It’s February, and starting your homestead is the last thing on your mind. If you are going to break ground and begin to work your land, there is plenty to do this month. It’s time to start planning and ordering your fruit trees, strawberry plants, asparagus roots, raspberry canes and blueberry bushes.
You don’t have to plant all of these, but I offer them for your consideration because they take at least a year to establish. Some won’t yield fruit for years, so getting started this spring means that you’ll be enjoying a harvest sooner rather than later.
If you would like to get started but aren’t sure how much time and energy you have, plant a couple of self-pollinating fruits like peaches or plums. If you are thinking about apples, pears or cherries you’ll need to plant companion trees to ensure good pollination.
Are you thinking about something more substantial? Our best advice is to plant as many fruit trees as you can this spring. We are entering the fifth year of our homestead, and we wish that we would have planted more trees much sooner than we did. It takes 3-5 years to produce a decent crop, so each year you postpone is one more that you’ll be waiting to harvest fruit.
Orchard Fruit Varieties
Here are some tips to consider when choosing fruits for your table:
- Try 2 cherry varieties, 2 peach varieties and 2 apple varieties. This will stagger your harvest: cherries ripen in early to mid July, peaches in late July to early August, and apples in the fall. You can choose approximate harvest dates for each variety. There’s nothing worse that having all of your fruits and vegetables coming ready at once.
- Remember that with cherries and apples there are table varieties like Bing and Gala or cooking varieties such as Montmercy and Winesap. Each has its use – and read carefully!
- Make sure that you have the correct pollinator for your varieties. Many peaches self pollinate, but cherries and apples need a companion variety to help with excellent fertilization. Your fruit catalog should tell you which varieties complement one another in their descriptions.
- Plant your orchard this year. Planting 2-3 trees this year and 2-3 next simply postpones your harvest. Get your trees in at once and you won’t regret it. Don’t worry about the work load. Once you dig your holes and plant your trees, you’ll only have to mulch and water during the summer months.
- Start today looking for a strong highschool student to help you dig your holes. Young men who want to work hard are difficult to find. If you are over the age of 30, you’ll find the digging is harder than you imagined.
- Order your fruit trees before the end of February for early discounts and free shipping offers.
- Don’t try to save a few dollars on your trees. Choose a quality nursery with good stock. It takes a season or two for weak trees to show themselves and then you’ve lost years of precious time and must replant. We have used Stark Brothers and Miller nurseries with good success.
- Ask your nursery to prune your trees for you before they ship. If they send things that look like sticks, don’t worry. Plant them and you’ll be amazed.
Don’t wait to plan because spring will be here before you know it. Most nurseries ship trees in late March or early April and planting trees as early as possible helps to insure that their root systems are adequately developed to survive during the heat of the summer.
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll talk about choosing a site for your trees next time!
- Homestead Basics: Choosing Your Orchard’s Location (crossroadshomestead.wordpress.com)
- Homesteading Basics: Planting & Growing Fruit (crossroadshomestead.wordpress.com)
- Early Spring Planting and A Garden Day (lilsuburbanhomestead.com)