Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Planting Fruit Trees

By Fred Owens
I worked in the Italian Garden yesterday morning planting fruit trees. The garden has tree roses in large pots, and a formal boxwood hedge, plus good tile work and a small fountain. I maintain it for a woman who teaches medieval history at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
I started working there last year. It was  very overgrown. Her old gardener had wandered off to who knows where and nothing got done for months until she hired me.
I had a great time whipping it back into shape. I cut and cut and hacked and trimmed until it all came back to where things were right. She hired a man with a truck to haul away all the branches and sticks. I don't have a truck myself, just hand tools in the trunk of my car. I charge by the hour, cash or check.
I have a motto that I use to advertise my services on Craigslist. My ad says, "I only work for nice people."  For some reason people like that slogan and they call me up and testify that they are indeed nice people and then I say well you betcha, I'm nice too, so let's work.
That was last year, I got the garden into shape. And this summer I came every week for the easy work -- watering the roses and trimming here and there, planting a few vegetables for her table.
Today I planted the new fruit trees. She had gone up by Paso Robles last weekend and she stopped by the nursery, which is well known for good bare root stock. She bought two peaches, an apricot, and a fig, $28 a piece.
The roots were wrapped in shredded damp newspaper and they looked like very fine little trees.
The garden is getting crowded. I'm about tell her that. Let's not buy any more trees or shrubs for now. Let's maintain what we have.
But leaving that aside, and trusting her judgment  -- I mean, I figure it's her property and her money, so maybe I ought to do it the way she wants. And she likes it a bit more crowded than I would choose.
The soil is rich and crumbly and all soft and wet, perfect for planting. I dug the holes and it was so easy. I pruned each little tree, cutting off some skinny branches that were too crowded and nipping the ends of the roots to wake them up.
I guessed at the depth of the planting, keeping the crown above the soil.,,, the soil will settle, so I might scoop in some extra soil next week.
I forgot to add fertilizer. I was going to stop at Agri-Turf and pick up five pounds of tree food, or something in the way of an amendment. But I forgot to stop at the store and there was no going back. It was Monday. It was time to plant trees -- those babies were going in the ground.
Besides, I had my Tillinghast Nursery experience to fall back on. I worked there when Ed Dalan owned it -- a long time ago. We sold bare root trees and Ed did not believe in adding fertilizer the first year. He said it was best if the newly planted trees grew slowly the first year, giving them time to become established.
I planted the fig tree next to the cottage  -- there is a cottage in the back of this garden. I planted the fig tree right up against the wall. She said she would make it an espalier.

Me, I don't trust a fig tree. They grow too fast. They seem friendly when they are little, but watch out! Pretty soon they will be so big as to smother your house and crack the foundation. But that's where she wants the fig, so in she goes.

The soil right next to the cottage was poor and rocky, so I replaced it with potting soil. I could have used the poor soil  -- fig trees thrive on abuse.
So that was the work yesterday. Now I have other things to do.
Trump Free.
We are having a Trump Free issue this week.
Water.  Lots of rain in California. I hope the Oroville Dam is still there by the time you get this message.
Valentines Day...... Happy loving to all you lovers out there.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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