With today being the first day of spring, I thought I would tell you about my balcony orchard.
When most of us think of orchards, we probably picture acres and acres of commercially cultivated fruit or nut trees, irrigated with massive pipe systems and managed from the seat of a tractor. In my old yard, I had several fruit and nut trees. I suppose that qualifies as an orchard, too. But now I live in a downtown Seattle apartment with a balcony, so my definition had to change a bit.
My balcony orchard currently consists of one tree. I bought it from Online Orchards. It’s a dwarf apple tree, but it has four different types of apple grafted onto the central stalk. That’s a good thing because most apple trees are not self-pollinating. This means they usually need a neighboring apple tree to produce fruit. I don’t think my balcony can handle two apple trees. I could be wrong. Anyway, with four different varieties on one tree, pollinators will be able to move pollen from one variety to another. Fruit should appear in a couple of years.
My balcony apple tree should produce Cortland, Gravenstein, Red Jonathan, and Winesap apples. Each branch started out as a scion that was grafted onto a horizontal shoot.
My apple tree may look like nothing more than a stick right now, but I hope to see lots of leafy stems and blossoms this time next year. Of course, I will have to remove all those pretty blossoms to encourage further root development the first time they appear. That’s okay, though. I should get 15 to 20 years of blossoms and fruit from my balcony tree if I take good care of it.
This particular tree is growing in a large self-watering container. It doesn’t actually water itself, so the name is misleading. If you aren’t familiar with these pots, they have a reservoir in the bottom topped with a grate. Potting soil goes on top of the grate. Eventually, plant roots will go through the grate to access the water. This helps avoid rotted roots and fungal disease. Over-watering is a common problem with containerized plants.
As for the rest of my balcony garden, the strawberry plants I got for free through freecycle seem to be thriving, but I’m not so sure about the blackberry cutting I took last week while out walking the dogs.
Time will tell. It always does.
Kate Russell, writer, gardener, and so much more.