Ground Control

Pear tree in bloom at The Dew Abides orchard
Pear tree in bloom at the community orchard

I had no idea when I entered the feed store that I’d be transported into an episode of “Wayne’s World.”

Imagine Wayne, 25 years old, with a haircut and flannel shirt. He’s the clerk behind the counter. A dead ringer for Garth hovers a few feet away, petting a Blue Heeler that stands atop a tall stack of feed bags. The dog stares him in the eye.

The conversation goes down like this:

Me: Do you have any clover inoculant?
Wayne: Ma’am, we’re both retards here.
Me: (shakes head at inappropriate response) Um…
Garth: (trying to be helpful) Is that like fertilizer?
Me: Kind of. It’s the bacteria you mix with clover seed to help it take. Should be a little bag of powder.
Wayne: Ma’am, we’re still retards here.
Me: Um…
Garth: (points to shelf of Sevin Dust and RoundUp pesticides) That’s our fertilizer. Might be over there.
Me: (stares speechless in disbelief, walks away)

After waiting in the car for the sound of a doodley do doodley do dream sequence to pass, I went home to place an order from the fine folks at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. So much for shopping local. I tried, y’all. I really did.

Raised beds at The Dew Abides orchard
Brad puts finishing touches on the raised beds

We needed that inoculant for the community orchard, but I should back up a bit because a lot of good things have happened since our last update.

  • Trees Columbus donated several gator bags to provide drip irrigation around the newly planted trees.
  • Brad built a six-foot-high blackberry trellis.
  • We divided and transplanted several blackberry canes from our yard to supplement the ones donated by Trees Columbus.
  • 84 Lumber provided a truck full of lumber at cost for two raised beds to mark the orchard’s entrance and prevent cars from driving in.
  • Brad built those fancy planters with locked storage underneath.
  • With the help of two friends and a flatbed trailer, we moved each two-hundred-pound planter to the orchard.
  • We rooted herbs from our garden and transplanted them to the raised beds this weekend.

The installation is almost complete except for one thing: that rock-hard clay soil is completely bare and in serious need of groundcover.

We weighed our options. Sod is expensive and high-maintenance, and we don’t want to have to water and cut grass all the time. So we looked at seed for creeping groundcover that can handle some foot traffic. Our friend Jenny from Jenny Jack Sun Farm suggested Dutch white clover, and research backs her up. It’s perennial, low-growing and drought-tolerant, and its flowers attract beneficial pollinators, making it perfect around fruit trees. That inoculant I mentioned? It mixes with clover seed to help form nodules on the roots that take nitrogen from the air and convert it to natural fertilizer.

We had a winner.

Jenny and her husband Chris donated several pounds of clover seed for the project, so we were in business. This weekend, Brad and I tilled the orchard’s soil one last time and broadcast the clover, along with some wildflower seed donated by UGA Extension.

We should have just enough money left in the grant to weave a river rock path through the trees, and then we’ll seek help from local artists to create a mural along the fenceline that can be enjoyed by passing cars on the busy thoroughfare parallel to the orchard.

We can’t say enough about how grateful we are to Georgia Organics and the whole village that came together to make this happen. The neighbors on the street are tickled with the progress, and even left us a little note that sums it all up:

Love Life at The Dew Abides orchard

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