December is here and before it gets too cold and everything becomes snow covered. It’s time to clean up all those bits and pieces laying around the farm that got left out, blown over, or just plain forgotten.
Item number one on my list is straightening up my fence posts. Years ago my posts and fence went in in a hurry. It was rushed because I planted my first trees and shrubs in my nursery area before any of my fence infrastructure was up. Very soon my local deer and ground hog population found my newly planted future orchard.
It was soon after that first deer sighting that I threw up whatever I had laying around. Cedar trees were used as fence posts and 4 foot vinyl fence was doubled up to make an 8 foot deer barrier. Doing this in an afternoon I knew that mistakes were made and I would soon be replacing the fence. This was okay however because I knew I would be quickly outgrowing my small nursery area.
Well this fall I finally got around to taking down the old 4 foot vinyl fencing and pulling out the posts. I got out my trusty post hole digger and went to work with my shale bar. Digging 3 foot deep post holes is real work but it should stand up better than those 1 ½ foot holes I dug years ago.
The lesson I take away from this is that it always pays to plan. Doing things according to plan those many years ago I would I built the proper fence then and saved the hassle of having to do it over again.
Another lesson learned is that when it comes to farming getting something a little bit bigger than what you think you need is usually a safe bet. That small greenhouse is fine when you are starting out but when your operation expands you might end up kicking yourself for not planning ahead.
What are you cleaning up in your garden or farm this fall and winter? We would love to hear from you. Leave a message in the comments or send us an email.
Transplanting a Paw Paw
Edible November brings us now to the Paw Paw. In anticipation for my Paw Paw Project launching in the coming weeks I will not go into much detail here (I am told that's what's called a teaser in the TV business).
Important things to know about the paw paw are:
The Paw Paw is a native fruit to North America and much of the eastern coast going up into Canada. It is also the largest tree fruit by size and weight grown outside the tropics. It is called the custard banana because it has a tastes similar to banana flavored custard.
If planting Paw Paw trees this fall make sure be sure to plant them in an area that gets full to partial sun. 2 Paw Paw trees will work great for cross pollination.
We will get into more details as we explore the Paw Paw in-depth with the upcoming Paw Paw Project posts and videos.
If you are currently growing or have any questions about Paw Paws I would love to here from you, email me or leave a comment in the comments section.
Edible November rattles along with one of my favorites, the Cherry.
While I do have several cherry trees planted I have yet to get any cherries from them just yet. As with most edibles one must be in it for the long haul. Cherry trees are no exception to this. I have 3 year old trees and have yet to get one cherry out of 3 healthy trees.
Cherries are broken down into 2 camps: sweet which are great for fresh eating and tart/sour which are more for baking and pies. I am growing sweet cherries and of course they are harder to grow that tart but the benefits that you will get hard outweight a little extra work.
Sweet cherries are suitable for zones 5-7 and prefer mild, dry summers, which isn't exactly the typical northeast climate. If you are having trouble growing cherries a great alternative is the bush cherry as it can handle harsh, cold winters. Look for more on the bush cherry in the coming days!
Edible November continues with the Pear.
The Pear tree is another one of those ornamental landscape style trees, in fact the fruitless Bradford Pear is grown in my a front yard all throughout the country. Why anyone who grow a fruitless pear tree is beyond me.
Pear trees will produce fruit in much of the country, most thrive in zones 5-8 with some Asian Pear varieties expanding that zone a bit more. Be sure to include at least 2 cultivars for best pollination and fruit yield.
Pears can be eaten fresh off the tree, stored for some time, or made into Perry (the pear version of hard cider). When deciding which pears to plant you will notice 2 distinct options, a European versus a Asian pear. They have great differences in fruit shape and both can taste delicious. If you are anything like me you will plant of few cultivars of each style!
The Pecan is next up in our Edible November series. The Pecan is often thought of as only grown in Southern Regions, well think again.
Believe it or not people in the Northeast region of the US have found success growing pecans. The trick is to get early ripening cultivars. Be sure to plant your Pecans in an area with full fall sun to help those nuts get to maturity.
Most pecan trees need nearly 150 frost free days. Here is Western NJ most years we are right at that number. So yes it might be risky to plant Pecan trees in your yard but that risk might pay off in bushels and bushels of nuts each year.
Day 9 of Edible November brings us to the Apricot tree. Apricot's like many of our other edibles can double as a ornamental landscape tree. Reaching 20-30 feet at maturity apricots might be the envy of your neighborhood. Their abundant spring flowers will attract pollinators for miles.
If you live in a region that gets late frosts be sure to plant late blooming varieties or plant your trees on the north side of your property. This way your trees wont flower too early and risk being lost with late frosts.
Apricots ripen from July to the end of August. Picked straight off the tree ripe apricots don't have a long shelf life but they sure are delicious eaten under the shade of the very same tree. A great way to preserve the harvest is to dry your apricots ensuring you will be enjoying apricots well into the following growing season.
Day 6 of Edible November brings to us the Medlar. Contrary to the apple which most everyone can recognize, the Medlar isn’t seen in many backyards or orchards. And people are missing out on big opportunity by not growing this delicious fruit tree.
The Medlar has been grown since the Roman times and it has the rare distinction of producing great fruit well into the winter. The Medlar is a small tree, it is almost shrub like so it can be put into small yards or spaces. Medlars grow in much of the country thriving in USDA hardiness zones 5-9. Medlar will often live 30-50 years with a little care.
The Medlar fruit picked fresh from the tree is hard and acidic. Be sure to pick your fruits after the first frost. You don’t want to eat a fresh tree picked Medlar. Medlar’s, much like a persimmon, needs to be bletted. Blet is just a fancy word for sitting it on your counter for a few week where a Medlar becomes soft and delicious. Once properly bletted a Medlar’s skin will turn soft and wrinkled. Eaten fresh they taste a lot like cinnamon flavored applesauce, a kid pleaser for sure! Medlars are also used in jellies and preserves. Wine enthusiasts also enjoying making Medlar wine from extra fruit.
Planting a Medlar this fall you can expect to have your tree producing fruit in as little as 3-5 years. Medlars are self pollination so you only need one tree to get fruit. This makes it a great tree for tight places. That being said I always like to plant a few trees of all my varieties that way if one happens to die I will still have Medlars for years to come.
Day 5 in Edible November brings us the American Persimmon. The American Persimmon is a widely unknown and under utilized tree.
American Persimmon is another edible that can be grown in much of the US surviving in minimum temperatures of -20 degrees. Persimmons are faster growing large trees that bear an orange size fruit. Make sure to plant several as you will need both male and female plants to actually get fruit.
American Persimmons are astringent meaning they will pucker up your mouth if you eat them right off the tree. They need to blet which is a fancy word for sitting them on your counter for a few weeks until they get soft and mushy.
Once mature Persimmon trees are heavy bearers and may need to be thinned or branches braced to avoid breaking. American Persimmons fruit late in the season, usually September to December. They make a mouthwatering edible as well as having many medicinal uses as well.
Plant a few persimmon and you will have delectable edible fruits all fall and well into winter.
Day 4 edible is the Mulberry Tree. Mulberry trees might be the most useful edible that no one is growing.
Most people think mulberries are bland and that mulberry trees are a nuisance. To some extent both of these can be partially true. Certain mulberry varieties are bland but the trick is to get tasty fresh eating cultivators. If you are fortunate to have a "bland" mulberry tree on your property you are in luck. By drying your mulberries and preserving your harvest you concentrate the flavor of the mulberry and it becomes an intense flavorful snack.
Both leaves and fruit can be eaten. The berries are a great source of vitamin C, K, fiber, and iron. Mulberry leaves make a great protein source for livestock often being up to 20% protein, they also contain high amounts of fiber and other nutrients. The entire Mulberry plant, leaves, fruit, and stems contain cancer fighting antioxidants.
Mulberry fruit is dark and can stain your car, your driveway, your clothes, and anything else that happens to be underneath their branches. If you are considering planting a mulberry tree be sure to plant it in an out of the way location as to not anger your spouse or neighbors.
If you have livestock mulberry leaves are high in protein (up to 20%) and can be given to your farm animals as fodder. Mulberry is also a vigorous grower so it can be browsed by goats, cows or ducks and will eventually grow back just as strong.
Day one of Edible November is one of the most obvious edible trees. When you think of one of the most common fruit trees you probably are thinking of the Apple Tree!
According to my grandma most everyone used to have an apple tree or two in their backyard. While I know this was a gross overestimate it does seem like more households had an edible tree in their yard just a generation or two ago.
Apples are one of the most popular backyard edible trees around. In additional to bearing a delicious edible fruit in the fall, Apple trees have a beautiful bloom in the spring which means your neighbors will think it is just another flowering ornamental! With so many varieties you should be able to find an apple tree that will thrive and fruit in nearly anywhere in the United States. Apples can be eaten fresh, made into juice, hard cider, apple sauce, or even apple cider vinegar. By picking a few apple trees that bear fruit at different times you can be picking fresh apples from late summer well into the fall.
Big box stores aren't my favorite source of fruit trees but nearly all of them sell apple trees each spring. I even saw a few apple trees in the garden section of my local home improvement store last week. Plant an apple tree or two this fall and you will be picking fresh apples in no time!