After we planted out all 66 trees on Sunday, some how my sun-grogged brain managed to calculate that five of us had set out a tree about once every 4 minutes. And the reason it took as long as it did is the mystery of the auger. Somehow there wasn’t nearly as much dirt to put back in each hole as had come out when it was drilled. Luckily, our general contractor had saved the top soil when he excavated the bunkhouse foundation, so we had a source of fill, but it was a long wheelbarrow trundle away from the orchard site.
I had made a spreadsheet so everyone would know where to put each of the 25 varieties of apples. I worried about how to organize the trees, but when I finally sat down to do it on the computer, it wasn’t that hard. All the trees of the same variety in the same row (all four Cox’s Orange Pippins are in the fourth row), taller trees to the north so as not to shade the ones on dwarfing rootstock, and then to simplify the rest of the sorting, I just filled in the empty slots in alphabetical order. Too bad the trees weren’t packed in the box by letter of the alphabet
None of us had ever planted bareroot apples, so it was interesting to see how quickly we all learned to identify the grafted union between rootstock and fruiting wood, which must be kept a couple of inches above the soil. We used a length of 2×4 timber across the hole as a guide for the height of the graft union.
I had also read in one of Michael Phillips’ books that the rootstock would have a dominant root, one that would have pointed south in its growing-up nursery. His suggestion is to try to position the tree in the same orientation in its new hole. The team seemed dubious when I mentioned this before we headed out to work, but it turned out that for most of the trees there was one major root with a strong lateral thrust, roots that are now pointing south in the new holes.
The Snowdrift crabapple had a few flowers, and the Reliance peach is budding out in pink. We are unreasonably excited about the Ashmeads Kernels, our favorite apple so far. Back in October, when I was researching varieties, we went to an apple tasting at Jefferson’s Monticello. Between that experience and repeated visits to the orchards in Capitol Reef National Park last year, R and I have greatly expanded our apple tasting vocabulary (Red Delicious and Honeycrisp are monosyllabic grunts compared to the rich notes of the heritage fruit we hope one day to produce). One apple we didn’t get to try at Monticello, because someone had “forgotten” to send them to the tasting site, was the Spitzenburg Esopus, said to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. I have two of them planted now. There’s also a Lady apple, purported to have been cultivated by the Romans. If nothing else, we will have a living history exhibit in our orchard in a few years.
First fruits of the harvest will go to Lisa, Scott and Bryan, our tireless and cheerful crew yesterday. Without them, R and I would still be outside filling wheelbarrows full of dirt. We can’t thank them enough.