Jan 072011

Apple Picking by Andrew Wyeth

Thurid Clark has suggested we undertake planting apple trees in common areas of Lummi Island and, as a first step, will approach the Heritage Trust about doing this at the Curry Preserve. Other locations that we might ask to host trees: the church, the Grange, the store, the county parking lot, the library, Salvation Army camp, the condos. This could be expanded to include other kinds of fruit trees as well as nut trees and is a project that is being carried out in dozens of locations around the world. These trees could provide a source of food for years to come.

I’m going to try and help Thurid with this effort and we will need lots of volunteers, especially folks with some tree growing experience, though certainly not required. And, because of the cost of tree planting (which I’ll explain below, we’ll be looking for financial help as well).

Totnes, UK, where the Transition Town Movement originated has planted 170 trees since 2007.   The Seattle, WA transition group has an active tree planting program. Auckland, NZ has an aggressive program. Tree planting is part of the overall food initiative of Transition Culture.

Typically, trees are planted in common areas and maintained by volunteers. In some places, each individual tree has a “guardian” assigned. Fruit and nut trees require quite a bit of care and attention. If vegetables are a romance, a fruit tree is a long term committed relationship.

Before planting our small personal orchard we took the workshops offered by Cloud Mountain Farm. Workshops are scheduled at Cloud Mountain again this winter and are very worthwhile:

Fruit Tree Workshops Date and Time
Growing Apples and Pears
We will discuss planting, growing techniques, and pruning of apples & pears. Techniques will be covered for pruning newly planted trees to renovating older trees you’ve inherited.
Feb. 5 • 10:30-Noon
Feb. 12 • 10:30-Noon
March 12 • 10:30-Noon

They have lots of other great workshops scheduled as well.

Because of the voracious deer on Lummi Island young fruit trees must be protected. Raccoons will also be a problem. There are no doubt inexpensive ways to fence the trees. We probably did it the most expensive way possible.  Serendipitously, while I was standing in front of the fencing at Lowe’s a couple winters ago a fellow walked up and told me exactly how to fence a fruit tree. At least he told me how he had been doing it for successfully for several years. He used 20′ of two by four inch wire fencing and four six foot metal stakes. The fencing is Zip tied to the  stakes and a twelve inch gap is left at the bottom so one can weed whack underneath. This keeps the deer off the trees but won’t keep raccoons or other critters from stealing your fruit.

I documented our experience in a series of posts on the blog I keep for myself on our garden. I experimented with this idea gleaned from Backwoods Home Magazine (over Linda’s objection) It didn’t work. Don’t try it. The deer finally got hungry enough to walk across the fencing and that tree (now fenced) is a good year behind the others.

You need to dig large holes.  It’s hard work by hand.
Make friends with someone with a back hoe.

We finally finished it up. Five of the trees failed to make it through the winter due to freezing at the nursery and Cloud Mountain replaced them. Had to dig out the holes and replant them.

Everyone seems to agree that these days semi-dwarf trees are the best choice. Easier to prune, care for and pick. But semi-dwarfs have a shallow root system and in our windy clime must be staked which adds to the cost. So, if you buy a tree, stake and fence it each tree requires a fairly significant investment and if we had a lofty goal of several hundred trees we would be looking for 1) donations and 2) ways to keep the cost down.

Cloud Mountain Farms offers a newsletter service for around $40 a year where they tell you month by month what you need to be doing to care for your trees.

More to come later on the Johnny Appleseed Project.


  9 Responses to “Johnny Appleseed Project”

  1. I think planting apple trees is a fabulous idea and a good community project. Count me in for a donation and some backhoe time!!

  2. Me too!
    Backhoe covered for anything close to Granger Way.

  3. Paul and I love this idea and are in for volunteer labor anf financial donation.

    I have been thinking that Lummi Island needs a ‘Gleaning Group’ armed with tall orchard ladders to harvest the unpicked upper branch fruit of fruit trees – with the permission and encouragement of private tree owners of course. There are lots of ways the Island could share in and enjoy the harvest.

  4. Lummi Island is mostly zoned “rural residential island” for land use, but without (other than private, like LIHT) legal protections of the excellent farmland soils and open spaces that we have. During planning, some asked the County to add an ‘agricultural protection overlay’ on properties with prime farming soils. This is a land-use legal designation that protects rural areas with outstanding farming soils in the of the County. No success.

    Now it appears that that the County Council is likely to consider modifying (doubtless diluting or reducing) such protections for other rural areas in the County. This would be consistent with County actions in 2010 that reduced rural areas by re-assigning them for urban growth areas etc. I found this in the Council packet for the Jan 11 Council of the Whole that proposes priorities for what the Council should work on in 2011. (http://www.whatcomcounty.us/council/meetings/council/packet/ab2011-057.pdf)

  5. Or, more briefly . . . fewer legal protection of farmlands, woodlands and forests –> more need for us to use the lands we have wisely.

    Thank goodness for LIHT’s protection of the Curry Preserve, etc, and thanks for all of us who as individuals and collectively support, preserve and develop Lummi Island’s food-producing capacity. Laws may come and go depending on the whim of politics, but the need to eat (or die) is a certainty.

  6. Wynne,
    I know you are following David Stalheim’s blog. But for those who aren’t http://getwhatcomplanning.blogspot.com/ Sounds like the Council is risking some kind of tax sanctions but maybe they don’t care.

  7. I’m glad to see the Johnny Appleseed Project. We already have 4 apple trees on our land and have planted some hazelnut trees. Got the first hazelnut last fall! So exciting! We might do something like “adopt a tree” at one of the locations that are planted. But already have a lot of garden and land care work here at Tree Frog Farm.

  8. Diana,
    When we get back would like to take a look at your tree. Any problem with birds or other critters? I want to plant a couple soon (Feb) R S

  9. Consider several varieties built on dwarf rootstock. That way there is less chance of contagion, hardiness failure, and simply more recipe options.

    A century ago apples sprung up in several varieties from the same seeds, and it was a crap shoot whether the apples would be good for anything but hard cider. Johnny Appleseed was more about ensuring that pioneer colonies could host a zesty hoe-down than bake a prize winning pie.

    I’m considering a property backed up to the forest preserve (which probably won’t have ideal farm land to begin with). Planting all the apples, pears, cherries, berries, and such I’d ultimately like to do on a small lot might require ousting some timber trees. Anyone have opinions on that?

    One alternative possibility that occurs to me is planting on neighbor’s lawns, in exchange for some harvest, and a covenant contract which ensures the trees stay accessible even if the home resales.

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