A self-sustaining apple orchard?

In The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander talks about the “self-sustaining harmony” of a mythical apple orchard in which “the whole system of forces and processes keeps itself going, over and again, without creating extra forces that will tear it down.” He writes about “a garden, where the plants, and wind, and animals are perfectly in balance.” Sounds like a sustainable wonder of nature, with no human intervention necessary:

Consider, for example, a corner of an orchard, where the sun warms the ground, the marrows grow, the bees pollinate the apple blossom, the worms bring air to the soil, the apple leaves fertilize the soil …. This pattern repeats itself, hundreds of times, in a thousand different gardens, and is always a source of life.

But the life of the pattern does not depend on the fact that it does something for “us”—but simply on the self-sustaining harmony, in which each process helps sustain the other processes, and in which the whole system of forces and processes keeps itself going, over and again, without creating extra forces that will tear it down.1

On the other hand, C.J. Walke outlines the actual “processes” that need to be attended to, year after year, in order that such organic products actually survive:

March: Prune; save scions for grafting; remove and destroy mummified fruit and disease cankers. April: Plant new trees; bench graft and top-work; chip prunings for mulch; spray dormant oil, if needed. May: Train limbs of young trees; look for borer sign weekly; remove tent caterpillars; hang white cards for European apple sawfly; hang codling moth (CM) pheromone traps, track degree days (DD) with first male caught. June: Apply Surround spray at petal fall, reapply weekly; collect and destroy all drops weekly; thin fruitlets, remove damaged ones; scythe grass and use as mulch; apply Bt spray for CM egg hatch at 245 DD. July: Stop Surround sprays; plum curculio migration ends at 308 DD from petal fall; hang red sphere traps for apple maggot fly (AMF); place cardboard bands on trunks for pupating CM larvae; destroy and replace every two weeks. August: Bud graft; summer prune water sprouts and suckers; apply Bt or spinosad for AMF and 2nd generation CM at 1260 DD; scythe grass and use as mulch; harvest first summer apples!!! September: Continue harvest of late summer and early fall varieties; continue to collect and destroy drops weekly. October: Harvest fall and winter varieties!! Remove limb spreaders and traps. November: Apply fish spray, lime and/or compost to hasten leaf breakdown, then rotary mow leaves under trees. December: Put vole guards in place; pull back mulch from trunks; remove traps and spreaders from trees; root cellars full of fruit!! Jan.—Feb.: Visit orchard regularly to check for deer, vole or rabbit damage; order supplies; maintain tools and equipment.2


1 Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building, Oxford University Press (New York: 1979), p.118

2 C.J. Walke, “In the Orchard—A Calendar to Guide Apple Tree Care,” Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association online here (accessed 9/29/15)

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