There are a wide array of projects that one can take on while homesteading, and not one project is the same. And, each homesteaders focus and way of living might not be similar to anyone else; this is completely okay.
Some homesteading techniques aren't for everyone. There are some individuals that prefer to have livestock on hand, while others aren't quite ready for this task and start out smaller with goats and/or chickens. Having a cow or two readily available to you can be a great benefit to your family if milk will be a main component in self-sufficiency.
Gardening and growing vegetable is a big a part of homesteading and can build great skills with self-sufficiency and preparedness. But, for those of us that are also into fruit, there are some great projects that we can take on as homesteaders.
Creating your own home orchard would be a fantastic way to sustain a family of any size, but starting out small with a few fruit trees can really make the difference in the way you prepare your land. Fruit can be costly, even if bought in bulk, so being able to grow your own fruit will make a big difference in your wallet, not to mention the potential for trade or barter you will have with any surplus produced.
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The following article shows us just how easy it is to start planting and growing our own fruit trees:
While many people picture fruit trees on large farms or orchards it’s still possible to grow your own fruit even if you live on a small farm or homestead. The most common fruit trees to grow in the U.S. include:
- sweet cherries
- sour or pie cherries
- and lemons.
Step #1: Choosing Trees
To begin you’ll need to select a fruit tree. Beyond just selecting your favorite fruit there’s a few points to consider. First you need to find a tree suitable to your local climate. If you’re buying from a local nursery you’re all set. However if you plan to order non-local trees you’ll need to know your USDA hardiness zone. This will allow you to narrow down varieties that are heat or cold hardy enough for your specific region. You may also want to take a variety’s water needs into account if you live in a particularly dry area.
If space and funds are limited you may also want to think about how to get the most food from your space on your budget. Certain fruit trees are more prolific, some produce in less time, and others live longer. There’s also dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard fruit trees available to fit your homestead’s specific needs. It is worth noting that the smaller trees tend to produce more quickly but live shorter lives than the larger trees. If you plan to live on your property a long time you may eventually need to replace smaller trees.
Step #2: Selecting the Site
Once you’ve chosen trees you’ll need to decide where to plant them. Fruit trees prefer full sun so it’s best to find or clear an area that receives as much sunlight as possible. If this is a problem on your property you may want to consider a sour cherry tree. They produce better with some shade than most other varieties.
If you have it available the ideal place for fruit trees is near the top of a north facing slope. Facing the north gives the trees less spring sunlight and warmth which can encourage them to bloom later and avoid damaging spring frosts. The slope shouldn’t be too steep but a slight slope helps with drainage and discourages root problems.
Step #3: Tree Spacing
After you have an idea about where you’d like to plant you’ll need to consider the space your tree or trees are going to need. Different size and type trees will obviously have different heights as well as root and crown sizes. Consider this carefully if you’re planting anywhere that isn’t completely open.
Many people forget about how the roots can spread and affect things underground like wires and piping. When you purchase your tree it should come with information about its size at maturity but the list below will give you a general idea for several different fruits in dwarf and standard sizes.
Step #4: Preparation
The best times to plant fruit trees is when they’re dormant during the early spring or fall. If you live in a northern area where the ground freezes fairly early in the fall it’s best to spring plant your trees. This ensures the roots have plenty of time to get established before the ground freezes which can damage or kill young roots.
Once you’ve tested your soil you can amend it if it has any deficiencies. Fruit trees generally prefer soil that is high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium but not too high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and other micronutrients.
Step #5: Planting
You want to plant your tree at the same depth as it was previously growing which should be fairly easy to determine while you’re looking at your tree whether it’s bareroot or not. If you’re planting a bare root tree it’s best to soak it in water for about 8 hours prior to planting it.
After planting, you should thoroughly water your fruit tree. To give it an added boost, you may want to water it with compost or manure tea which will give it easily accessible nutrients.
Depending on wildlife in your area, you may need to place fencing around your tree to prevent herbivores from damaging the young tree. They also sell a tree wrap that expands as the tree grows and will keep small herbivores like mice and rabbits from eating the bark during winter.
Once the tree is planted, you’ll want to cover the exposed soil to block weeds, prevent erosion, and stop moisture loss. You can do this by using mulch such as old straw or leaves or planting a cover crop. If you decide to mulch around your tree do not make the mistake of mounding it up around the trees trunk. This will give rodents a place to hide as they gnaw on your tree. It can also attract insects that may attract the tree. If you go with a cover crop use an annual crop like buckwheat that will winter kill. It won’t compete with your tree and after it dies it will become mulch.
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Growing fruit trees can be a project to be taken on by a family. Getting the kids involved in this project can help to develop their self-sufficiency skills and build responsibility. And, for those of us concerned about fruit not lasting so long always remember that fruit can be frozen, dehydrated, and even canned during the colder months.
So, your family can be enjoying the fruits of your labor all year long thanks to these homesteading techniques.
Until next time…
Take care and God bless
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