One member of Homegrown Goodness, a plant breeder and enthusiast forum, always stuns me with the pictures of his orchard so I asked if he would be kind enough to agree to an interview. He agreed and here is more insight into what he grows.
Where is your orchard?
My orchard is situated in Burgundy where the climate is half continental - zone 7. We have our last frost around the middle of May and our first frost in the middle of October. In the winter, the temperature rarely gets below - 10°C (but we had -18°C this winter ! ). Unprotected aerial parts of fig trees were almost all "burned." Fortunately, I grow some of them under a tunnel.
How many trees / fruiting bushes / types of fruit do you have on your property and where did you get them from?
I grow approximately 130 to 150 trees. There are maybe 100 different varieties, mainly apple trees (60-70%), pear trees (10%), along with plums, cherries, peaches, figs, apricot, but I don't count on them because of the climate. 2009 was an exceptionnal year and we had big harvests. I also have 40-50 fruiting bushes. They came from catalogs, tree nurseries which grow their trees organically. I can't name all of these, but here is some of my favorites:
Christophe Delay Pépiniériste
Pepinieres Chataignon Vial
I obtained many cuttings from "Les croqueurs de pommes" - information at bottom
Would you describe a season of harvest from what becomes ripe first to what is the last fruit to ripen?
We eat the first strawberries in May from inside the tunnel. I had selected very perfumed varieties that produce from May to October to avoid frost. Next come the raspberries, blackberries, and then the first pears "précoce de trévoux" in July, apples "transparente blanche", "vista bella" in July-August, etc ... and finally the Physalis peruviana. We can store apples until May- June such as "sainte-germaine, "Jolibois," "querina," and "belle fille de Salins."
What varieties are the work horses (most reliable and productive) of your orchard? Which are the rarest or most interesting?
If I had to plant another time, I would choose 80% of varieties that produce every year (or nearly) and are resistant to diseases, such as "querina," "jolibois," "reine des reinettes," "belle fille de Salins," "reinette d'Amboulne" for the apple trees. For the pear trees, my selection could be "conférence," "sucrée de Montluçon," "précoce de Trévoux" and a pear to be cooked like "Saint-Remy." As for grapes, I would choose "perdin," "aladin," "pinot noir." For the remaining 20%, I would select for taste, sometimes exceptional in my opinion, such as "tiuffat," "pomme cloche," "rayotte de Nommay," "patte de loup," "reinette ananas" (apples), "Joséphine de Malines" (pear), cerise "belle magnifique" (cherry), "des Béjonnières" (plum) "ronde de Bordeaux," "pastilière," "dalmatie" (figs), and "velvet" (peach).
How do you grow your fruit? Any tips or tricks that you would like to pass on?
The most natural ways possible : I use compost and I almost never spray. Sometimes I use plant infusions: mainly comfrey, nettle, equisetum. I also sometimes apply powder of basalt. The idea is to make the trees stronger and to accept that all is not perfect. For example, we can't avoid completely the troubles caused by the carpocapse - coddling moth. These fruits are used for making juice.
Do you do any other gardening / growing?
We produce all the vegetables we need as many gardeners do : potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, parsnip, garlic... very classic ! ...but I tried unusual plants in a classical garden (without a total success) to grow amaranth for grains and quinoa. Producing the nearly perfect protein is a dream for the moment.
Are you involved in any organizations?
Kokopelli: I think it's not necessary to introduce this well known association. I save some seeds (just for sharing ) for the organization.
Concerning fruit trees, I was involved in the "croqueurs de pommes" a funny name meaning "Apple biters" for a french organization saving heirloom varieties, mainly fruit trees.
A local association (no link, sorry, where everybody shares what they know : botanic, recognizing and using wild plants, grafting (my field), etc...
I would like to add some links of magazines / associations which were very important and help me on the way :-
http://www.terrevivante.org/ - I discovered them in 1982.
Thank you Gérard for your work in creating this inspiring orchard.