We were fortunate enough to be able to bring our trees with us when we moved, so we already had a smallish orchard on the go, but this spring we had a chance to do a bulk order with some of our neighbours, so I ordered five more to go with the seven we already had. In addition to this, a friend of a friend donated an established apple tree that was taking up too much room in her garden. That brings us to thirteen, and while I still need an apricot before I'll be completely satisfied (if anyone can recommend favourite varieties, I'd be very appreciative!), I'm hopeful that an orchard of this size will be enough to meet our needs.
Our peach tree has been very productive over the last couple of years.
Here's what we have ended up with:
-Five apples: Gala, Cox's Orange Pippin, Liberty, Yellow Transparent, plus one mystery apple
-Three pears: Flemish Beauty, Comice, Red Sensation
-Two plums: Santa Rosa, Italian Prune
-Fig: Desert King
-Cherry: Compact Stella
Maintaining an orchard can be tricky, especially when dealing with things like deer. However, it turns out that teenagers can be just as much of a menace as their four footed counterparts, which I unfortunately discovered a few weeks ago following my daughter's 16th birthday party, and a wild game of capture the flag (played in the dark, of course). We were careful to put solar lights at the base of each tree in order to mark their locations, but that didn't prevent my Gala apple from nearly losing one of its three main branches.
Unwilling to just lop it off, I did some reading online and found that arborists will quite often reattach broken limbs to trees. The way to tell if a branch can be salvaged or not is to look and see if the leaves have wilted - if there's enough of the cambium layer left attached to the tree below the break, the leaves will still look healthy. Being mid April, my tree hadn't leafed out yet, so there wasn't really any way of telling, but we decided to go for it anyway.
We carefully placed the branch in its original position, and screwed it back into place. You don't want to do anything like wiring the branch back on, as this will cut off the tree's circulation and kill the branch, if not the whole tree.
If all goes well, the bark will continue growing up around the break, and the screws will become part of the structure of the tree.
We then took some non-toxic outdoor wood glue and used it to seal the break all the way around.
Good as new!
Now that the weather is warming up, the branch is slowly starting to leaf out. They're not quite as big as the leaves on the rest of the tree, but I'm optimistic:
I'll be sure to keep an eye on things, and will remove any flowers or fruit that appear for the next couple of years so as not to stress it further while it heals. Reconstructive surgery on a fruit tree may seem a little drastic, but a crisp, juicy, gala apple is a thing of beauty.
Here are some of my favourite ways to use apples (and the reason we need so many):