Thursday, April 13, 2017

Orchard cages

The previous owners had a small orchard of six trees, two apple, two pear, and two cherry, plus a plum tree by the house. That gives us cherries in early summer, then plums in late summer, and the apples and bears in autumn.

Expanding on this, and to test what grows here, we acquired a variety of year or two old trees, mostly grafted on semi-dwarf stock. To protect them, we made some cages that we can sink hopefully 6 inches into the ground to keep out voles, and they can minimizes chewing from the geese, goats and deer.

To make each cage, cut a length of 1/2" hardware cloth as close to the wire as possible:

I then trim the stabby pieces off with the next wire, to minimize mess and possible hazard if ingested (the dog likes to lick the shop floor):

Then, I use a tool for assembling rabbit cages to hold the edges together:

See the shape of the linking piece? The straight end goes up against the double pronged side of the pliers, and the curve of the J-shape goes into the single pronged side:

Now, I hold the edges together and make sure that both are inside the curve of the linking piece:


 Until the pliers are all the way closed, and you'll have the first of many links to seam the cage:

I repeated this about every ten squares, which might have been fine every fifteen or twenty.
Then, it was out to the orchard! I set the cage around the freshly planted tree to see where it needed to be dug in, the pulled it off and cut the soil with the shovel:

I used my hand to press the soil partly out of the way, placed the cage and twisted it into place:

Watering it in helps settle the soil again. My trees may still need a support to help them grow straight, but they're pretty protected from most winds here, so I'll watch for a need later in summer. I might add posts to strap them to in the autumn so the snows don't bend them next winter. If I do, I'll probably place three posts equally around the trees, then tie a strap to each pole. Each strap will pass around the tree and tie back to the pole it started from. These should not be tight, as it's not good to cut into the tree trunk.

We're supposed to be a zone 6 by the minimum temperature, but our freeze dates put us in a zone 5. I'm hoping the persimmon and nectarine might fruit occasionally here.

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