First Fruits 3

Fruit trees are a big part of our subsistence strategy at Longleaf Breeze, so it was high time we started planting some.

At least in central Alabama where we farm, January and February are the time to plant most trees. In their dormant winter state the root system is less under stress, and they have time to recover after planting before spring growth begins.

We were peacefully planning on the preparation of Veg Hill for planting when I got a call from my brother Dave Gray. “Pike County Coop has great-looking bare-root fruit trees for $6.99 apiece. They won’t last long.” My instructions were clear. We needed to get down there and stock up. Amanda and I needed to go by Dave Gray’s farm anyway to pick up a box of 300 longleaf pine seedlings (more about those later), so while we were down in that neck of the woods we drove to Troy and bought about $230 worth of trees: four pears, two plums, four apples, four figs, four muscadines, and four blueberries.

We got them heeled in the next morning in a pile of topsoil on Veg Hill and waited for suitable weather. Wednesday morning dawned cold and windy, but sunny, so we decided to have at it. We decided to start with the pears, two moonglow and two orient. We started the holes with the auger on Tractor (hey, we’ll make the most of fossil fuels while we can!) and finished the holes with Amanda on the spadefork and me on the shovel. Dave Gray had told us we needed the holes to be 2 1/2 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet deep. That proved to be fairly simple with the auger, leaving a minimum of hand shoveling to get a nice hole ready for filling with 1/2 high-quality topsoil (left by the loggers who systematically raped our land before it was available for sale) and 1/2 native soil. We then watered the soil well before planting each pear tree in the middle of the hole, being careful to keep the soil slightly above the original soil line but well below the graft line.

Amanda finished off our planting by placing some straw around each tree. Next up after our big snow (more about that later, too!), we’ll take on getting the other fruit trees into the ground.

The video runs 3:11 and takes you through the planting process. Now we wait for spring!


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3 thoughts on “First Fruits

  • chuck

    Fruit trees definitely will thrive in central Alabama, and I’m surprised that we don’t see more of them there. My dad’s parents had a dairy farm in Elmore County, but the farm also had apple, pear, plum, and fig trees as well as a very large muscadine vine.

  • Lee Borden

    What we wouldn’t give for a dairy farm close by us! Nobody wants to mess with dairy cows on a small scale any more — keeps them too tied down. I can certainly understand. You don’t see us rushing to get a dairy cow either.

  • chuck

    I spent many summers on that farm. You’re exactly right: a small-scale dairy farmer is on duty 365 days a year, sunrise to sunset (and occasionally at night, if cattle break through a fence). It’s brutal — and cattle are not endearing, either.

    Keeping chickens for fresh eggs has become popular here. Even some cities allow it (Raleigh, for example).