How to Start a Mini Backyard Orchard


| 6/18/2015 7:00:00 AM


Tags: Growing Fruit Trees, Starting an Orchard, Pruning, Garden Tips, Backyard Farm, Amanda Olsen,

What springs to mind when you think of the word “orchard?” Probably acres and acres of fruit trees and crisp, fall days of climbing ladders into tall trees to harvest. Well, sure—that’s one way that fruit trees exist. But what if I told you that you could walk right to your own backyard and grab a nice, juicy apple right off of a tree that’s no taller than you are? And it’s any variety you can imagine—from hard to find to heirloom—not just the handful of dwarf varieties available at most nurseries. Would you tell me that it’s not possible?

orchard

The good news is that it is possible—with the right technique and care. It requires aggressive pruning when the tree is young, and in the opposite season we’ve all been taught to do it in. I first became aware of this method after I read the book Grow A Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph. I highly recommend giving it a read, but I’d like to introduce you to the method here in order to show you what’s possible.

Choosing Trees for Your Mini Orchard

The first step in planning any orchard is to select the type of fruit, or fruits, you’d like to grow, as well as the specific variety. When gardening in small spaces, most people tend to gravitate toward the dwarf or mini-dwarf varietals, or even columnar trees. But you don’t need to limit yourself in this way. You can choose any heirloom or old-time variety that strikes your fancy, and you can keep it small. Since you’re going to train your tree to a small stature by pruning, you can choose any one that you like, provided it’s suited to your area and growing conditions.

You do, however, want to pay attention to rootstock. Most nursery stock is grafted—which means a fruiting trunk is attached to a particular rootstock. This allows a tree to have characteristics that are the best of both worlds—the desired fruit, but also a hearty, healthy rootstock to ensure the tree has the best foundation possible. The different characteristics of rootstock are varied and can be nuanced, but don’t drive yourself crazy for six months researching all the different types. Any good nursery catalog or nursery worker can give you the rundown on the basic differences, but what you really need to know is simple: Is this rootstock suited to my soil and growing conditions (for example, drought-tolerant in areas where water is at a premium)? Also, be sure that you order a bare-root tree from the nursery in late spring. A very young bare-root tree is going to cope with the aggressive pruning much more effectively than an older, planted tree would.

Selecting a Site

Once you’ve chosen your trees, it’s time to choose the location for them. The considerations here are fairly standard and not drastically different from other types of gardening.

vegalab
6/25/2015 2:00:21 AM

Very helpful post. Thanks so much for sharing. You might want to check out this website I came across a few years ago. Pretty helpful and inspiring. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/selacorp-founder-david-selakovic-offers-reliable-partnership-for-government-procurement-2014-08-01


vegalab
6/25/2015 1:56:05 AM

You've got really good advice! You might want to check out this article I read. Quite inspiring http://www.marketwatch.com/story/selacorp-founder-david-selakovic-offers-reliable-partnership-for-government-procurement-2014-08-01





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