Spring Tales From An Urban Oasis

Our protective strategies during the last two gnashings of late season icy teeth, paid off. Our Greek Village Figs, shown in previous posting, have 59 large, ripening figs (early crop on last years’ new wood) as well as lots of tiny figlets developing on this years’ green wood.

Greek Village Early Season Figs

Were it not for the bamboo-framed wrapping’s protective cover, we would be figless for the early season, and struggling to ripen figlets on current growth.

In the same fashion, our strategy to pollinate our young Paw— Paw (by bringing in flowered cuttings of other local Paw—Paw) was pleasingly successful: our first Barefoot Permaculture Paw—Paw fruits are growing larger daily.

Developing Paw-Paw Fruit

Orchard Wisdom # 11: Don’t count your fruit before it’s in the harvest basket! We still have birds, squirrels, and raccoons to outwit…

Our three Paw—Paw are members of a developing polyculture consisting of Black Walnut, Bamboo, American Persimmon, Elderberry, Jerusalem Artichoke, and Wineberry.

Black Walnut Polyculture

Black Walnut releases a substance into the soil that makes it difficult for many plants to grow. Developing a viable polyculture is a combination of trial and error, as well as gleaning success stories from other permaculturists.

Although many of our friends lost much fruit in the two late freezes, our site squeaked by with minimal damages. This is shaping up to be a bumper year apple-wise! Many of our semi-dwarf trees have never before come anywhere close to the numbers of developing apples!

Three times I have hand-thinned fruit, attempting to have no fruit closer than 4 inches apart. To achieve this, for every fruit currently carried by our apple trees, 3 have been removed.

Developing Goldrush Apples

Multiple reasons for thinning: too large a load can, and will, break branches; too many fruit result in small fruit; and even more of a concern for us, heavy fruit set can result in bi-annual (every other year) fruiting.

We are attempting to coax our trees into annual production. Still, if even half or our thinned fruit develop into full sized apples, we are going to have many more friends, due to many bushels of apples from the Home Orchard.

Recalling Orchard Wisdom # 11, the abundant fruit set was preceded by humid and chilly weather during bloom. Perfect conditions for the scourge of organic fruit production in the southeast: Fire Blight.

An insidious bacterial infection, Fire Blight (Erwinia amylovora) affects many members of the Rose family: pears and apples most notably, yet also other beloved fruits such as Asian Pear and Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp).

Fireblight on Serviceberry

Some varieties have varying degrees of resistance: many have none. In my experience, the difference is this: resistant varieties can still get fireblight, but it seems of stay local (to the infection site).  In non-resistant varieties, the infection can go internal, head towards the roots, and be fatal.

A permaculture strategy for the mountainous southeast (as well as any other location where fireblight is a problem) is to start out with resistant varieties.

Fortunately, some very excellent varieties exist which are both disease resistant as well as delicious. Prime example is a cultivar called Goldrush: my very favorite apple of all times!

When fully ripe (mid November) Goldrush is a beautiful golden, red-blushed, slightly russeted firm, crisp apple that snaps with your bite. Its sweet and acidic, and if left uneaten, will keep for several months. Its great for out of hand eating, cooking, juicing, cidering, drying, and whatever else you may do with an apple!

When the Goldrush are in, I eat 8-12 every day, and in February, when I normally run out, I weep.

This years’ fireblight has me checking my orchard every 2-3 days for new signs of the disease. As I write this article, fireblight is still freshly appearing: I cut it out and remove it from my Home Orchard.

Thus far, I have escaped serious damage, yet…

Orchard Wisdom # 12: Time Will Tell

Amphibian Update: After leading a plant walk nearby, the event host mentioned that his above ground swimming pool was to be chlorinated the next day, and it was a shame because frogs had been laying eggs, and in fact, resided in pockets of pool liner. His beautiful, young daughter had captured and removed to safety most of the tadpoles. When I expressed interest in the frogs, his daughter and 2 friends borrowed my dip net and caught 10 beautiful, green and lichen colored Cope’s Grey Tree Frogs, which I took home, to Barefoot Permaculture’s small pond, and lovingly released them. That very night, as it rained, they sang…

Newest Members of Our Amphibian Community



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About goodheart

Education: Warren Wilson College (BA Environmental Studies) 1987: University of Wisconsin Stevens Point (MSc. Natural Resources) 2005 Permaculture Design Certificate (The Farm, TN) 1994 Presidential Volunteer Award: 2005, 2006, 2007 Experiences: National and international Permaculture teacher and practitioner since 1995; Sustainable land use and permaculture consultant; International consultant for small plot sustainable agriultural projects; Home orchard consultant; Endangered species observer for sea-turtle and whale projects; Field biologist and naturalist; Gourmet natural food chef and teacher; Home baker (artisan breads) brewer & fermenter; Home orchardist; BeeKeeper; Ecological gardener; Broom-maker in the Southern Highland Craft Guild, and general bio-philiac...
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