Many people today are concerned about where their food comes from and whether or not it has been sprayed with chemicals. One of the best ways to do this is to grow your own food. A long term investment in your food supply is to plant dwarf fruit trees.
With Spring having arrived here in Durham, NC, dwarf fruit trees are also blooming right now. The added bonus of spring flowers is a hint of juicy goodness later in the year. The following is the fruit trees I have in my garden.
I have two dwarf apple trees. I planted two because I have heard that apples must cross-pollinate. My trees are young therefore I have not had any fruit on them yet. Apple trees would prefer a little cooler weather than we have in this area. However, since I only planted them for my consumption and any friends I might share with, that does not concern me. If I was trying to sell enough to make a living on them then that might be an issue.
I have a dwarf peach tree called Belle of Georgia. Peach tree buds can often get nipped by late freezes in this area but last year I had a great little crop of peaches. I had so many peaches that a large limb in the tree was broken by the weight. I learned my lesson there and will go into pruning fruit trees a little later in this post.
In the native garden, I have a native plum. these are naturally small trees and the plums are also small. However, they are great to snack on while enjoying the garden. I cooked some of them down into a plum sauce which was very good on baked pork chops and even some baked chicken. New trees easily pop up around the parent plant allowing you to dig them up to share. They also seem to have a tendency to send up new shoots from the roots. These must be removed if you don’t want a thicket of plum.
I also have a native cherry. It has bloomed great this year. Last year I don’t remember how much it flowered but I do know I had very few cherries on it. We will see how they do this yer. I have been told that cherries also would do better in a little cooler climate as well. My view is the same as it is with the apples.
One tree that I also have but will not be dwarf is a pear tree. This tree has already produced quite a few pears. However, I still haven’t eaten one because it seems the squirrels know exactly when to pick every last one off the tree before I can get them. It’s tempting to sit out there with a BB gun and reduce the squirrel population so I can enjoy some pears.
Another native fruit tree that I have but you don’t see a lot of is the PawPaw tree. This is also known as the Hoosier Banana because the fruit is said to taste somewhat like a banana. These trees look a little tropical with their large leaves. Pawpaws can grow into large colonies. However for fruiting, you need to have trees from different colonies.
The way to prune fruit trees except for the last two on this list is to prune any limbs which are growing straight up and let the tree grow wide. This helps to make it easier to pick the fruit. You also want to prune branches back so they are stubby. This allows the structure of the tree to be strong enough to support the weight of the fruit. It also helps the fruit that does develop to be fewer yet larger. Generally prune the tree to be open and sturdy. It does no good to let the tree go big if it can’t support the fruit and you end up losing some due
to broken limbs.
One of the least “green” thing you can do in your yard is to have a grass lawn. Being green is a buzz word today but it is an important way to live. We must take care of the earth and that is no more true than in your own yard. You may not have the influence to clean up the entire earth. However, you can make changes right at home.
The U.S. style of the suburban lawn is a good place to start. Our cars have all these gadgets to help reduce emissions to help keep our air clean. Our gas-powered lawn mowers, weed-eaters, and blowers do not. Add to that fact, a lot of lawn care equipment also uses two-cycle engines. Two-cycle engines have oil mixed with the gas. This is all burned together which is why most of them noticeably smoke when used.
One solution is to not have a lawn at all. That was the solution I used. I have a small piece of property that is long and narrow. It made little sense to put any grass near the house as the widest of any area was 15′. Add to that the shade caused by trees it made no sense.
However, families with children may want a lawn for play. That is understandable. However, not every square inch of the property needs to be covered with grass. Only use grass where it is a large enough area for play or maybe along parking areas where you might need the room to get out of the car. Smaller areas of grass in the front yard may help to set off the plants better than a large expanse. Generally speaking, less is more.
The other problem with lawns is the amount of chemicals usually used to keep the lawn thick and green. Weed killers and fertilizers are often used in ratios that cause them to runoff into gutters and streams. Some of these chemicals also cause severe reactions to kids and sensitive adults. A “healthy” lawn usually is not. Most people strive for a monoculture of grass with nothing else growing in it. This is also opposite of nature. If you’ve ever watched the opening of “Little House on the Prairie”, Laura Ingalls is running through a field of grass and many wildflowers. That is nature’s idea of a lawn to play in. Until the 1950’s it was a badge of honor to have clover in your lawn. Clover was recognized as beneficial to the soil for the fact it releases nitrogen into the soil. Once the chemical companies got going, they convinced people that this was undesirable.
If you choose to have a lawn, try to find organic lawn care products. There are companies out there that focus on using only organic products. Check them out carefully. For cutting your lawn, you might check out electric mowers and equipment. There are lawn care companies that use electric equipment that the charge up using solar power.
Back briefly to the idea that a lawn is necessary for children. I have a friend who has a five year old son. He used to live with me but now has his own place. His home has a lawn which Nicholaus loves to play in. However, when Nicholaus is here where there is no lawn, he is still out there playing and exploring. He says he likes my yard more. My garden is an adventure for him.