from the farm: on short days & January greys

It’s quiet at the farm.  Grey days, heavy fog, empty fields, and not a leaf on a tree in the orchard.  Cover crops were sown last week, but the pace is slow this time of year and seeds have yet to sprout.

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All the still and brown and grey makes spring feel a long way off.

winter collage

Bereft berry patch and perennial rows

And still in the short, cool days and grey weather there is work in the garden. One winter chore that might be overlooked (or for me, just plain intimidating) is pruning.

At the fig farm, our fruit trees are heavy producers, and their harvests become anything from jams and mostardas, green salads or fruit and cheese plates, to crisps, tarts, and gelatos.  In order to keep the trees robust and fruiting well, pruning is a must.  But where to begin?

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Here’s a bit of what I learned: timing is significant.  Heavy pruning should be done while the tree is dormant, sometime between when the leaves drop and first bud break.

Also, the weather must be dry – at least one week of dry weather forecasted following cutting to prevent disease or rot.

Focus on new growth.  In apple and pear trees, the older branches bear fruit, while the younger ones do not.

CREDIT: www.weekendgardener.net

I found the very handy diagram above on which branches to remove (from a fantastic website with SO much good gardening info.  More detailed instructions can also be found there.)

The same general rules apply to perennials and shrubs.  Here’s a look at how pruning is going at and around the farm~

In the orchard and shrub rows

In the orchard and shrub rows

And in the neighboring vineyards~

vine collage

What you’re left with after the season’s pruning is also very exciting!  Enter, my latest favorite obsession: Hugelkultur.

This~

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And this~

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Is the perfect raw material for this~

CREDIT: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur

CREDIT: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur

Fantastic!

While we’re not currently implementing this at the farm, it’s an ancient and fascinating garden method for the home gardener in particular.  (And one that I’ve lost hours of my life to on Youtube.  But I digress.)

Until next time, we’ll be whiling away the grey days studying seed catalogs and watching the cover crops grow.

Wishing you happy gardening, and eating!

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