in with some ideas, Thurid and I would appreciate it. At the same time I will try and contact some other tree growing initiatives and find out how they handle the stewardship issue.

In their letter to Thurid the Trust makes the following point:

“A first step toward preparation for any expansion of the current orchard will be the removal of invasive blackberries, old fencing and debris from the current orchard area and the old home site. After clearing, the area will need to be planted with grass and consistently mowed to manage the blackberries. The Trust is committed to completing the blackberry clearing prior to the planting of new fruit trees.”

This would mean planting trees at the Curry is some time in the future. As my literary hero Jack Aubrey is fond of saying, “There is not a moment to be lost.” So, we should be thinking of locations other than Trust property where we can be planting trees this spring. We would solicit ideas on other locations as well.


  11 Responses to “Johnny Appleseed—Next Step”

  1. There are already several “wild” apple trees on LIHT land now and are doing fine as wild, harvestable trees. Phase one needs to incoporate deer proofing trees for fist 4-5 years. I have several apple trees that are 30 years old and never needed to fertilize or spray with insceticide. The apples don’t look grocery store commercial but are very tasty Let’s keep it very simple and common sense.

  2. That’s a very gracious offer to clear the land of invasive bushes, old fencing, and debris from the home site. Thank you LIHT.
    I’ll be happy to donate my tractor and myself to grading the soil, suitable for grass planting, and digging holes for tree planting (besides, I need an excuse to fix it). If metal ‘T’ post are purchased for fencing (similar to the garden plot), I’ll drive those as well .
    I don’t know squat about canning the fruit, if someone wants to teach me how in a few years.

  3. Thanks Mike.

    And, John, I have to agree with you.

  4. Canning is simple enough. Just keep your eyes out for a large pressure cooker until then. ..and maybe a cider press. My great aunt’s sheep ranch has one, and they make harvest time more of a holiday. She also has a treadle sewing machine, pump organ, hand wringer washer, and an oven/stove which runs on gas or wood.

    I recall as a kid them burning an apple branch in that stove because a worm showed up, and it spreading would have been catastrophic.

    Mind which wild apple trees are sweet. Some may be more suitable for hard cider and vinegar (useful ingredients in their day), for which the cooker would again come in handy. Also save up your non-twist-top bottles, thicker glass, the better.

  5. I think the six point made in the letter are reasonable questions to ask for the long term continuity issues raised. I would offer the following suggestions, referring to the question numbers above:
    1.Run an announcement in the next Tome to have a ‘Meet-Up’ of interested arborist at the Curry Garden site. See who shows up for a little brunch picnic on the grounds, and maybe have a guest speaker arborist on the island as a mentor for the group.
    2. I think I’ve got that one covered.
    3. Helen Scott is the Garden Mom this year. Perhaps she would like to extend her ’empire’ to a few trees, or at least work with the group leader (Thurid or Randy?).
    4. See #3
    5. Costs include the trees, fencing, seed, peat?, maybe a water line extension, so maybe 1-2 thousand at the most, with some in-kind contributions. Maybe we auction off a Lane Walnut tree (couldn’t find a bridge on the island), or have a little fund raiser on site, but get some commitments from the brunch group to cover the costs.
    6. I’m thinking by telephone or twitter. Actually, LIHT has an excellent relationship with Meagan and the gardeners. Adding a few trees to the mix is quite manageable, and provides for the needed continuity between the Trust and volunteers.
    Just my thoughts, how about yours?

  6. My limited experience is that most of the work and cost (90%) is in the planting. I think I previously posted that I used four metal posts and 20′ of five foot 2″ x 4″ fencing raised up off the ground and secured with zip ties. A back hoe makes the hole digging a snap but the dirt needs to be sifted to get out the big rocks, composted a bit and fertilized. I’m rough guessing the cost of a planted tree of around $60. Young trees need to get about an inch of water once a week. This can be done using the bucket with a hole in it method. Continuing maintenance doesn’t really amount to that much. We wouldn’t be growing fruit for market so we’d just need to guard against worms and coddling moths, prune once a year, thin the fruit, etc. Other more experienced people might have better ideas than mine but I don’t see this as an all-consuming maintenance chore once the trees are in the ground. I am, of course, willing to look after a number of assigned trees. Twenty or thirty wouldn’t seem to be that much of a chore.

  7. I look forward to sinking my teeth into a micro-managed heritage red sometime in the year 2047.

  8. I hope to be around in 2047, but even if I’m not, I’ll be glad to know I left a better world after meeting my own humble needs. I plan on researching barrel-grown espaliered dwarves when I get in the area, so I have some later migration options. Of course that means a flatbed truck and way more digging later, but at least it’s a start manageable for the time being. One way or another, mature 2047 trees need planted now, not then. Apparently yield even on dwarves is immense. I expect they cost a bit more since they are grafts.

    It seems a heritage site should have at least one or two heritage size trees for landmark/testimony purposes. Perhaps they can be espaliered when young to later support support a built-in tri-level harvesting tree-house.

  9. If the trees are picked for disease resistence and productivity in the cooler growing season that we have here on Lummi, and are on a semi dwarf rootstock to keep size tall enough to eventually grow out of deer grazing height but within the ease of human safety, then I don’t think the maintenance is going to be all that tough, long or short term. Semi dwarf sizes usually grow above the most damaging of deer grazing height in about 5 years, give or take. In that 5 years then the deer fencing and support staking is needed but not hard to work around. Long term trees shouldn’t be planted in holes with compost or other soil additives. They need to learn to cope with the soil they are in as long as the site was chosen for good drainage and the least amount of wind exposure. Fruit trees do need deep watering in their formative years to encourage roots to go down, not out. Compost added as a mulch is really the best. It helps keep weeds down, the soil moisture in and fertilizes all at the same time.
    All fairly simple and straightforward but does require people to do. Possibly, like Mike suggested, having a meet-up of interested gardeners and arborists would end up meeting the required people to do the routine stuff. There are very knowledgable professional people out there who we could have give us some pruning and maintenance lessons, making this an ongoing learning experience over the years.
    Even in the worst case scenario of all interest in maintenance is lost in 15 years whatever we plant now will continue to produce, ready for when the interest comes back.

  10. Barb, thank you for your excellent comments on the apple tree planting. Good to know about all you suggested. Thank you! Thurid

  11. Ah, above deer browsing height. Thanks for the tips.

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