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Spring Cleaning at the Orchard

April 1, 2017 Leave a comment

I visited the orchard this week.  Spring is definitely here and the weeds are already getting a head start on me.

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Spent some time clearing off last year’s kudzu of all the trees.

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Then I spent some time mowing down the weeds.

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Some trees are just starting to bloom while others, such as plums, have already set their fruits.

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Then there are other trees like the apples and cherries which are still bare and without leaves.

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Found a bird’s nest in one of the loquat trees.

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A dead possum turned up during my mowing.

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Categories: Cherry, Loquat, Orchard, Plums

Orchard Update – Spring 2013

April 28, 2013 2 comments

On my way back from Lowe’s today, I decided to swing by the orchard to see how things were doing there. All the trees in the orchard were just planted last year between late fall and mid summer. So imagine my surprise when I was greeted with tree after tree bearing an abundance of fruits.

The Asian pear trees surprised me last year by fruiting just months after I planted them. However, there were only one or two pears from each tree. This year there are plenty of fruits forming on each of the Asian pear trees:

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The fig trees also produced last year just months after their planting. It looks like I will continue to get figs this year since both the Black Mission and Brown Turkey variations have fruits forming:

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All five of the peach trees are filled with clusters of peaches:

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The two Medley plum trees have not formed any fruits but the Santa Rosa plum trees are fruiting just as abundantly as the peaches:

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The persimmon trees have just started sprouting leaves and no fruits have appeared. The loquat trees are full of leaves but no fruits.

Last year, I planted watermelon and cantaloupe in my backyard garden. They ended up taking up half of the garden. This year, I’ve planted them at the orchard where they will have plenty of room to spread.

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Another surprise that greeted me were several large leeks which were growing naturally under the pecan tree:

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Needless to say, I am extremely pleased at the progress of my year old garden.

In the next couple of weeks, I will be adding another 16 trees to the orchard by introducing apricots, nectarines, cherries, and Fuji apples.

100 Cubic Yards of Mulch… Yes, 100.

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Unfortunately, all my sources of free mulch has dried up. Only half of the orchard has been mulched. The other half of the orchard is cleared so I have been anxious to get it covered with mulch to prevent soil quality degradation, soil erosion, and weed/kudzu growth. It’s been great getting free mulch, however, seeing how I wanted to finish the orchard this year, I finally broke down and decided to pay for mulch.

The remaining orchard space is approximately 10,000 square feet and to cover that with 4 inches of mulch, I needed approximately 100 cubic yards of mulch. So just how much mulch is that? To put it into perspective, the standard bag of mulch you get at the store is 2 cubic FEET which translates of 0.07 cubic yard. So, 100 cubic feet is equivalent to 1,428 bags of the mulch you would get in the store. Since this mulch is not for decoration, I was interested in “single ground” mulch which is produced when tree limbs are passed through the chipper once.

When I inquired about my purchase, I was a bit surprised when the vendor told me the mulch would be delivered in one load. This is because the standard dump trucks have a capacity somewhere between 15 to 20 cubic yards so I fully expected that multiple loads would have to be made. I interrogated the vendor on the dimensions of the truck’s cargo space just to make sure that I would be getting what I was paying for. He provided me with dimensions of 53 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet high and clarified that the entire cargo space would be filled. By my calculations, this actually translated to 225 cubic yards.

Despite, all the back-and-forth verification and reverification, I fully expected there to be a misunderstanding when the truck arrived. Well, that was not the case. I got a call from the driver and drove out to meet him. When I saw the truck, I was pretty certain that it was in fact 53 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet high.

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While I was glad there was no misunderstanding, we were quickly subdued by the dilemma of getting this massive truck onto the orchard lot. The truck required a huge turning radius and therefore could not turn onto either one of the alleys unless all cars were moved off the street. Even if that were possible, then there was the issue of the tree limbs overhead due to the truck’s height. Lastly, the driver had no confidence that he could get his truck back out even if he was able to get onto the lot.

I was reluctant to throw in the towel so we finally agreed on having the load dumped in front of the front yard of the street lot I own which is adjacent to the orchard lot. This would mean longer trips for the bobcat I am going to have to rent to spread the mulch but at least I would not have to send the delivery back.

Given that the front yard is on a slope, the only space left was a 50 feet by 15 feet space consisting of the sidewalk and the city right of way. After chopping down a Crape Myrtle in the city’s right of way, we finally managed to get the truck in position and ready for unloading.

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Rear view of the unloading:

Side view of the unloading:

Once the truck had unloaded half of the mulch, I asked the driver to move the truck forward so the pile would not spill in front of the neighbor’s house. To my surprise, he began moving the truck forward without getting back in the driver’s seat. Apparently, the truck comes equipped with external controls to scoot the truck forward. Very cool!

Here’s the mechanism which allows the load to be pushed out of the cargo compartment without raising the bed.

View of “Mulch Mountain” after unloading was completed.

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Categories: Mulch, Orchard Tags: ,

Rain Harvesting Setup Completed: 2,300 Gallon Capacity

August 13, 2012 3 comments

My house has approximately 2,500 square feet of roof area. The gutters empty through six downspouts. I have been interested in rain harvesting for some time now and this year’s projects have significantly escalated its priority. My current watering needs consists of 30 fruit trees planted at the orchard, 5 fruit trees planted in my front yard, 40 square foot vegetable garden in my side yard, and another 200 square foot vegetable garden in my backyard.

While I am employing the use of heavy mulching at the orchard and in at my home garden, I was still interested in harvesting as much water as possible since I am interested in maximum yield from my garden and my orchard. Most importantly, since there is no water source at the orchard, I very much desire to get the trees established as soon as possible so they can begin to sustain themselves on ground water. Therefore, several months ago, I acquired seven 330 gallon IBC totes. Most large volume containers, run about $1 per gallon. So, at a price of $90 each, these were definitely much more affordable. After I setup the first one, I actually found that the IBC totes lent themselves very well to rain harvesting. The built in inflow and outflow openings really made it easy to repurpose these as rain totes with the addition of a few PVC connectors readily available from any major hardware stores.

After some research, I also found that it was really simple to get these totes connected to the gutter for rain harvesting. To accomplish this, I’ve decide to leverage some well conceived gutter filters and first flush systems which were specifically designed for rain harvesting. My previous post demonstrated the installation of the Leaf Beater and First Flush system. This post shows the completed installation of the 7 IBC totes which are the final components of my rain harvesting system.

This was the first tote that I setup. It’s hooked up to a different rain harvesting product called Clean Rain Ultra. This product combines a leaf filter, fine debris filter, and a first flush system all into a single unit. While it’s well-designed, I didn’t like the multiple moving parts which will eventually require maintenance or replacement so I only installed two of these units. My first IBC tote was also wrapped in black PVC film. This is meant to keep the sunlight from penetrating into the tote and causing algae growth in the water. This tote wrap is a prototype. I am still testing with other methods to see if there are better options. Despite only receiving about half an inch of rain thus far this month, there’s about 100 gallons of rain harvested from this downspout.

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This second tote is hooked up to the downspout with the least rain output. That plus the leaf clogging I recently found, resulted in this tote only capturing about 10 gallons thus far this month.

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I was originally hesitant about harvesting rain off the downspout at the front of my house. However, after calculating that it was fed by the most roof area. I decided to install a third IBC tote on my front porch. The totes are 48 inches by 40 inches so they do manage to fit into most spaces. So far this month alone, this tote has harvested about 250 gallons of rain.

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The fourth tote was also installed in the front of my house, next to the garage. This tote has harvested about 100 gallons of rain this month.

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This remaining three IBC totes were installed in my west sideyard. This sideyard is only about 6 feet wide. I have a small, 4 feet by 20 feet garden in this sideyard since it gets full afternoon sun. My two A/C units are also installed in this sideyard, leaving about a 6 feet by 12 feet of remaining space in this sideyard. Since this space is not very usable, I decided the install the remaining three IBC totes in this dead space. These three totes are hooked up in serial so that the water only feeds into one tank but then will equilibriate through all three totes via hydrostatic pressure. I am experimenting with having two downspouts feed simultaneously to these three totes. This month alone, these totes have harvested a little over 100 gallons so far this month.

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So far this month, with a little less than half inch of rain, approximately 550 gallons of rain have been harvested. This about matches my expectations since 1 inch of rain translates to 0.60 gallons of rain per square feet, I would expect a maximum of 1,500 gallons of rain per inch of rainfall received.

Each of the totes has been setup on three rows of cinderblocks in a U shape arrangement. Four pieces of 2 x 10 pressure treated lumber cut to four feet are laid across the cinderblocks to form a platform for the totes. Water weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon. So when full, these totes will weigh close to 2,700 pounds. So far, this platform base setup appears to be more than adequate to support this weight. The cinderblock are 8 inches in height so the three stacked rows of cinderblocks raises the tanks by another 24 inches to provide additional lift for water pressure. In addition, this is also intended to create a 24 inch high x 32 inch deep and 32 inch wide space underneath the totes which I am currently using as compost bins. With my meat rabbit operation, I have a constant supply of rabbit manure. This is dumped underneath the totes and aged prior to use in the garden.

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Farming With Nature: Permaculture with Sepp Holzer

August 7, 2012 1 comment

 

I came across this documentary on Sepp Holzer this weekend and found it absolutely amazing.   This is much more than just a “back to the land” approach.  I find this “back to nature” philosophy very appealing since it really makes sense to work with nature rather than against it.  The results are phenomenal and also ecologically rehabilitating.  I am too far in with my orchard project to change direction now but this approach could be a good next project at the much larger “Dog Park” lot. Very inspirational. The scale of what Holzer accomplished makes my orchard project look like a toy project.

Shinko Asian Pear First Harvest. Yum!

July 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Today, I sampled my first Asian pear from the orchard. This pear picked from one of the Shinko Asian pear trees. The pears are about the size of a racquetball now. Not knowing whether the fruits will get bigger, I decided to sample one to see if it was ripe. Not only was the pear ripe, it was the sweetest Asian pear that I have ever tasted. If this is the homegrown difference then I can’t wait til all the trees in the orchard are in full production!

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Categories: Asian Pear, Orchard Tags: ,

Loquat Trees Planted

July 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Five loquat trees have been sitting in the sideyard at my house for the past month. Today, I finally found time to get them planted at the orchard. Despite the 90 degree heat, I managed to get the row planted and mulched in just a couple of hours.

Here’s a view of the new row of loquat trees.

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The completion of this row brings the orchard to half completion. So far six rows of 27 trees have been planted in an approximately 100 feet x 100 feet space. Based on the current state, once completed, the orchard will have approximately 60 trees.

A diagram of the current status of the orchard:

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Categories: Loquat, Orchard Tags: ,