My two small apple trees produced 14, 4-gallon buckets of medium sized apples this last fall. The UPS delivery man, a former farm boy, travels the countryside year after year and he said he’d never seen the likes. But how did I do it? I didn’t know until now – just now. I was acting on pure inspiration from above. I’m learning to do that, walk by faith when I get an impression and then question why later. Well it’s later and I’m wondering if I can repeat it?
I thought back to what was done differently last year.
I put lots and lots of natural waste under the trees and not just manure but other things in layers.
- Sulfur because under the trees thistle grows really well telling me my soil is too alkaline. I do that every year.
- Composted cow and horse manure which gave nitrogen in abundance. I always do that.
- Bedding from the goat stalls and chicken coop which consists of pine shavings that raises the acidic level. But placed much thicker this time. Harder wood varieties in bark form would be better but it is not available. Remember you need nitrogen to break down wood.
- Hay waste in its smelly, soggy state after a wet winter where it builds up under the hay feeders provides lots of potassium which leads to fruit development. Alfalfa needs lots of potassium to grow so it has much to give when used as a compost mulch. I use alfalfa/orchard grass hay. You can use grass from your mower if you don’t use chemicals or some tall grass you weed whacked.
- Alfalfa helps raise the pH of the soil toward alkaline hence the addition of more sulfur since our soil is way too alkaline. Alfalfa has sulfur also along with magnesium, iron, manganese, calcium, and zinc too.
Now I just wish I had more of it, not to have to clean up but for mulch for my fruit trees and berry bushes. The mulch this last spring was at least four inches thick and to my surprise, last summer I did not have a single worm in my apples. They were loaded the year before. Apparently the heat from decomposing and smothering them down deep did the trick. Yeah, no chemicals!!!!!!
My mom told me over and over that apple trees only produce every other year. She was wrong. If well fed they will produce every year. Just not as heavily each year because the tree uses up a great many nutrients in its fruits which exhausts the tree. If there isn’t enough food she won’t have enough strength to keep herself healthy and produce offspring too.
Part is genetic of course as to whether the tree can to produce each year but most will and I’ve been looking at a lot of trees as I feel we need two more and later replacements for the three we have. One died down to the crab apple tree base it was grafted on and the other two aren’t in the best shape from the nutrient neglect, beatings from the wind, and deer.
Lessons learned last summer were:
- Deep mulch drops water need nearly in half saving time, water, and money.
- Handle once when possible really pays off as I can pitchfork under the hay feeders and put it right on the trees and berry bushes crowding out weeds too.
- Fruit and berry bushes have different nutrient needs than do vegetable plants.
How did I get so smart, I listened to someone a whole lot smarter, the Holy Ghost, and then I found out why from a master horticulturist. Yes another book. A record of three this year. I’ve had a feeling to buy them for over a year now but just did not act. I should have. Lesson learned.
Eventually I’ll understand all Michael Phillips is telling me in The Holistic Orchard. His climate and natural vegetation is different and even his budget to buy natural supplements but still there is much I can adapt to our situation. And once again, I am learning to integrate what I already have and many would call waste into a useful asset.
This Spring I’m going to add a cover crop of Comfrey under the trees as well, I’ll explain why later, and a nitrogen soil fixer like clover I think. If money holds up that is. For sure at least the Comfrey. What successes have you found with your fruit trees that using what you have naturally around your place.