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  • Understory | Perennial Plants for the Orchard

    April 13, 2023 3 min read

    It's been years of collecting plants as we dream and plan our first orchard together. A dream that will outlive us as it matures into a bounty, an Eden! We wanted to share the understory plants we are growing and planting around the trees. These perennials are creating a diverse garden of edible and medicinal plants that feed us and grow in harmony together, creating a habitat for beneficial bugs and birds.

    This is what inspires me every day; the dream and possibilities to provide beautiful food and flowers for my family from a garden where nature is thriving. 

    Two years ago we stumbled upon a fixer upper. After airstream living for 6 months she was a joyful sight for my eyes! I envisioned life in a garden with my daughters. We walked the property together mid winter. Wandering through the property it already felt like my secret garden as I tried to identify all the dormant shrubs and trees. Apple, lilac, camellia, a quince! After peering through the windows I ran around the porch toward Billy, whos eyes at seeing me bouncing with glee into his arms, were saying "oh no, she loves it. I guess we are doing this." Little did we know this impulsive, 'yes!', was just what we all needed and this neglected spot of earth became our haven.  

    the day we moved "in"( parked our trailer while it rained for two months & the house underwent renovations)

    The south side of the house has a handful of mossy, lichen covered apple trees. They are perfectly crooked trees, good for climbing and they make the most delicious apples! The understory of the orchard will be the perennials and shrubs that grow beneath the trees with a thick ring of daffodils around each base. These bulbs will keep the grass from growing, competing for nutrients with the tree's shallow roots, while some other plantings will also be fixing nitrogen in the soil for surrounding plants.  

    Click here to view perennial understory plant offerings...

    Day Lily- a perennial lily that provides edible flower buds you can cook like an asparagus, chop into stir fry or eat fresh in a salad. I've read the yellow buds taste the best while the darker hues, like red, are not as delicious. Did you know hostas are edible too? You can watch this video for more info...

    Chives & Rhubarb (we're growing these to offer in the nursery for next season)

    Bulbs like daffodil, iris or garlic

    Comfrey ( shipping crowns this winter)

    Sea berry- this is our main nitrogen fixing plant that Im so excited about. I bought ours from Raintree Nursery & Planting Justice Nursery.

    Raspberry, Currant, Gooseberry, Gogi, Haskaps will be the edible shrubs throughout. Sign up on the product page to be notified if your plant happens to be out of stock at this time of reading. 

    Herbs- calendula, spilanthes, echinacea, lemon balm, dill, lavender, fennel & oregano. Fragrant herbs attract pollinators, helpful predatory insects and repel pests.

    At this point, the orchard has been untouched for many years so we are starting with a good prune and heavily mulching around the tree base. Sun loving under-plantings (like lavender and other herbs) will not be directly under the tree's shade, but others like bulbs, daylily & berries will be well grown before the tree has leafed out each year. 

    Another element Im excited about is bunnies! We bought two baby bunnies for the girls this year, but what I really wanted was their poop! We will be having them live out in the orchard in a low hutch on wheels so that they'll have access to fresh greens as I roll their home through the aisles while also fertilizing the orchard. Because their manure is considered "cold", unlike chicken and other farm animals, you're able to place it directly around plants without having to compost it first. 

    What you don't see is 4 kittens, 7 baby chicks and two little ladies running about. This was such a beautiful season together

     under the apple tree

    Since these trees are older we hope to be establishing another generation of perennial foods. I'd love to share this process, we will see, technology isn't my strength nor my interest. I will try though! 

    Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear about foods you're growing or what you're learning about this season for your garden and family. 

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