The farm is coming along mighty nicely! It helps me so much that Mr. Fix-it is on furlough and has been able to do some real work on the farm; specifically in the orchard area. Due to the shortfalls in the government budget Mr. Fix-it's job has not been funded so he has been home all the time and it is a joy! Our most recent project was taking down the wisteria arbor and moving it to the orchard area to now become a grape arbor. The results of several days work (in the rain I might add) are pictured above. I think it was worth it what do you think?
This picture and the one above are looking south. Our huge field is oriented basically west to east with a slight slope to the north. In order to maximize sun and air flow I oriented the orchard on a north/south axis. The hill you see slopes slightly to the north which is toward me (the picture taker) and our pond. We are looking south in the picture. Orientation of fruit and vegetable producing gardens is a very important thing so that is why I am trying to explain my reasoning for how I oriented my area. I really did not want rows downhill toward the pond due to erosion but this orientation simply made the best sense to me. I have seeded the hillside and will establish the beds with mulch very soon so erosion is not really a big problem. I do have to be careful about any chemicals I put on this field though since all runoff does go directly into our pond. Rows on a east/west axis would have helped to slow down water run off a bit but then again the lower plants would be very sun challenged. I simply liked the orientation this way.
The disturbed soil is where Mr. Fix-it box bladed the turf so that I can easily turn over the beds with my shovel. Once all of the soil is turned over and amended (organic material such as cottonseed meal and greensand) I will then begin planting and mulching and establishing the beds. The plants and fruits are all waiting at Tiger Gardens 1 and are really looking forward to being able to stretch out-as is the gardener!
You can clearly see three beds in this picture. The first bed is under the grape arbor. I will plant two muscadine type grapes on the second and fourth poles with the plants planted on the south side of the 6"x 6"s. The cultivars are 'Cowart' and 'Dixie'. Both of these muscadine grapes are recommended for the south and I am hoping with my research that I will not have to spray these grapes in order for them to be productive. Both grape cultivars are self fertile but by planting two different varieties I increase the chances of good pollination of these grapes. Muscadine grapes need 20' of trellis per grape vine. The grape arbor is about 35'; which will mean each grape will have about 17.5' of trellis. It should be enough for them depending on my pruning techniques. Ideally each grape will cover the top of the trellis within a few years. I suspect that will happen quite rapidly and before I know it I will be posting a picture of the mature grapes!
The next bed is a flex bed. I have not decided what I will plant in this bed. It will be flowers in the form of perennials or bulbs, or it will be a collection of hydrangeas. I just haven't decided yet but whatever I plant there will be fairly low growing (under 4-5') because I don't want the grape arbor or blackberry/raspberry trellis crowded.
The third newly dug bed has four fence poles placed in it spaced 16' on center. This area will be the blackberry and raspberry patch. I have a ton of 'Canby' raspberries in my current garden as well as thornless blackberries that are dying to get out of their crowded accommodations into the new 48' long bed. I have not installed the trellis system yet but it will be made of cabling that will be threaded through the fence poles. The trellis will be permanent as are the fence poles since they are all concreted into place.
Here is the view looking north. If you peer closely you will see the pond way down in the woods. It is the background between the cleared tree trunks. Mr. Fix-it and I are working so hard on doing so much that we find we only get a little bit done at a time. The pond has not been a big priority but we are slowly cutting a path down to it and clearing the undergrowth away from the water so we can see the pond and have some room to enjoy it. The grape arbor points to the path entryway down to the pond. This is where Mr. Fix-it likes to spend his time when he cannot help me. On this day Mr. Fix-it caught seven little fish (bluegill--thanks Skeeter!). Our pond has been fished out it seems, but we hope to restock it this fall and next spring.
A longer shot looking down the rows. The raspberry/blackberry patch is not done yet. I still need to turn the soil then install the trellis wire. More on it later. The grape arbor is complete but we have not planted the grapes yet. We do have both plants and will soon plant them out. The little tree to the right of the grape arbor is one of our three pears. We planted a 'Moonglow', 'Bartlett', and 'Kieffer' pear tree about a month ago. We purchased them at Rural King when they had their big sale and got a pretty good deal on them ($10 per tree). These cultivars will work with pollinating each other and in a few years we hope to get some pears from the trees. More on the fruit trees later. So far since the house is not built we really can only play on the land where construction is not anticipated to be. The orchard is a big part of it so we are really focusing on it.
To get to this point we had to spend a few days pulling down the wisteria arbor from Tiger Gardens I. The original arbor was designed primarily as a privacy screen from the adjacent property owners. As a bonus it supported two wisteria vines and a 'Dropmore' honeysuckle vine. The whole thing worked very well for many years. Once that neighbor moved I really did not need the privacy as much and I had already cut down the wisteria (two years ago but it is STILL coming back to this day) so it was time for the wisteria arbor to turn into a grape arbor. A ready made one for the new land! We used the tractor to pull the large 6" x 6"s (a tough job since they were concreted in) and took the rest of the arbor down using primarily a drill since it was mostly all screwed together. Big kudos go to Mr. Fix-it since he did most of the work because I was out of town this past weekend visiting my daughter and granddaughter in Louisville.
This past Tuesday Mr. Fix-it and I were able to dig nine holes and install the five 6"x6"s as well as the four fence poles--all in one day! This was a big day as digging deep holes is hard work but we cheated. We purchased a power auger for our tractor and I can't tell you what a lifesaver this auger was for us. Here is Mr. Fix-it (official tractor man) getting ready to drill his first hole. The first hole went quite easily but on the second one we hit some rocks and had a tougher time. The rocks have the capability of causing a shearing of the shear pin on the auger. This happened two times and Mr. Fix-it actually had to leave the site for a few hours to go buy some more shear pins. Once he got the hang of it all though it was smoother sailing.
After the holes are dug you must of course insert the poles, level, then pour in the concrete and water and tamp it all down. We always use fast setting concrete that we pour into our holes dry, then add the water and mix it all real well with a very heavy tamper. That is what Mr. Fix-it is doing on the raspberry/blackberry pole.
Prior to beginning the job we laid everything out near its final location. The arbor was a very well built trellis and held up well on the move. Not only that but when we put it all together again it fit perfectly!
Each of these crossbars and support poles are eight feet on center. There are two crossbars per support pole and each of them is notched to accept the overhead trellis. Once everything is in place it is all screwed together tightly.
I did not take a picture of the wisteria arbor before we took it down but here is the after photograph. We had to level the ground below the arbor because there was a raised bed there. The dwarf nandinas were all dug up and are awaiting transfer to the new garden. The raised planters in the foreground contain about 40 cultivars of bearded irises. Those are slated to make the trip to the land soon too.
It has been raining a lot here in my area of Tennessee. Not really a lot of rain but a lot of annoyance. Once the ground gets good and saturated on the land (it is not as of right now) we next plan to aerate our back 40 and seed with Kentucky 31 grass seed. There is an erosion problem on the big hill that needs to be fixed before winter and I think the grass seed will help. I may also plant some ditch lilies and Joe Pye weed back there too. We also need to finish clearing by the pond, dig and mulch the beds, move the plants, and establish the wildflower garden. All of this will need to be done by fall. Once the first freeze comes we will move to our driveway area. It is a mess and full of glass and rocks and all kinds of trash. It will take some time to clean it all up but we can't do it now since the poison ivy is so lush and happy and mixed with the trash. In other words it is always something.
On the day we spent digging those nine holes and installing the poles we were gifted with a fourth grandchild. This one is Riley. The other three are: Joshua (6 years), Adella (20 months), Everleigh (4 months), and now Riley. Riley came into the world big and healthy and we are all excited and happy for good things in life like new grandbabies.....
in the garden....