Transience & Permanence in the Orchard

Most of you know our orchard specialty is growing close to 200 varieties of fruit trees. Almost all of our trees are planted bare root in the winter, in February generally. This allows the tree roots to get well settled and established in their new home before buds and leaves begin to emerge in the spring. My challenge is, I have to order next year’s trees RIGHT NOW, because the rare and exotic heirloom varieties I seek are hard to find and sell out super fast.

This year has been the first time a lot of our plum trees have fruited, so it has been extremely exciting for me to taste the fruits of my labors for the first time. I do like to share that excitement with as many of you as possible as well. Last week, I went deep on Damson plums in this newsletter. This week, I harvested every single one of them! And that’s the transience of fruit tree seasons - most stone fruit varieties are only in available for a very brief week or three.

You know when you buy yellow peaches at the farmer’s market? They are not the same variety week after week. Most peach growers will have five or ten different varieties, carefully planned to ripen one after another, so they can have fresh peaches for 2-3 months sell. I am learning these cadences, and finding out where I have timing gaps, while placing my tree order for this winter to fill in some of these holes in my summer fruit succession.

TL;DR: Buy your favorite fruits while I have them, because they won’t last long!

Caville Blanc Apples Ripening Nicely - Should Be Ready in a Few Weeks

The permanence of planting a tree is the other side of the equation, what makes choosing tree varieties such a careful and difficult process. Planting a living creature that may well outlive me is not a trivial matter to be taken lightly! I want to grow heirloom varieties, yet at the same time, I have to have some hope they will thrive and fruit in our little valley. Mostly for 2020, I am ordering more apples. Apples are the historical heart and soul of the Pajaro Valley, where they have traditionally grown for over 100 years. Even though berries are currently more lucrative, apples require less water, less care and of course are carbon sequestering trees. Still, not every apple will grow here. It simply doesn’t get cold enough in our climate for many apple varieties from Europe and the east coast to thrive. Apple scab and fire blight are two devastating fungal infections in apples, so when possible, I also look for varieties with some resistance to these diseases.

Even within these constraints, there is a dizzying array of thousands of apple varieties. For next year, some of the new additions we will plant include: Ananas Reinette, Blue Pearmain, Waltana, Black Gilliflower, Yellow Bellflower, Belle de Bsokoop and Strawberry Parfait. Ah, I even enjoy rolling the names around on my tongue. If all goes as planned, in 3-5 years I will get to share these new/old varieties with all to you.

I buy 90-95% of my trees from a nursery in Paso Robles, CA called Trees of Antiquity. I have no personal or financial connection to them, so please believe me when I say, they sell the best tree stock anywhere. Their trees come with thick trunks, healthy grafts, nicely whipped, excellently shipped, and universally healthy. I cannot recommend them more highly. They do sell out of many varieties quickly, so if you are planning to plant trees this winter, I'd order them soon. If you want any advice about what varieties to plant, please write me back with a description of what you are looking for, where you plan to plant, and I will do my best to help you out.

Me and My Trusty ATV Mabel Have Been Doing Some Summer Pruning in the Orchard