The Mast-Head 04.26.12

Planting Apples

    One of the benefits of the very, very mild winter just past is that outdoor chores that would be still hanging over my head are more or less done.
    A couple of weekends ago, in fact, I pruned the grapes and brambles around the edge of the property and cut back branches along the driveway. This was well before the ticks were again afoot and the poison ivy had begun to grow.
    Since then, the garden beds have been turned and the compost spread, though nothing has been planted in them yet, pending better deer fencing and the time to install it. I had designs on a stand of bamboo at a friend’s house, good for cutting and building a lattice-work barrier, but a divorce and a quick sale of the property put an end to my plans. It can wait.
    With the must-do list shortened, I was able to turn to something I’ve really been meaning to do. On Sunday I drove to East Moriches on the chance that the Henry Leuthardt Nursery had a few apple trees left. It did, and I spent an enjoyable hour talking to John Leuthardt about business and how times change, as rain and a cold wind tapped at his barn roof.
    Mr. Leuthardt did indeed have a couple of trees for me. I bought six bare-root, dwarf saplings, three for our property and three for my mother’s. It is difficult to say how my three will do at our place down by the beach. I am willing to experiment. Our tiny raised garden beds do well by tomatoes, leeks, and lettuces; carrots, for one, do not grow at all. We will know in a year or two whether apples will thrive protected in the lee of our house.
    Already, I see trouble in the form of nearby cedar trees showing signs of an orange fungus that may be apple rust. This appeared before I brought my saplings home. Mr. Leuthardt suggested I try two disease-resistant varieties, the patriotic-named Freedom and Liberty, as well as the iron-skinned Roxbury russet.
    I planted my mother’s trees at her place in the village on Sunday afternoon. One went in the rear dooryard and will eventually replace an apple of unknown variety that was planted long ago and shows the signs of age.
    I did not get around to putting mine in the ground until after work on Monday. Then, the following morning, I dug up the russet and moved it to another location, one that should allow it more room to spread.
    We’ll see how it goes.