Saturday, March 27, 2021

Umbel Nursery of Parma, Michigan



Umbel Nursery is just a couple of miles north of I-94, slightly west of Jackson, Michigan and not very far from Eaton Rapids.

This video, which may be a bit too long for most of my readers at 24 minutes, discusses how to integrate fruit trees into a planting for maximum production and quality of fruit.


I met Erin, the speaker, about eight months ago. Two things impressed me about her. She gives you 100% of her attention when you are conversing with her. That does not work to her advantage in this video as she is making eye-contact with various people in the audience and ignoring the camera. She is 1200% more personable face-to-face.

The second thing that impressed me was her kids. They were outside. They were tanned, fit and active. They were polite and well-spoken. They were "grazing" on berries and green beans they snitched from the garden. My memory is fuzzy, but I estimate the oldest was about nine years-old.

My two-cents about companion planting

It is common knowledge that it is very, very difficult to grow sweet cherries, peaches, apricots and Carpathian Walnuts in my part of Michigan. The trees seem to die if you so much as cross you eyes at them. And yet some people seem to pull it off effortlessly.

The biggest issue with these species involves sun-scald. That is when the sun thaws out the trunk of the tree on sunny afternoons in January and February and then the sudden drop in temperature after the sun sets flash-freezes the trunk. Most species require a period of moderate cold to acclimate their cells to deep cold. In many cases, the acclimation involves the cells partially dehydrating. The flaccid, dehydrated cells are resistant to the formation of ice crystals which kill cells by puncturing their walls.

The rapid rise-and-fall in temperature short-circuits that acclimation-over-time mechanism and kills the southwest sides of trunks. The dead bark lets in decay organisms and it is good-bye fruit tree.

Having written all that, these trees survive in the wilds of their countries of origin. And there are people who grow them without wrapping them or going through other heroics to keep them alive. What is going on?

One local grower, Roger Miller, had a habit of planting asparagus around his trees. The asparagus stems remained upright through most of the winter and shade the trunks during the afternoon and shielding them from radiant heat loss at night.

Other "survivors" are in raspberry patches and the dense canes perform the same function as the asparagus stems.

Other plants that could fill the same function are blackberries and black currents.

The thermal shielding effect of branches may be one reason why trees that are pruned in the spring demonstrate more winter hardiness in-the-field than trees pruned in the fall. In a similar way, a canopy of grape vines (whether domestic or wild) will provide a degree of thermal shielding.


  1. She's very sharp. It's a great tip, growing comfrey around your fruit tree mulch perimeters, then periodically chopping them back and leaving them there. I bet one could do that quickly with a weed eater.

    I just transplanted a brown fig today, it wasn't quite happy where it was so I moved it to a sunnier and wetter location. And coincidentally, at its new spot I did exactly what she suggested, taking the sod and turning it over, putting it back around the fig upside down, to create a low bowl to help conserve water. Next comes the hardwood mulch! That thing was a bear to move and got hit hard by the Freez-ama-geddon we had this year, but it's already putting on green suckers at the bottom so it survived.

  2. I enjoyed Erin's presentation very much. It took more than a couple sittings to get through it, but her ideas were well worth it. Her depth of knowledge shines through, and her nursery and farm are just amazing, from what I saw.

    Then there is this gem: if you have to mow, then just get a sheep. Love it! Thanks, Joe.


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