Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Living Landscape

Ouachita Blackberry
I have a lot of digging to do.  

My garden and orchard plans have snowballed into a near full-on farm.  In addition to the quince, apples, and peach tree I initially planned on, I've added several other trees, a rather large handful of berry plants, and a couple of elderberry bushes.  

So, what's new?  I've added a Blenheim apricot tree, Illinois Everbearing mulberry, Stanley plum, and a Brown Turkey fig that'll spend winters inside.  I've added a collection of northern highbush blueberries, Boyne raspberries, Koralle lingonberries, Old North Sea strawberries, and Ouachita thornless blackberries. I nixed the Queen Cox apple altogether.

I'm going to go off on how excited I am for a minute.  The Blenheim apricot is the benchmark of apricot flavor.  They were grown at Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, and at Blenheim Castle in England.  Despite the royal pedigree, they don't tend to sell well at market because they don't take on that perfect light orange coloring.  In fact, their shoulders tend to stay on the greenish side.  Oddly enough, they just appear to be under-ripe.  Inside is a veritable explosion of apricot flavor.  Blenheims are in danger of disappearing for the simple reason that Americans like their food to look pretty, and commercial farms are pressured to grow varieties that do just that, despite what may be a sacrifice in flavor.
Blenheim apricots
Initially, I was going to build raised beds on my own, but I've decided to go with pre-made that requires minimal assembly.  It's quick and dirty, and I can spend more of my time digging holes for the bazillion trees I'm planting.  I'm putting them directly on top of the soil, so I don't have to have a deep bed.  I'll just have to remove the turf and turn some dirt over to loosen up the soil.  

I got four beds that measure 4 feet x 8 feet x 10.5 inches, and three beds that are 4 feet x 4 feet.  

Emily wants to plant corn, so one of the four-foot beds is destined for a patch of corn for her.  

The other two small beds are earmarked for asparagus and strawberries, respectively.  The large beds will have our usual staples like beans, peas, beets, tomatoes, peppers, greens, squash.  I'll likely get another bed for just herbs.

Due to our current rodent situation in the lawn (voles and moles), I've decided against my original plan of building a compost bin on the ground.  Instead, I've used my Amazon gift cards to buy a compost tumbler.  This one has two sections so that each side can be in different stages of breakdown.  Until I have leaves to rake up, I'm going to use some coconut coir potting amendment as my "browns" so that my compost will cook and not turn into a slimy bog (which is what happens when you have too many greens).  

We're still on the fence about chickens.  It wouldn't take much at all to convert the backyard shed into a pretty solid chicken coop.  The issue is that we'd have to be home or to have someone feed, water, and tend to the chickens when we go on vacation.  Maybe once I've finished all of my digging I'll have some time to think about adding chickens to the mix next spring.


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