You won’t believe just how good fresh home grown fruit can be until you take a big bite and have the juices dripping down your chin as you grin ear to ear! A peach for instance; can you just imagine the big fuzzy fruit tempting you day after day until it’s ripe to pick? I can hardly wait to grow some fruit in my own yard! Just ask anyone who has grown their own fruits or vegetables and they will tell you, things just taste better when you grow them yourself! It’s one of those pleasures in life that just can’t be purchased.
Homegrown fruit is not only tastier; it’ll be healthier for you as well. You control if your fruit is sprayed with pesticides or not, and so you’ll know beyond a shadow of a doubt if it is organic and healthy. Note: Running out into the back yard to pick bushel baskets of juicy fruit is good exercise too.
Fruit trees are simple to grow, unfortunately many of us are unsure if we have the space needed to grow them, so we shy away from trying. The truth is you don’t have to have acres of land at all. You don’t even have to have a yard for that matter if you plant them in pots! Long story short, we want you to realize that you can grow many fruit trees in a very small space if you get creative and explore the possibilities.
The backyard culture of raising fruit trees is a totally different kind of growing fruit crops than what the commercial orchards do. Don’t think that you have to grow your trees like you’ve seen growing at those big orchards; in fact you really can grow great fruit in a much smaller space, and lots of it!
One of the limited space planting tricks is to grow the trees flat against a south facing wall or fence (or even free standing trees but still grown and trained in a flat plane), this is called espalier. You can prune any fruit tree to be more flat planed in its growing habit. Or just purchase them pre-espaliered. Usually pears and apples are available as espaliers. Most of the time espaliered trees have multiple varieties grafted onto one tree so they come with their own pollinating buddy.
Another creative small space practice is planting more than one tree per hole. This is a fun way to grow fruit trees in a very small yard as a homeowner can grow two to four fruit trees in the space of one tree….really! Planting is done after you prune off the center crossing branches that would face inward, space the tree trunks only 24 inches apart and tip them slightly outward away from the center. This kind of growing can really extend the harvesting season. For instance, if you choose 3 varieties of cherries, like Kristen, Lapins and Stella, the 3 trees help to pollinate each other, raising your crop production plus you’ve just extended the ripening fruit over many weeks. You could plant 3-4 varieties of Asian pears together, or 3-4 apples, etc. Best results come from planting like kinds with each other, cherries with cherries for example.
Also available, and just perfect for smaller garden spaces, are combination fruit trees where multiple (usually 4) varieties are grafted onto one trunk. For instance apple varieties like Jonagold, Liberty, Yellow Delicious and Melrose are all grafted onto one trunk, making planting your mini-orchard a snap! The combo fruit trees are usually available in plums, Asian pears and European pears, cherries and apples.
Finally, to better ensure your growing success in the smaller urban spaces, The Plant Farm carries fruit trees that are grafted onto either semi-dwarfing or dwarfing root stock. Rootstocks like this are best for most homeowners as these will keep the tree’s ultimate height shorter and easier to manage. Most home growers keep their trees around 8-10’ tall and the dwarfing and semi-dwarfing rootstocks naturally keep the trees fruit within ‘picking range’. Besides, shorter trees are more manageable to prune plus this’ll give you more room to expand into more varieties!
Pruning is not a big job with most fruit trees if you can start their training young. If you have an old tree it may take a few years to reshape it and get it back into production, but if you can, start by training the younger trees early on. Winter has been traditionally the time folks think trees should be pruned, when the trees are dormant. Bigger cuts are made then for sure, but smaller cuts made in the summer time are actually better at controlling the plants height. Think of it this way; when a plant has all its leaves in summer and then drops those in the fall, the food from those leaves are stored for the next season. If you come along in winter cutting many of its branches out and then the tree leafs out again in the spring, all that food is still there but now not as many branches so the tree sends up ‘water sprouts’ like crazy, ultimately bigger than it was the year before! To sum this pruning topic up, it is more effective to do some light corrective pruning during the summer months while the trees are in leaf. You’ll actually control the overall height and width better plus it’s a whole lot easier to decide where to prune if there is fruit on the tree.
To grow the best fruit crops choose a location in the garden with full sun or as much sun as possible. Good air circulation will deter diseases, and well drained soil is a must. For the soil’s health, adding amendments like our Organic Compost increases the organic matter content in the soil making it a more pleasing spot to be a tree. We recommend using a fertilizer when planting your new trees, like our Transplant Fertilizer or Dr. Earth Fruit Tree fertilizer or Dr. Andy’s Puget Sound Garden Blend. All of these products will feed the young plants and get them off to the right start. If the soil is really crummy and not draining well then you can build up a raised berm or bed to plant it in. A raised bed would work well too if planting 3-4 trees in a 4’X4’ space. One of the side benefits of a raised bed; it also keeps the weed eater maniac from tearing up the young bark! Good soil, lots of sun and nutrients will produce better tasting fruit and more of it.
We carry Mason Bee condos, books and audio CDs, tools and actual live bees hibernating in cocoons to help jumpstart your system. Mason Bees are the best at pollinating your fruit crops so be sure to include these gentle native bees in your orchard plans.
Come in soon to pick out your backyard orchard trees.
Some of the fruit crops you can find here at The Plant Farm that grow well in Puget Sound area; Apples, Cherries, Asian and European Pears, Plums, Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Pineapple Quince, and nuts like Almonds and Walnuts. We typically have over 70 varieties of fruit trees available starting in mid-January to choose from. We can help you with selection if needed and can send you home with a planting guide for bare-root trees. Remember to keep the roots moist until you get them planted and come in early for the best selection before your neighbors get here! Get set to have some sweet juices dripping down your chin as you enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Also think about joining us for our seminar this weekend, January 15, 2011 at 11:00am. Gary Moulton, from Washington State Extension Program will be here sharing his many years of expertise in growing and caring for backyard and orchard fruit trees. Come early, this is a popular seminar and seats fill up fast!