My Arbor Day

– Posted in: Fruit, Garden chores

My two plum trees arrived yesterday. I have been very pleased with the condition and packing of everything that I’ve bought from St. Lawrence Nurseries. The plants are always well wrapped and in good condition. I can tell a lot of personal work went into packing the plants. So far I’ve bought grape vines, a cherry tree, an apple tree, and now two plum trees from St. Lawrence Nurseries. These plum trees are the largest trees I’ve received from them. They both stood at around five feet with good root systems. A good deal for only $6.50 each.

I never know exactly when my shipment is going to arrive, so every year it feels like the package arrives at the most inconvenient time. I always have something planned for that day. When my plum trees arrived yesterday I actually intended to plant them that very same day. But then I got cold feet. I went to check out the various places I might plant them, and the more I thought the more complicated and dubious the whole procedure felt. Putting in a fruit tree isn’t like planting a garden. You can’t say that next year you want it someplace else. Or that ten years from now you want it someplace else. A fruit tree is permanent until dead. With the weight of “You’d better plant this in exactly the right spot because you’re not going to get another chance” hanging on my mind, I ended up seeing problems with every place I thought of putting the plum trees. The problem with living on a hilly, very wet, narrow piece of property is that there isn’t very much good land for planting. We have fourteen acres but standing in the middle of the property you can throw a stone to either edge. The land is narrow and goes way back.

So I waffled, came up with all sorts of problems, and finally decided I would ask Dad if he had any opinion on where the plum trees should go. I doubted he would have an opinion, but I figured if there was anything stupid with my ideas he might at least see the problems. This put off planting the plum trees, so I stuck them in some water and left it for the next day.

Dad had no opinions and saw no problem with what I suggested. I was neither no better nor no worse off than before. Indecision, indecision. Somehow, it felt like the more I thought about it the harder it was becoming to decide where these plum trees should go. But they had to go somewhere.

Today turned out to be a very nice April day. The weather was sunny, but windy (April has been pretty windy this year), with temperatures in the mid 50 F. range. This afternoon I went outside with a measuring tape and did some more measuring. No great ideas came. So I dragged Mom outside for a second time and picked her mind some more. The two biggest problems I struggled with were the aesthetics of how the trees lined up and how I could satisfy good aesthetics and still leave room for a tractor path running up to the back of the property.

There was no perfect solution that either Mom or I could find. In the end we settled on locations that will, hopefully, look aesthetically pleasing as the trees grow and also leaves space for a tractor path. I was less than entirely pleased but after all my measuring, re-measuring, and looking at things I’d come to the conclusion that the perfect solution I was looking for simply didn’t exist.

Once the agony of deciding on locations was settled the actual digging of the holes went without a problem. I have a lot of experience digging holes. A strong back and a young body does wonders for digging by manual labor. Going at an easy pace, I managed to dig two holes 36 inches wide and about 24 inches deep, and fill the holes back in, in around two and a half hours. The ground I was working with was not pure clay for the first twelve or so inches and there weren’t too many rocks, so over all it was pretty pleasant work by hole digging standards.

I watered and mulched the two plum trees and they look pretty spiffy now, planted out in the back yard. So long as nothing terrible happens to them (think deer and rabbits) they should do very well, I think. Looking into the future, the real question is whether I will actually ever get any fruit from these plum trees. It is possible that late spring frosts will always kill the blossoms and I will end up having put years of work into two plum trees that will flower wonderfully but never produce a piece of fruit.

Well, we don’t think about that too much right now. It was a calculated risk that I decided to take and at this point hope springs eternal. Besides, I had fun planting them, and I know I will enjoy taking care of them. It is better to look at it in these short terms.

About the Author

At age fifteen, Rundy decided he wanted to write for his living. He is currently working on a novel, although it is not the novel he started at fifteen. When not working on the novel, he might be riding his bike, feeding his chickens, helping his neighbors, messing around with web design and computers in general, or writing on his blog, which discusses other topics in addition to gardening. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: fruits, vegetables, major landscaping, chickens and other poultry

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

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