Fresh Facts 23: Only Optimists Plant Orchards

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**The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is today. (Chinese Proverb)

**He who plants a tree plants a hope. (Lucy Larcom)

**For in the true nature of things — if we rightly consider — every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. (Martin Luther)

**Only optimists plant orchards. (Uncle Vern)

And since we got some sunshine between rain storms, planting orchards is what we’re doing this week.

For your own well-being, everybody needs to not only know how to successfully plant a tree, but actually go out and plant some every year.

The first question to answer is: what do I expect from this tree? Shade, fruit, color, wind-break, privacy.

Next question is: What’s suited for my climate and soil type? Are there any limiting factors like drainage, hard-pan, or pH? Look around at what’s growing successfully in your area. You can fix pH with amendments like sulfur or gypsum. You can fix hard-pan by digging a big enough hole and breaking through it. Grampa used to tamp a stick of dynamite in each hole on one especially tough piece.

Finally, a good rule of thumb is that there is about the same amount of root-system below ground as there are branches above ground so make sure you’ve got enough soil for the tree you’re planting; don’t expect a 50-foot tree out of 6 inches of top soil.

Okay, all that said, here’s how The Peterson Family plants an organic peach orchard in Kingsburg.

We square and mark the orchard the day before and put a plastic soda straw everywhere we want a tree.

Dig a hole bigger than the roots of the tree; you don’t want to force the roots into the hole. A fist full of soil should be dry enough to crumble in your hands. Wetter than that and your shovel will pack the soil around the hole making it tough for the tree to get started.

Next, we put a 16-ounce scoop of vermicompost (worm poop) into the bottom of the hole; it’s like secret sauce that will feed the tree the first couple months while it gets going.

**** If you’re planting a tree at home, your shovel is going to tell you a lot. Even if your home was built on class 1 soil, it had to be compacted to get a solid foundation. The yard was probably compacted as well so you’d best take the time to dig through this compaction or if you’ve got a permanent obstruction, dig a big enough hole to support your tree for life. Regardless, mix your fill soil 50/50 with planting mix. Don’t layer it, get your hands in there and mix it up so water can percolate. ****

A fruit tree has a knuckle just above the roots where it was budded at the nursery. We point that knuckle into the wind or North West here because that’s the strongest, and the prevailing wind. The other reason is the sun is also going draw it back to the south.

Next you fill the hole with loose soil; never pack it because it makes it harder to get water down around the roots. Next to last, we flood the hole with water and quite a combination of biological, beneficial probiotics. The most important thing though is to completely displace all the air around the roots with water. Once the hole is full of water, you can pack some dry soil on top and step on it just to get good soil root contact.

Finally, we will top it about 18” above ground and leave one bud on each of the top 5 shoots. Only optimists plant orchards.

Eat healthy!

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Categories: Fresh Facts , Newsletter

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Your farmer Vernon Peterson grows organic stone fruit and chickens along the Kings River in Kingsburg, California.

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