Even though both my grandfathers (and generations before them) were both farmers, I have only recently developed a serious interest in gardening. Having an interest and knowing how to garden effectively are two different things – especially when you garden in Utah (a high desert in the throes of a 20-year-old drought).
I also have the added challenge of making my farm fit into my wife’s master plan of turning our yard into her version of an English garden. Her goals are aesthetics and ecology — a pretty garden home to birds, insects and other Disneyesque wildlife.
The New Plan
With these challenges in mind, I made a decision last fall to redesign the 1/100th Acre Farm (after all it is experimental). Simply put, the change was to make my yard more edible.
I’ve scaled down the labor-intensive garden area and replaced it with fruit trees and an expanded strawberry patch. And along the fence in my wife’s side of the yard I planted grape vines. I though she would find it heretical, but she actually welcomed the idea.
So now my farm boasts four peach trees, two walnut trees, three Bing cherry trees, four new grape vine starts and a strawberry patch. They are both pretty and productive.
The rationale for the change was two-fold. I enjoy the beauty of trees, bushes and vines – especially fruit trees that blossom in the spring, are green all summer (interspersed with color from the ripening fruit), and turn yellow and orange in the fall. And I love the sweet taste of fruit more than vegetables.
Still a Bit of Work
One might be tempted to think that orcharding is the easy way out, but that’s not entirely true. For me, fruit trees, bushes and vines do require less effort and water and they are perennial, but they also have their peculiar needs and problems.
- They are susceptible to frost in the spring and disease and pests in the summer. Losing a row of peas or a couple of tomato plants is nothing compared to losing a whole season of fruit or even a whole tree.
- They require some special care – careful pruning, thinning and propping, and it needs to be in the right part of the season.
- They take 2 to 4 years (or even longer) of care before they produce good yields.
But to me this is all a labor of love and I am excited for my move in this direction. My hope is that I will find more ways to eat my yard.
Your suggestions are welcome.