At Threefold Farm, we've drawn a lot of our inspiration and ideas from visiting local farms as well as those we encounter on trips. We'll make it a habit to blog about farms as we visit to share what we've learned.
A few weeks ago while visiting family down in Houston, Texas, I stopped by Treesearch Farms. Treesearch is a wholesale nursery with some fantastic display gardens and trial orchards. They sell all manner of plants but are known for having a fantastic and diverse selection of fruiting trees and bushes. I make it a habit to stop by any time I'm in town.
The owner of Treesearch, Heidi Sheesley, is a family friend and is well known in the Houston garden community for her work in trialing plants in the area. Sub-tropical Houston offers a unique climate: high humidity, long hot summers, low chill hours, and usually a couple frosts or freezes each winter.
Heidi's gardens include some plants more typically associated with areas north of Houston: low-chill apples and peaches, raspberries, southern highbush blueberries, and some trial low-chill sweet cherries. She also stretches her zone by growing some fruits more associated with tropical areas (areas with minimal frosts and freezes): avocados, satsumas (one of the most hardy citrus), grapefruits, oranges, meyer lemons, limequats, and many more I'm failing to remember. Plants that thrive in the heat and humidity as well as tolerate some freezes do well in the Houston area: figs, pomegranates, blackberries, jujubes, low-chill peaches, Asian persimmon, paw paw, plums.
What did I take away from the Treesearch visit to apply here at Threefold?
- Mulch, mulch, mulch - All beds and plantings are nicely and heavily mulched. Because there are so many planting beds, it would be seemingly cost-prohibitive to truck in loads and loads of mulch. To remedy this, Treesearch uses leaves and pine straw to mulch their beds. It makes an attractive natural mulch and solves the problem of what to do with all of those extra leaves in the fall. Once the leaves break down, they add nutrients back into the soil to help build it up.
- Mixed plantings - In many of their display gardens, Treesearch has mixed flowering plants in with fruiting plants. This makes for attractive, food-producing gardens while working to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. While this may not work in a production orchard setting, it works well in plantings of just a few fruit trees at a time.
- Drip Irrigation - Many of the potted plants for sale as well as many of the plantings are irrigated with drip irrigation. We follow this practice at Threefold and want to make sure it's part of any future planting. It saves so much time versus dragging a watering hose around and the regular, consistent watering helps the plants to grow tremendously. Plus, irrigating at the ground-level, right at the roots, saves water (versus spraying water around) and helps to cut down on disease pressure due to wet foliage.
It's surprising as well to see some of the plants that overlap between us (planting zone 6b/7a) and those of Treesearch (zone 9b many years, 8b some years). We both grow Asian persimmons, Asian pears, paw paw, blackberries, jujubes, blueberries, peaches, plums, as well as figs and pomegranates (with some protection here). It's neat to see these plants surviving and thriving in some very different climates.
If you're ever in Houston, stop by Treesearch Farms and have a look around. Just make sure you have several hours to spare. If you're like me, you could easily spend most of the day here.