How to save the planet by gardening and growing fruit

posted in: Fruit tree advice 0

There are lots of things in life that we can worry about, but this attitude isn’t really helpful, because 99% of all the things we could worry about do not happen. But the issue of global warming is something that every human being should take seriously. That’s for sure! We can all see the effects, and I notice it in changes in the orchard environment. How should we approach this problem? One positive action could be that everyone, in their own ways, can take positive steps, whether small or larger, to reduce the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. After all, this is what we mean when talking about reducing the carbon footprint. Even if the measures that we take seem small, it is the cumulative action of all the things we do, on a day-to-day basis, which will lead to a reduction of CO2.

Of course, government has to lead the way by leaving fossil fuels such as coal and oil in the ground. From that point of view, major initiatives are already starting to happen. Wind turbines and electric cars are good examples of creating and using clean energy. But in the end, it is up to individuals. Is this feasible? Just consider the efforts made to reduce cigarette smoking. It was a huge success and people did stop smoking. Likewise, actions taken by people themselves, as individuals, will help stabilize the climate.

On a large scale, today we know much more than we did, for example, 20 years ago. We can now be sure that planet Earth is incredibly special, so unique when compared with other planets in our region of the universe. It is the only planet within billions of miles, where life began and developed into such a beautiful structure, as we can see all around us, in the gardens, open spaces and in the air we breathe. All the other planets are bereft of life. In this part of our galaxy, we humans are alone. The beauty of the Earth must be preserved at all costs.

planet earth apollo 8
Earthrise as seen from Apollo 8, photo by The New York Public Library/Unsplash

We as individuals have to accept part of the responsibility for the decline and decay of the atmosphere surrounding this beautiful planet. Our actions today jointly decide the future of the Earth, and the future of our children and grandchildren. The climate conference in Glasgow organized by the United Nations has made it abundantly clear that millions of people’s lives’ will be affected by frequently-occurring droughts, storms and floods, due to global warming caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Where did things go so wrong? Basically, for too long we have forgotten that we are part of Nature. We may be the dominant species, but our existence is only secure if we learn to live within the laws of nature. This is not easy and it is not generally accepted by each of us.

Mulching to save water and energy

There are many actions that we can all take, but here I would like to concentrate on what we could do differently as people working with fruit trees or as gardeners, in order to reduce our carbon footprint and use less energy. Take, for example, the use of water. Mulching fruit trees is very labour-efficient. It greatly reduces the loss of moisture when the trees need it most. So less or no artificial watering is required. At the same time, mulch around the trees greatly increases worm activity, helping to open up compacted layers of soil. The tree roots follow the worm channels downwards and thereby reach water supplies deeper down in the subsoil.

mulch around fruit tree

Companion planting to fight pests and diseases

Then there is the question of fighting pests and diseases. One way of reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals comprises so-called companion plants. These are plants which, when planted reasonably close together, will diminish the occurrence of various pests and/or diseases. For example, I an often asked how to reduce the negative effect on fruit quality caused by the scab fungus Venturia inaequalis. The standard practice is to apply fungicides at the right time of the year. But in Adam and Eve’s time, beautiful apples were already grown, including those on that special tree. All without applying fungicides! Believe it or not, we ourselves can achieve this even today. In fact, some varieties of apple are reasonably scab-resistant, therefore producing many apples without scab blemishes. Examples include Adam’s Pearmain, Discovery, Lord Derby, Crawley Beauty, Court Pendu Plat, Charles Ross, Kidd’s Orange Red, Annie Elisabeth and Claygate Pearmain. So there is plenty of choice!

But that is not the end of the story. You can reduce the effect of the scab fungus even more with the herb called Chives. If this herb is growing around the apple trees, then somehow the number of apples affected by the black-coloured scab spots on the apples, is further reduced. Another important factor is the fact that the scab fungus overwinters on the fallen leaves and fruits. So to complete the organic measures taken to ensure that nearly all the apples look clean, do the following; remove all the affected apples from the orchard and then wait till all the leaves are on the ground. Then dust those leaves with a sprinkling of sawdust and cover the treated area with a mulch of damp hay or straw.

Chives, photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

Companion planting can be used for other pests as well. If your apple trees are regularly affected by aphids or caterpillars, in addition to Chives the following companion plants will help reduce these pests: Nasturtium, Dill, Chamomile and Marigold. There are other herbs which will do the same job. However those mentioned are the main ones. No spraying or chemicals are necessary, and this will help reduce the carbon footprint.

This is just one example of how food can be grown without chemicals. It is money well spent.