Planning Mini Apple Orchard

One of our plans is to setup a mini apple orchard in the back rear corner of our property.  Stopped into the local garden center and had a great chat with them about our options and some recommendations.

After our chat, it looks like we'll be going with 6 apple trees in total.  This will provide more than enough apples for our needs and than some.  We're also going to look at reconstituting half a dozen older apple tree's that are not on our property, but was part of the old farm homestead.

We're going to plant 4 tree's in the next couple weeks and then 2 or possibly 4 more in the Spring.  We're going on a waiting list for the Cortland apples for spring delivery.  Apples must be cross pollinated, meaning you can't just plant one McIntosh tree and get fruit.  You must plant a min or two different varieties of trees within the same or next pollinator group to bare fruit.  We're starting our first bee hive in the Spring so we should be good on the pollination side, we just need to ensure we are selecting the proper variety.  Ideally we'd like to also have an early and mid selection.

Apples are grouped into Pollinator Groups.  Groups A through H dependant on (table courtesy of Wikipedia)

  • Group A – Early flowering, May 1 to 3 in England (Gravenstein, Red Astrachan)
  • Group B – May 4 to 7 (Idared, McIntosh)
  • Group C – Mid-season flowering, May 8 to 11 (Granny Smith, Cox's Orange Pippin)
  • Group D – Mid/late season flowering, May 12 to 15 (Golden Delicious, Calville blanc d'hiver)
  • Group E – Late flowering, May 16 to 18 (Braeburn, Reinette d'Orléans)
  • Group F – May 19 to 23 (Suntan)
  • Group H – May 24 to 28 (Court-Pendu Gris) (also called Court-Pendu plat)

We are definitely going to plant some Cortland trees, since that is our favorite.  We also love McIntosh, so we need to decide on the third variety before final plan and purchase.  We'll update this post with some planted pictures once we dig a bit further into the information (pun intended).  If you planted a mini orchard or a couple apple tree's, what variety did you plant and what climate zone are you growing in?

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Homemade Self Watering Containers for Tomatoes

Self Watering Container

Funny thing happened when my son and I went fishing... first we caught some lovely rainbow trout, next was we stumbled across eight 5 gallon buckets that are in great shape!  So in the "reuse/recycle" fashion, we brought them home and put 4 of them to use as Self Watering Containers (SWC), also known as SIP containers (Sub Irrigated Planter).

There are many names for these containers or method of planting, but the end result is the same.  I wish I'd have taken more pictures of the actual project, but I'll post a few links to great write ups already out there on the web, no need to recreate the wheel I guess ;o)  Items you will need to complete the project, or at least what I used, was two 5 gallon buckets, or the size of your choice.  A piece of PVC pipe about 1" in diameter, I used left over water tubing from when this house was built that was left in the basement.  A 1" hole drill, a sharp blade knife, a small drill bit like 1/8th and of course a cordless or electric drill.  Last piece you'll need is a small bucket or pale to be used as the "wick"... I used old 1L ice cream containers for this purpose.  I'll make a video and take pics on the next ones I put together.

I've never built or used SIP containers before, but it's been on my to-do list for a while as an option for herbs, tomatoes, green peppers and such in a temporary hot house.  They will be a great addition to any garden and are perfect for the Urban Homesteader, where space and water can be at a premium.

So far I'm very impressed with the results.  Since this was only a test, I put our poorest tomato seedlings in these and they are doing great!  Due to the rain we've had this summer, we only had to top up the containers once.

Here is a pretty good YouTube video describing the basics of building a SIP or SWC out of two 5 gallon buckets

Mother Earth News also has a pretty good writeup on Self Watering Containers which is an excerpt from an awesome book, another in our library actually, The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen of RootSimple blog.  On a side note we recommend you check out their blog... excellent stuff!

This is a work in progress and we'll update our progress as we test these 2 new containers and move on to others.  We'd love to see your container garden and share anything you've learned along your way as well.

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Homemade Compost Bin

Homemade Compost Bin

At our old Urban Homestead I had made a Pallet Compost Bin out of some old pallets I got for free from my dad's work.  This was something we definitely missed when we moved and needed to be fixed cause I hate throwing away good compost!

We will be reconfiguring the garden and backyard area behind the house this fall and next spring so I only wanted to build something big enough to keep us through until things are finalized.  Being in the country we also could have more critter issues so wanted to make sure it was critter proof... well as much as possible.

I didn't have a plan or anything, just an idea in my head of what we needed.  I had some left over strapping so started with that and a few left over 2x4's from finishing our basement.  I think I ended up buying 2 more bundles of strapping to finish it off.  While I was at the hardware store I saw some 1" square metal netting, not sure what they called it, but it was perfect to wrap around the base and the door to hopefully keep the critters out.

Unfortunately I ony have the one picture of the finished bin behind our tool shed.  I totally forgot to take pictures as I was building it ;o(  I'll try to describe it best I can and hopefully you can visualize.  The top door is on hinges at the top and there is a bar so that you can lift the top with one hand and the bar will lock it open.  This way you can dump your compost with one hand operation.  The front panel is removable so you can lock the top door open and remove the front panel to turn the compost and at the end pull the black gold out for the garden.

We put the compost bin behind the tool shed, in the berry patch.  Placement of a compost bin is important as you want it to be in the full sun as much as possible and close enough to the house that it's not a hassle to use, especially in the winter months... Yes we still compost during the winter in Canada ;o)

Next year, when we finalize the backyard homestead plans, we will build a 3 bin setup for composting to make turning easier as well as handle more compost.  We're also going to try Vermiculture, the art of worm composting, over the winter as well so we have an indoor and outdoor compost running as well as getting some excellent composting tea.  Everything we will need to help with spring seedlings ;o)

We love seeing DIY Projects... Do you compost?  If so did you buy a bin or make it?

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Banana Bread… Yummy!

Made some Banana Bread today with 3 overripe bananas we had in the fridge.  We usually buy bananas when they're on special and our 11mth old daughter loves em!  Well my wife usually makes the banana bread but I thought I'd give it a try.  I followed this banana bread recipe on AllRecipe.com which made an awesome, moist loaf.  This recipe made it in our "keeper" list.

This wasn't anything hard or unique to make, but was the first time I made it and was happy with the results ;o)  It was awesome for a pre-lunch snack on a Sunday afternoon.

There are lots of Banana Bread recipes out there... Please comment on your favorite and i'll try them all!

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