No space too small to garden

Independence City Council President Nancy Lodge readies a fuji apple tree, one of three that will be planted in a hole she dug, with Rick Schack in Inspiration Garden.

INDEPENDENCE — In the fruit orchard at the Inspiration Garden at Mount Fir Park, three fruit trees share one hole. They were placed in their new home on Friday.

It isn’t a mistake, but a new way to make more out of small spaces, said Darrell Ward, Polk County Master Gardener.

“There is a new technique that has come out for the urban gardener that requires absolutely no space,” he said.

By planting three trees, each a different variety and blooming cycle, urban gardeners can enjoy fruit for a longer season, Ward said.

Darrell Ward, Polk County Master Gardener, recommends using raised boxes to plant wherever possible to help control growth and weeds. It also helps if the ground doesn’t drain well.

• Use three fruit trees of varying blooming times to extend harvesting.

• Find trees of similar age. If one tree is older, it may be more successful in getting nutrients and outgrow the others.

• The first cut is the hardest, Ward said. On Friday, he struggled to cut the 2- and 3-year-old trees down to just 18 inches from the ground. It seems counterintuitive to slash that much of the tree off so early, but Ward said it is necessary to control the growth and keep them small.

• Plant the three trees in one hole about 18 inches wide and trim them together as one tree.

• For more information about gardening: http://extension.....

“There will be one that blooms early, one mid-bloom and one late bloom,” he said. “So an urban gardener that just had room for one box could essentially have three varieties of apples, and they would be harvestable from early August to September-October.”

Each cluster was planted in a 4-by-4 foot box to help control growth, weeds and to raise the plants up in a particularly wet part of the garden, Ward said.

The trees will be kept small through pruning.

Because they are starting out in one hole, they will have to compete for nutrients, which will also slow growth, Ward said.

“We will keep those down to a max of 8 feet high and 8 feet across,” he said. “We’ll treat the whole thing as one tree.”

Now is the time to be planting any new trees, fruiting or otherwise, Ward said.

“You could have gone a little earlier, but with the weather we’ve had, this is almost ideal,” he said. “You at least have enough good weather that it’s halfway dry.”

The trees were bought through a $500 grant from Tree City USA to help pay for the “small space, easy harvest” fruit tree demonstration.

About a dozen people from the city of Independence joined Master Gardeners Friday morning to learn how to plant the fruit trees.

City Council President Nancy Lodge picked up a shovel and started digging.

The fruit orchard features apple, peach, persimmon, quince, plum and crabapple trees.

A total of 46 fruit trees will be planted in 2016 and 2017.

The orchard includes a more traditional layout, with single fruit trees, as well as the small space, easy harvest demonstration.

The Inspiration Garden has a variety of display gardens, from winter, children’s, a memorial rose garden, vegetable, medicinal and a Japanese garden.

It is on F Street in Independence.

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