Everyone dreams of having a bountiful orchard and they start planting fruit trees thinking there’s not much to it. Ideally, your fruit trees should be planted in an area that provides an entire ecosystem at root level. For bountiful backyard orchards, there are a few things that you need to consider well before you dig the first hole.
Planting fruit trees can be exciting for new gardeners and they go right at it. They dream about the fruits they will be eating in the future and they fail to plan properly. The excitement you feel when planting your first trees can soon turn into disappointment if you don’t follow a few simple rules. An orchard takes quite some time to develop and thrive, but it pays off in the end.
Rules to follow before planting fruit trees:
Find the right space
This is one of the first things you need to consider and it all depends on how much room you have for an orchard. Start by walking your property and look around for areas where you can plant fruit threes. You should already have an idea where your orchard should be placed. Look out for good drainage and soil conditions suited for fruit trees. Any surrounding trees will eventually grow larger and shade out your orchard. They will also steal water and nutrients from your fruit trees and eventually hinder their growth.
Don’t try to subdue Mother Nature
If your nursery man says that the soil from your property is too wet, you should listen. If your site is too cold for a specific variety, there’s no point in trying to grow it. Listen to the experts and don’t try to experiment before you get the hang of it all. Each variety requires certain growing conditions, and you should avoid growing mangos if mangos don’t grow in your area.
Related reading: Eight Tips for Homesteading Success
Plan for the size# you need
Most standard size trees which are 15 feet tall or more are hardy, but they present some challenges. The height of the trees dictates how easily you can maintain or harvest them. The higher the trees the more challenging the harvest and care works become. The good news is that nowadays there are varieties suited for all plans. When planning you orchard, you can pick:
- Semi-dwarfs fruit trees (15 to 20 feet);
- Dwarf fruit trees (10 to 15 feet);
- Genetic dwarf fruit trees (5 to 7 feet).
As a recommendation, genetic dwarfs grow well in containers and require less winder cold to flower.
Learn how to deal with pollination
When you plan your orchard, you should learn that there are some varieties that are not self-pollinating. You will need two compatible cultivars planted near each other to make pollination possible. Even with self-pollinating varieties, farmers have discovered that they are more productive if cross-pollinated. To save yourself a headache, ask your nursery man about the pollination requirements of the fruit trees you want to buy.
Pay attention to spring frosts
If you area is exposed to spring frosts, you will need some type of frost protection to save the buds. Otherwise, they will freeze and die, leaving you without a harvest. Some people use wind machines, propane heaters and all sorts of methods to heat the buds. The smart thing would be to check the temperature from your location. Check how low it gets in the area you want to plant the fruit trees. You can always go with containers if the weather is too harsh.
Don’t waste produce
This is something I’ve often seen in my area and some of my neighbors throw away fruits. Most people fail to realize that even small fruit trees can produce a large amount of fruits during a good season. Don’t buy fruit trees that will produce fruits you don’t eat. Do so only if you plan to sell or give them away. You should plant fruit trees that bear fruit your family eats. You could also preserve the fruits, but in time, you will end up with more than you can handle.
Pruning is an art
When planning an orchid, you should keep in mind that fruit trees require yearly pruning. Until you learn how to do it yourself, you will have to pay someone to trim your trees. Watching an expert doing it is a must before you try your hand. Start by learning the principles and you won’t have any problems pruning them yourself.
Disease and pests will become a problem
Most farmers say that planting your fruit trees in healthy soil is half the battle. However the reality is quite different. No matter how healthy your soil is pests will always become a problem. You will have to use sticky tape, pheromone traps and all sorts of pest controlling methods. Handpicking bugs and using organic sprays is also an option, although it requires some experience.
Related reading: Smart tips to protect your garden from Critters
Start small at first
I recommend starting with five trees, ten at most, before you plant more. This will give you some time to figure out what it all implies and if you can handle the labor. You can always plant some more if you have the space and time to care for all the trees. Your small orchard will provide you with a good amount of fruits and you will figure out if it’s enough for your family.
Try something different
What most people don’t know is that there are many non-commercial, heirloom varieties suited for home orchards. Once you know what type of fruit trees you want to plant, ask for recommendations from local experts. You will be able to get hardy varieties which thrive in your area and you will not be disappointed.
A final word
Growing an orchard can seem like a lot of work, but if you plan in advance, things get easier. If you keep in mind all of the above, you may save yourself unnecessary frustration and additional work later on. Before you start digging the holes for your fruit trees, take the time to think things through. An orchard is a long-term commitment and success comes in time. You cannot move an orchard after one year like you would do with a garden if you are not happy with the results. Take the time to inform yourself and do to the things right the first time.
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