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Springtime Tasks in my Off-grid Organic Garden

Updated on October 12, 2013
LongTimeMother profile image

LTM's extensive organic gardens feature fruit trees, vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, grapes, and berries.

Blossoms in spring bring promise of fruit. Peach blossoms, plums, apricots, nectarines etc give me the first indication that spring is arriving.
Blossoms in spring bring promise of fruit. Peach blossoms, plums, apricots, nectarines etc give me the first indication that spring is arriving. | Source

The first real hint of springtime in our part of the world is when blossoms form on the stone fruit trees. With multiple varieties of plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines in our orchard, the blossoms are simply beautiful.

Soon after, the apple trees and then the pear trees spring into action.

Unfortunately springtime this year has been accompanied by wild and relentless winds, threatening to strip the trees bare. Somehow the branches are managing to retain a strong grip on the delicate blossoms and already fruit is beginning to form.

Isn't nature wonderful?

It is now my turn to feed and protect nature's gifts from the forthcoming ravages of summer. Springtime in my organic garden has its own routine.

Here are my top six priorities in the garden early in springtime.


Easy weeding

You can't weed your garden like this in the city. lol. Put a pig in your vegetable garden and see how quick and easy preparing the garden in springtime can be. :)
You can't weed your garden like this in the city. lol. Put a pig in your vegetable garden and see how quick and easy preparing the garden in springtime can be. :) | Source

1. Weed the vegetable garden - with the help of a pig

At the end of last summer we let our two lovely, healthy sows go and live on a nearby farm to breed and become mothers. We considered bringing one home to help weed the vegetable gardens this season. Our small farm is not big enough to support them both, now that they are full grown. They are happy in their new home and, because they've been best friends since young piglets, it seems cruel to part them.

When you live in a small rural community, it doesn't take long to find a new solution to any problem.

Our solution to weeding our vegetable garden areas this springtime came in the form of a small black boar. He had been a much-loved family pet as a piglet and is very friendly and tame. However his owners had little use for him as a full-grown boar (they use machinery where we use products of nature) and he was facing a bullet.

Sadly he had been on minimal rations and was undernourished, partly because pulling the trigger had taken much longer than they had planned. As soon as you allow a farm animal to become a pet, it becomes near impossible to view it as 'food'. Mr Pig was a victim of his own lovely personality.

Lucky for him (and his family) we said he could come live with us.

Mr Pig is working his way around our large vegetable gardens. We divide each large garden area into sections using solar electric fencing. In the photo you can see his progress in a large area divided into quarters. Another vegetable garden, now rested and covered in grass, joins it via a gate.

That's his next project.


Harvesting rainwater

Living off the grid with no connection to the electricity and no water supply other than rainwater you collect, makes planning very important.
Living off the grid with no connection to the electricity and no water supply other than rainwater you collect, makes planning very important. | Source

2. Check rainwater storage

We live off the grid and have no connection to town water. Every year we collect and store our own rainwater, knowing it must last us until the next rains.

Springtime is traditionally wet and the rains continue into the early part of summer, so spring is the time we review our rainwater storage strategy. Why?

  • The tanks are closer to empty before rain than after seasonal rains. If they need to be moved, now is the time.
  • Plants need a reliable source of water during their peak growing season. If the gutters or tank input is blocked, the rainwater harvest will be unsuccessful.
  • Extra space for harvesting more water can be made before heavy downfalls by transferring water into a large tank not directly connected to roof space.

I have written at length about how we harvest rainwater in a separate hub.


Grafting fruit trees

Grafting fruit trees requires a steady hand, but the rewards are excellent. We are creating our own 'fruit salad trees' by grafting different varieties of plums, peaches and other fruit to individual trees.
Grafting fruit trees requires a steady hand, but the rewards are excellent. We are creating our own 'fruit salad trees' by grafting different varieties of plums, peaches and other fruit to individual trees. | Source

3. Graft and repair fruit trees

In my part of the world, kangaroos, wallabies and rabbits cause damage to young fruit trees by nibbling at their trunks and branches.

Springtime is when I check for damage that might impact the future performance of our fruit trees and actively take steps to repair it.

Throughout the entire year I try to keep tree guards in place - particularly for the rabbits. Unfortunately tall kangaroos can reach over the tree guards and may have had a few good feeds during winter while my family spends more time indoors than out.

In springtime I paint and repair the wounds.

This year we also spent time grafting different varieties of plums, peaches, apples etc to create 'fruit salad' trees.

It takes a steady hand and a sharp blade to successfully shape each piece with a single cut.


Working with nature

With spring comes new growth from the fennel plants I rely on to protect my fruit trees from flying and crawling bugs. The fennel will grow about 6 feet tall during summer.
With spring comes new growth from the fennel plants I rely on to protect my fruit trees from flying and crawling bugs. The fennel will grow about 6 feet tall during summer. | Source

4. Pest Control

I create my own organic pest potions using herbs from my garden to deter aphids during springtime and the subsequent growing season. Aphids can cause extensive damage to young vegetables.

This springtime I continue to plant fennel at the base of my fruit trees.

Last year the few trees that lacked protection from fennel suffered damage from pests - in particular the cherry and pear slug.

To save myself the trouble of spraying them, I hope the fennel will grow quickly enough to provide natural protection for the entire orchard.


Nature's pest control

In winter, fennel dies back. After digging up a few of the plants in spring and separating bulbs to spread throughout my garden and orchard, I save money. No need to buy more fennel plants. :)
In winter, fennel dies back. After digging up a few of the plants in spring and separating bulbs to spread throughout my garden and orchard, I save money. No need to buy more fennel plants. :) | Source

Bird nets - a job for spring

Last year, cockatoos ate every one of the peaches on this tree. This year, I left in uncovered while blossoming, but covered it with bird netting at the first sign of fruit.
Last year, cockatoos ate every one of the peaches on this tree. This year, I left in uncovered while blossoming, but covered it with bird netting at the first sign of fruit. | Source
The new helps the old! Bees fly between my ancient apple tree in the background (under the net) and the new apple tree to cross pollinate both trees. I am expecting another good harvest of apples this year. :)
The new helps the old! Bees fly between my ancient apple tree in the background (under the net) and the new apple tree to cross pollinate both trees. I am expecting another good harvest of apples this year. :) | Source

5. Protect fruit trees from birds.

Spring is time to roll out the bird netting. As much as we love the native wildlife, we cannot afford to have an entire tree stripped of fruit before it ripens enough for us to begin harvesting.

On smaller trees, we remove the bird nets after harvesting the fruit - giving the tree room to grow and protecting the net from the winter elements.

Those who have read my account of giving new life to my ancient apple tree might be pleased to see a photo of the old girl.

She is still wearing the same nets all this time later because too many branches grew up through holes and I fear chopping her back too savagely.

Bees are happily spending time beneath the net and the old tree promises more apples this year.

Cockatoos and other native wildlife in our garden will feast on the fruit outside the nets. We'll make apple pies and applesauce and other yummy treats with the rest.

The smaller apple trees I planted nearby are now about 8 feet tall and in full blossom.

For the first year I am so confident cross-pollination will be successful that I haven't bothered moving the potted apple close by. :)


Over 100 years old and still bearing fruit

Still my favourite tree in our orchard! Despite being over 100 years old, the ancient apple tree is bearing fruiting again. It took me years to restore it, but my effort is bearing fruit. lol
Still my favourite tree in our orchard! Despite being over 100 years old, the ancient apple tree is bearing fruiting again. It took me years to restore it, but my effort is bearing fruit. lol | Source

Springtime Treat

A perennial plant, this globe artichoke provides food for about six months of the year beginning quite early in spring. I also cut its large leaves to feed the pigs and other animals throughout the year.
A perennial plant, this globe artichoke provides food for about six months of the year beginning quite early in spring. I also cut its large leaves to feed the pigs and other animals throughout the year. | Source

6. Make sure there's plenty to eat!

I have written a lot about organic gardening, particularly about the ways I plant and nurture vegetables in the early stages.

But in early springtime as well as planting vegetables, I begin harvesting. Many perennials left in the ground over winter and trimmed, pruned and fed at the first sign of warmth, will provide food sooner than you expect.

For instance, this year I'm very pleased to have globe artichokes growing rapidly - even while we are still experiencing late frosts.

I am planting many vegetables and will continue to stagger planting over the next months to ensure we have year-round meals.

Living off-grid, it is a long drive to the store. By planning and planting effectively in springtime, our garden provides plenty of herbs, fruit and vegetables to eat fresh - and enough to store and use throughout winter.


© 2013 LongTimeMother

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    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      You make me want to come visit! I love the idea of putting the pigs to work, the permiculture techniques, your water system and the grafting that you have been using. I love it!

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks cygnetbrown. Life's good on the farm. lol.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Oh, thank goodness for you that Mr. Pig didn't see the bullet. I was worried about him until I read your happy ending there. Glad to see he is working hard for you and it's a mutually beneficial arrangement. Whew! I enjoyed reading about your way of life -- much different from mine and my part of the world where it's Fall now. I like what you've done with that old apple tree. Some things are worth the effort, the time, and persistence.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
      Author

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Mr Pig is doing well and looking much healthier than the day he arrived, FlourishAnyway. He is probably deserving of his own hub, lol. I've been recording his progress with photos and will have to take time to write about keeping pigs. It has been a really interesting experience for our family. Thanks for your feedback. :)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Good work, and glad to see your efforts paying off. It must please you to be able to stay away from that nasty GMO corn!

    • LongTimeMother profile image
      Author

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      True, aviannovice. I grow my own corn every year and I keep seed for the next year. No GMO corn anywhere near here to the best of my knowledge. I'm not aware of any other locals growing corn at all. Mine is always very popular - a good tool for bartering. :)

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      your got a lot of work during spring time, eh?

    • LongTimeMother profile image
      Author

      LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

      Hello peachpurple. I love the spring and all the growth in the gardens. It doesn't really feel like work. :)

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