By David Fried
There are three things that start with a ‘p’ that are good to be thinking about: pollination, pollution and production.
One thing that we can do to make the world better by helping all three of these: planting.
Here’s how it works:
There are so many pollinators in our pear, plum and apple trees this week. I called a friend who is a filmmaker and asked him to film this. “Look,” I said. “We don’t have to have a fancy government program to get pollinators back into the fields and orchards. We simply have to plant fruit trees and berry bushes and they will come.”
When customers and friends tour the grounds at our certified organic fruit tree and berry nursery, they see a lot of fruit. “You must keep bees,” they say.
“Nope, we keep fruit trees and the bees feel welcome here because we are growing what they like.” So our experience is, if you grow it, they will come…
If you grow it, they (the bees) will come …
Every fruit tree you plant and every berry bush is a mini solar collector turning sunlight into fruits and nuts, and trading us carbon dioxide for oxygen. Humans have never been able to develop a system that is more efficient than a plant’s. The trees around your home and street are breathing in what we (and our cars and lawnmowers) breathe out and they give us fresh oxygen and shade and food. Not bad.
Another amazing thing about fruit and nut trees is you only need to plant them once. They stand there year round and their roots are mining the earth for their needs, while we can all be sitting on the porch sipping a lemonade. They give us fruit or nuts (almost every year), and oxygen and provide a natural habitat for native pollinators. Our main task is to give them space and protect them from harm. They are our allies and together we face and address the three ‘p’s: pollination, pollution and production.
The native fruit trees and berries are quite easy to grow and have very few challenges. I guess they have been around here long enough that their novelty has worn off on the deer, meadow voles and diseases that prey on the newer varieties introduced to Vermont fruits and nuts. Some that thrive here in Elmore, Vermont on our cold hillside with zero care are wild raisin viburnum, aroniaberry, the elderberry, the hazelnut and the juneberry.
The wild raisin (viburnum lentago) is a small tree or tall shrub which grows to about eight feet. It has white flower heads in the spring , blue-black fruits in the summer and red and purple leaves in the fall. We snack on them as we walk by and so do the songbirds. The fruit is not juicy and is thin around a seed, but it has a spicy flavor that reminds me of Thanksgiving pies. Wild raisins can grow almost anywhere including moist areas or light shade.
The aroniaberry (aronia melanocarpa) is a bushy shrub which grows to about five feet, has white flowers in the spring that become abundant juicy and slightly astringent fruit in mid-to-late summer. I have seen them growing on top of Owl’s Head Mountain in Groton State Forest, and they also love our moist shady woods clearings. The berries have the highest rating for antioxidant phytonutrients, 10 times as high as broccoli.
The elderberry is a bushy shrub often seen along roadsides that also likes pond edges and can live in a more moist locationthan most plants. It grows well in well-drained areas, too and produces large clusters of purple berries in late summer and early fall. Old time Vermonters have told me they never get colds because they have frozen elderberry juice that they sip throughout the winter. I often harvest them by clipping the whole clusters into freezer bags, while above me the songbirds feast away.
The hazelnut is one of the few tall shrubs that can grow in partial shade. They have interesting catkins that hang down and tiny pink stars are the female flowers in spring. What a great flavor in September! You will want to harvest some when they begin to turn from light tan to a darker tan and bring them inside to finish ripening. The blue jays and squirrels are waiting until they are just right, too, so it is wise to bring some in before they do. Their leaves turn an awesome red-orange in fall and they make a great screen or windbreak.
The juneberry (amelanchier Canadensis) is a small tree, to 15 feet high or so, with a silvery bark that grows along forest edges and is the first tree to flower in the spring. The very tasty reddish purple fruits ( blueberry-like) are good fresh or in cereal. It has rainbow colored leaves in autumn.
So plant natives and plant apples, pears and plum trees for pollinators and to fight pollution and for production of tasty fruits. We can be the gentle planters and caretakers of the world we want to see…
David Fried has been planting and growing fruit trees and nut trees and berry plants and natives in Elmore, Vermont at Elmore Roots Nursery for 35 years. Learn more at www.elmoreroots.com or (802) 888-3305.
Editor’s note – Support organic orchards, and you are supporting bees. They don’t use the pesticides that are killing them!