If what I say resonates with you, it is merely because we are both branches on the same tree. – W. B . Yeats
I’ve been quite busy these days with my full-time job and with home chores that my mind is numb. It has been too tired to think thoughts through and too tired to put them down in words. But, in three weeks I head to a much-needed two-week vacation and one that will take me to various places throughout Germany. I can hardly wait! The trip planning started last year and is finally approaching. And now it’s time to do final preparations for the trip and to work on more gardening projects. Can these projects wait until late October? Yes some of them can, but Mother Nature always surprises me and if I put tasks off until then it either snows early or some other type of weather event may happen. Maybe my organizational skills need to improve? Maybe I should actually write tasks down on the calendar to remind myself of them and not to over book as I typically do? And then again there are tasks that can wait until late winter or early spring. So I will decide which ones benefit from completing now and those I can delay. I suppose I could be outside working instead of writing this blog, too!
The apple tree is in the ground and a few days after we had a good soaking rain. Yesterday, I noticed new buds of future branches had appeared! But there are more tasks that must be completed. I need to edge and mulch and then block it from my dogs. A pile of dirt sits near the tree and the wheelbarrow is also filled. I plan to extend the tree’s area by another four feet to its projected drip line. Next will be to decide what gets planted under the tree. For early spring flowers I’m going to plant daffodils on the outer edge of the circle. Then I wondered what could be planted under the tree that has a more useful purpose. Since I do not plan to spray my trees with any repellents, I began research on what plants are beneficial. Yesterday I discussed this subject with a friend and he suggested comfrey. So this morning I decided to look it up and have learned it is an extremely useful plant in the garden and the orchard. And thus another trip down the Internet brick road began!
While reading up on comfrey, I have learned there are many other plants that will be ideal for my mini-orchard. Other plants are lavender, nasturtiums, tansy, borage, foxglove, poppies, calendula and wallflowers; many of which are already planted in one of several gardens . There are so many plants one could use and too many to mention in this blog. Comfrey is a natural fertilizer and when it dies off in the autumn will help fertilize your trees. It’s also another great plant for the compost pile too. Lavender or other strong-smelling plants will help repel coddle moths. Poppies and calendula, I have read, are good for the nematodes. Nasturtiums are good for white flies. Clover, mint and other herbs will work here as well. There are so many wonderful plants that are great companions to each other and the fruit trees. When you start reading about one thing you’ll find several hours later that you have made a winding trip around the universe. (And thanks to “The Fruity Chicken” I have just ordered 10 1-year old comfrey plants from Coe’s Comfrey.)
Earlier this year I tested a patch of mixed clover to see if it would be a better replacement for grass. There are a number of alternative grass options and I selected a clover mix. It was just a small patch that I planted which is mowable if desired. I do like green grass and there are good memories of running through it barefoot as a child in summer. And don’t you just love the smell of fresh-cut grass! But other than its eye-pleasing appeal, it doesn’t have much use in my yard. Most of my neighbors have well-manicured front yards, and at one time so did I. But I have evolved and so have my gardens. And in Colorado with a west-facing house, the grass burns up by July and the dogs wear down the backyard. Thus, I will plant a clover mix in some areas and under the apple and cherry trees. I’ll also plant an area where my dogs roam to see how well that holds up. The mix that I use is a blend of both perennial and annual seeds. The perennial seeds contain: Johnny Jump-Up, Strawberry Clover, Creeping Thyme, Soapwort, Sheep Fescue, English daisy and Roman Chamomile. There are annual flowers included that give you a mix of color during the first season.
In doing research about what to plant under my apple and cherry trees, I have learned what I can use to replace the grass with plants of higher value throughout the yard. They’ll be planted to help reduce problems with pests, to give nutrition back to the soil and the fruit trees, tossed in the compost pile, and to nourish both my body and soul. Now I see more gardens coming together in my mind, just by planting a tree and adding companion plants beneath. Lately, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the edible front yard I want to build. I have had many questions about the design. How can I design it as both functional and beautiful; one that is pleasing to the eye for others and beneficial for nature, the neighborhood and me? Fruit trees and edible plants along with companions will help to create this wonderful space and it will just evolve!