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Plant Once, Harvest Forever

Painting by Gabriel Tempesta

By David Fried

Does this seem too good to be true? It is too good, but it is also true.

One of the magical things about planting a fruit tree is that you dig a hole and plant it, and if it likes its spot, it can be there for a long time. An apple tree can live for over a hundred years, and a pear tree almost two hundred. Birds, cows and people spread their fruit around and seedlings come up in the hedgerows, and so the tree you planted can have grandchildren that can grow and keep fruit in the neighborhood forever.

This spring, we are already eating sorrel leaves from our perennial vegetable garden, along with asparagus, horseradish roots and leaves in sandwiches, and Jerusalem artichokes. We planted them about 10 years ago, each in their own row. We mulch with straw or grass clippings in the spring, and they feed us every year.

We do not need to plant or till, or weed, or rarely feed. They feed us! This is the kind of garden I want to live near. It is self-sustaining and zero to low maintenance. Good for you, and good for the land.

Growing fruits and nuts is simply a good idea. A tree may seem to cost a lot, but when you realize this tree may be producing for the next 30 years, it costs less than a pack of seeds per year!

How do they do it? A vegetable has to get things ready fast, for it will not be here when it gets colder. The nut tree puts its energy into building its roots and slowly sends up branches when the roots can support these. Once it starts producing nuts, it makes a lot of them- all the squirrels and blue jays and nut butter loving people will be hanging around your place a bit more.

How does a tree produce so much fruit each year after only being planted once? We don’t really know. Some say it has an angel nearby whispering “grow, grow.” We have a feeling that the tree’s roots can mine all the nutrients it needs from the earth, and then give back to the earth its leaves and fruits, so nothing is wasted. The citizen’s party candidate for governor in Vermont, John Potthast, summed it up in his campaign slogan in 1980, “Ecology is nature’s balanced budget!”

Here at Elmore roots, for the last 40 years or so, we have realized that planting vegetables is fun and good and exciting. But planting nut trees and berries and fruit trees is a good way to get a lot of healthy and tasty crops without disturbing the earth. In fact, they make the land better. Whole mini ecosystems thrive under and around each tree.

This is how you can plant once and harvest forever.

David Fried is the grower, harvester, and writer who started Elmore roots nearly 40 years ago.

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