Friday, November 23, 2012

Crop Circles

It was planting day for the Santa Rosa Plums that I purchased a month or so ago. I've been told that Santa Rosa Plum trees are pretty and they produce prolifically -- especially if they have another plum to cross-pollinate with so I will likely purchase another plum to ensure a very good crop. But, for now, my Santa Rosa's needed to get into the ground. I had gotten a trunk load of cardboard boxes from church. I had thought those would go farther than they ultimately did but that's okay, there is more where they came from.

So, the first order of business was to mow down the weeds. Then, I needed to figure out the center of the circle. I used a fancy tool for measuring out the circle...a metal fence post with a string attached! Quite high-tech, don't you think? Then, I dug a big hole for the plum tree so I could incorporate rabbit manure into the soil that went back in and around the tree. I made sure to create a rim ring around the hole so that water will collect and keep the trees well watered. Over the rim, I laid wet newspaper as a weed barrier. Over that went partly composted rabbit wood chips from Rafael's cage. Then, the real fun began! I laid out cardboard boxes to completely covered the 12 foot circumference of the circle. Until the tree is full grown, I can grow annuals and cover crops into the circle but eventually, that will be shaded out and the plantings will be around the dripline of the tree.

Around the dripline, I intend to plant companion plants that will provide services to the tree and can be used for other purposes as well. Comfrey, an herb with medicinal uses for animals and humans, is also good for chemically repelling grass while also drawing up nutrients from deep underground. Comfrey is also a great compost and mulch plant as well. So, with all that going for it, comfrey is definitely on the list! Allium, chives, daffodils, and other bulbs are pretty grass repellers. Basil attracts pest-eating insects and is both culinary and medicinal. Lemon balm, marigolds, mint, and plantain are attractive and edible pest repellers. Alliums, lupines, and clover are nitrogen fixers. A well planted crop circle using some of each of these companion plants around the plums will make for a very productive and attractive planting! And, since there are three -- that is a LOT of productivity!

This is the beginning of my orchard. I hope to add figs, mulberries, blueberries, and perhaps a peach. I'm feeling a bit adventurous lately and ordered tree SEEDS to try to grow. I purchased:

Common Lilac, syringa vulgaris 100 Seeds
Red Mulberry, morus rubra 100 Seeds
Black Mulberry, morus nigra 100 Seeds
Silk Tree, albizia julibrissin 25 Seeds
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, cornus mas 10 Seeds
Blood Twig Dogwood, cornus sanguinea 25 Seeds 

The mulberries will go in the "orchard" in a crop circle or two. The others, and perhaps some of the mulberries, will go as part of the boundary hedgerow I'm still trying to develop. The hedgerow had originally been envisioned as a single-plant-hedgerow (rosa rugosas) but those are taking longer to establish than advertized so I'm adding other plants. I'm also going to try my hand at propagating cuttings from Mother's gardenia and azalea bushes to add to the hedgerow and other areas in need of coverage. 

Slowly but surely we are making progress.  I am feeling more optimistic about seeing my plans come alive. It seems to have taken a long time and there is so much still to do and time to allow things to grow but if optimism is a fertilizer of hopes and dreams to bring them to life then I think we are going to see great things in 2013! We might not be there yet, but we are definitely making headway!

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