The accidental orchard

The day I took possession of my first house, I went out to a local garden center and bought the only two fruit trees they had left (both were dwarf pears) and a couple of grape vines. I planted the grape vines (Diamond White and Concord) next to the house in the way I had seen done in Germany and the pear trees in a sunny section of the back yard, vowed I was not going to use any chemicals, and looked forward to the pleasant diversion of what to do with the mounds of fruit I would have in a couple of years.

The results were varied. The White Diamond grape did wonderfully and, aside from having to shake off hundreds of Japanese beetles and one memorable 2 AM encounter with an opossum which got tangled in the trellis outside my bedroom window, had no issues. The Concord grapes did not seem to like being only a few inches away from a wall; if it was at all sunny as they became ripe enough to pick they would burst, and I would come home to a wall coated in juice. If it was overcast they did not burst, but the local birds had a knack of finding them before I did. The pear trees seemed to do fine; in their third season they blossomed but did not set fruit, and in the fourth season they blossomed and set. As luck would have it that was the season I moved to an apartment in the city and had to sell the house before I could harvest my first pear.

The experience left me convinced that, although the idea of fruit straight off my own tree was appealing, I did not want to plant fruit trees at my next house as the initial time from planting to first harvest was longer than I really wanted to invest. Grape vines, on the other hand, were easy to deal with, quick to bear, and somewhat decorative. When it came time to purchase my current house, one of the main criteria was to have a proper site for a vineyard.

I took it as a very good sign when, as I drove out for a first look at the house, I found a commercial vineyard a couple of miles away from it and spotted grape arbors at several of the old farmhouses along the road. Once in the actual purchasing process I stayed up at night researching grape varieties and trellising systems.

Two things occurred on the day I moved in which changed my plans somewhat. The first was discovering that the large tree by the driveway that I had seen during the various visits in the buying process was in fact an old sweet cherry tree, and it was covered in nearly ripe cherries. The second was the arrival of my nieces bearing 2 apple trees as housewarming presents.

All thoughts of not planting fruit trees aside, the apple trees needed to go somewhere. I had earmarked the best location for a vineyard which I did not want them to compete with, so I found a space on the other side of the yard where there was sun and enough space to mow around them and more or less plopped them in the ground.

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