In A Year in Provence Peter Mayle explained why he never has a garden:
It would be fighting nature, and nature always wins. It has more stamina and it never stops for lunch.
Andy, on the other hand doesn’t mind doing battle with nature, even if he often loses. In Our Garden in the Woods I explained why we had to give up on the idea of a garden — after several years of valiant effort on our part the animals convinced us we couldn’t have one out in the open, so we built a greenhouse. Then the drought came and we didn’t have enough water for both fruit trees and garden produce.
But Andy kept the fruit trees going. We harvested a couple of bowls of cherries each year, and finally in 2011, after about 30 years of effort, we were finally going to have a bumper crop of apples. Yeah, sure. We did have apples, but the fire cooked them on the trees:
Those 30 years weren’t wasted, though. Andy now has a better idea of how to protect the trees from critters. First you dig a hole about two feet deep, both for the roots and for the first layer of hardware cloth. The ground squirrels don’t usually dig down further than that.
Then he puts in the first layer of hardware cloth, two feet under ground, one foot above so it can be attached to the second layer.
Next he adds a foot of dirt to the hole, then the tree.
And some pellets of slow-release fertilizer to feed the trees for a couple of years:
Now he protects the bark with tree-guard to prevent sun scald.
Then the three feet of new hardware cloth to prevent mice and other animals from girdling the bark when there is snow:
This picture shows the chain link fence around the whole area to keep out bears, elk, etc.
And if we do manage to get some cherries, he will have to cover the trees with netting to keep the birds from getting them first.
He’s planting seven trees this year: two cherries (including the one in the pictures), two pears and three apples. We’ll have to see if his 30 years of education will be enough. Our standard family joke is, “We’ll have fruit coming out our ears in no time!” Wish us luck.
What about you? Have you gained any hard-earned knowledge in the past 30 years?