Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mini orchard-vineyard

This summer we made it a family project to clear the front property boundary in order to plant some grape vines that we had rooted from cuttings the previous summer. This was the most reliably sunny part of the yard, as the trees shade the back and side yard too much for most fruit/veg production (our poor partly shaded vegetable garden! *sigh*). We also decided this project would be a great opportunity to finally plant some apple trees. We had been gleaning apple trees from our next door neighbour for a year or two, but he had plans to cut his trees down (they were planted by a previous owner 20+ year earlier and had started to crowd his house). The front yard is a cut-through for our local deer herd, however, so we knew we had to do something to deter this ungulate highway if the trees were to have any chance of surviving (they did sustain some deer damage over the summer but are currently protected in cages of old fishing net, which will almost certain stay for the next few years!). The solution to the deer highway was essentially a blockade -- a fence situated on the very edge of the ditch that the deer would have trouble jumping. This plan was semi-successful. One bold deer did change her habits to walk along the road and cut around the edge of the fence, but her companions cut up along the neighbour's driveway you can see in the photo below, thereby remaining ignorant of our tasty apple trees and perennials.

Here's the before:

After the trees were planted, on to the fence and grape vine bed: Here is my little 'process' compilation: the 'mid-way' and 'after' at the top, while the other photos show our process; removing weeds and the rocks we had deposited at the bank edge over 20 years from other gardening activities, sorting out as many roots as we could; removing the part of the lawn to get the desired bed depth, laying down cardboard that would hopefully smother the remaining weed roots (I have found the unproductive wild blackberry and the coltsfoot most persistent) until it decomposed; and adding compost and triple mix that can eventually be turned over into the native soil underneath.


We planted four grape vines and our collection of dahlia bulbs in this new bed. The dahlias did get some deer damage once or twice after a rainfall, but on the whole I was very vigilant with applying a home-made deer spray that seemed to work pretty well (take all remaining inedible bulbs of the previous year's garlic, add chili powder and flakes, brew together on the stove for an hour, then let mingle/rot for a week or two before straining out garlic bits. Add this liquid to a 4 litre milk jug with more water, a beaten egg, and a smidge of horticultural oil. Dilute 3 tbsp of this concoction in a hand sprayer with water. This stuff is VERY potent, never spray downwind from it and wear gloves, or you will reek).

The grapes actually grow on a trellis made of fence posts and cable, kept taught with tension blocks (which I know best as the things that tighten the shrouds on a sailboat).


First season mini-vinorchard. The variety of apple trees we planted are Jonagold, Cortland, and Honeycrisp. 

Dahlias near the end of the season. The fence horizontals are attached to the uprights with brackets (made by my father), with a single screw going into the the horizontal from below. This approach should make for easier replacement of horizontals as needed. The idea of the fence is that we can string netting or electrified wire across the outside if the deer are munching through the fence from the outside. If they are going around the fence, we can close off the driveway side entrance to this area with a a conventional fence or electrified wire. The concrete landscape blocks facing the road are a little haphazard, but they have been repurposed from a perennial bed that used to be in the back yard, so we felt looks were a reasonable compromise for cost.

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