I'm late in "summer" pruning my cordon apples this year. But as I trimmed them back I was amazed by the variety and quality of fruit in this trained hedge.
It's a great year for apples and for the first time my main orchard is loaded with fruit, as are my cordon trees in the veg garden.
But as I work my way down the row it's interesting to see some have lots of fruit on and others don't. Cordons are the perfect way to hedge your bets to getting a crop.
It means that in a small space you can have a variety of cookers and eaters that flower at slightly different times, so might miss a frost, and crop at different times. We've already stripped one tree bare with early eaters and picked some early cookers for crumbles (Warners king). There's also apples down that row to suit every taste, rough skinned russets to smooth gala apples a million miles away from anything you'd find on a supermarket shelf. Cookers that hold their shape and some that cook to a fluff in minutes.
Having so many different types of apple means that you're almost guaranteed a harvest of some sort.
In the past this would have been essential to survival and a good mixed orchard containing things like different types of apples, pears, plums and damsons would have been on pretty much every farm and close to the farm house.
I have 32 types of apple down my row of cordons but it would work just as well in a much smaller garden with less trees. Spaced just two foot apart and planted on a 45 degree angle, it's amazing what you can fit into a relativity small space, I'm sure most people could fit their favourites in there and have space for trying some new ones.
Alternatively you could plant a single family tree with multiple varieties on it. I'm planning to do this in the new school garden at the centre of the raised beds when we get going with it. Should be fun to see how many I can get on there in the next ten years or so!
|Tree hay for animals?|
The same principle is true with most food you can grow. Having a wide number of crops means that you're far more likely to get a harvest and if you needed to feed yourself you'd be far less likely to go hungry.
To me having good diversity of crops is one of the key pillars to self sufficiency.
What would you say are the other key pillars for self sufficiency?