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The Story Of Our Orchards

1/15/2014 4:32:00 PM

Tags: Apple Trees, Peach Trees, Plum Trees, Pear Trees, Orchards, Stark Bothers Nursery, Excalibur Dehydrator, Mary Conley

Mary Conley

Dear readers, I have decided to stray from telling our farm story in chronological order, and instead, tell the story from beginning until now of different subjects. I’m excited to start off with our fruit trees as they were the first thing we planted. If you are thinking about starting an orchard, or if those dwarf fruit trees in the nursery catalogs have been calling to you, you might be interested in what we've experienced.

It was early spring in 2010 when 21 bare root trees arrived at our city home in two skinny boxes about 8 by 12 inches and 4 feet high. Surely some were missing, but no, they actually all fit in there. We were glad that Stark Brother’s Nursery had pruned them for us, because we would never have done it so severely. A few were just sticks, and the rest had only a few branches about 4 inches long. We wondered how long it would take sticks to produce fruit.

We had planned on a long weekend at the farm to dig the holes, plant, and finish the fencing. Todd was going to help us, but it would still be a tight squeeze to get it all done, and then it happened. Larry fizzled out on us by having an emergency appendectomy the night before we left. Of course, he insisted on going with us when he was released the next morning. That sounds like Larry doesn’t it? He could have stayed home, watched movies and been taken care of by Perry, but no, he had to go along. Then the doctor didn’t help my argument. He said Larry could go and do anything he wanted as long as he didn’t hurt. I thought, “That doctor doesn’t know Larry!” Also, Perry’s instructions were still ringing in my head: “Mom, you know Dad! Don’t let him work!” As it turned out, on the trip out to the farm, Larry was suddenly in pain and asking for more medication. It finally dawned on me, “Duh, of course he was going to hurt!"

Each hole was started by the post hole digger that came with our newly acquired tractor. Then Larry and I were amazed watching Todd finish digging the 21 holes by hand, plus accumulating all the supplies to amend our soil with better dirt from another area, peat moss and compost. He followed the old timer's adage that says you need a $10 hole for a $5 tree, and dug the holes 2 feet deep and 30 inches wide. I helped him plant the trees, and finish the fourth side of the fence for all three beds.

Quote: “I feel so useless.” Larry

First orchard

The variety orchard - just sticks!

That weekend, we planted two nearly duplicate apple orchards containing six different trees each. We also had a variety orchard containing two plum, two pear, a peach, a nectarine and an apricot. Then, in another place, we planted two semi-dwarf cherry trees with make-shift protection until another time. Along with the labor, Todd and I had put our hearts into those trees and felt like they were our babies. We were thankful we got all the planting finished, but wished we didn't have to leave so soon. We wanted to just look at them for a while. Watch them grow.

As Paul Harvey would say, “And now for the rest of the story!”


One month later: The little sticks came out of dormancy and were getting blossoms and leaves. Every tree was alive! 

A peach tree

A peach tree by the end of the first summer. Amazing.

Stark's instructions warned us of both the importance of enough water and the tendency to over water, so we faithfully kept track on a chalkboard the dates when we watered and when it rained.

The second summer: A quote by Todd that he loved to tell: “ Our trees produced four apples. Dad knocked one off and ran over it with the lawn mower. We lost a fourth of our crop!”

The third summer we had a small harvest.  


Here is a plum tree on the third summer. Three late freezes got them this past (fourth) summer.


 Even with the freeze, we got 31 delicious pears!

 Three peaches 

Three late freezes also got our peach trees this past summer, but one day I was watering the orchards, looked up, and there were three beautiful peaches in the middle of the tree. The thing that excited us the most was how delicious they were. We had just purchased two boxes of Colorado peaches, and these were even more tasty! How exciting to hope for a good crop of peaches next summer!

Apple tree and Larry

This was our fourth summer, and we had plenty of wonderful apples to eat, to can applesauce, and to dry in our Excalibur food dehydrator. I had used the dehydrator for a few things, but this was definitely our favorite. Yum! We love having dried apples handy to munch on.


We decided from the beginning to not use any chemicals on our trees and let them become strong on their own. Late one summer, we discovered that one of our apple trees had just up and died, and we couldn’t figure out the cause. But, one out of 21 isn't bad. We also have to deal with late frosts. The method that worked one spring for us was to turn a sprinkler on the orchards during the night when frost was predicted.

We love our trees, and it has been a fun experience for Larry and me. If you are interested in growing fruit trees, we would highly recommend Stark Brother’s Nursery. (They should pay me for this!)

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