Planning a Brand New Home Orchard

comments (7) July 27th, 2014

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Apple trees grow beautifully in our home orchard.
Photo by Brad Greenly under the creative Commons Attribution License 2,0.
This is what are figs will look like when theyre finally ripe.Photo by Janet Hudson under the creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Apple trees grow beautifully in our home orchard.
Photo by Brad Greenly under the creative Commons Attribution License 2,0.Click To Enlarge

Apple trees grow beautifully in our home orchard.


Photo by Brad Greenly under the creative Commons Attribution License 2,0.

What we did on our summer vacation this year is move to a new homestead! One of our biggest focuses is adding to the small orchard that is already here -- which is really only about a handful of trees at this point. We have a pear, an apricot, a plum, a nut (perhaps almond?), and a very productive fig tree that's our start to a brand new home orchard.

Our Northern California climate offers us incredible choices in terms of fruit varieties. Some of the trees we're considering are peach, apricot, apple, plum, pear, quince, olive, cherry, orange, pomegranate, fig, and even some nut trees. Nothing is out-of-bounds at this point. Our minds are wide open and aside from the actual planting day, I think that this is one of the most exciting parts!

During these planning stages we're not only deciding which types of trees, but also:  

  •  Varieties within those types (such as Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, or Jonagold apples?)
  • Tree sizes. Considering the general "standard" sizes are 18 feet tall and higher, we're probably going to stick with the "dwarf" varieties.
  • How much land we're going to devote to the orchard.
  • The crown diameter of each tree once it's mature. We'll want to be sure to leave enough space between them so that no one crowds anyone else by hogging all the sun. Along with how much land we'll devote, this will help us decide on the number of trees that we'll plant.
  • Which trees need to cross-pollinate with another variety in order to produce fruit and which are self-pollinating. It's pretty darn important to know how your trees have sex.
  • Reach out to other fruit growers in the area for the latest information on what is going on with fruit and nut trees in our county. This will be key to ensuring our success.

Of course, this is just the beginning of what we'll consider as we plan the new orchard, but having the answers to these first questions is a great start. Husband-extraordinaire and I have our individual favorites, so we're each going to sketch out two orchard plans each. the final design will be a blend of our ideas (fair is fair).

After we have our ideas mashed together in one place, we'll seriously consider which fruits or nuts are either in demand or rare in our area. This is because a secondary (potential) reason to have the orchard is to perhaps sell at the local farmer's market after a handful of years. We try to always have gardens and animals here at our farm pull double duty in some way.

Have you ever planned and planted your own home orchard? What were your biggest successes and hardest lessons?

posted in: fruit trees, home orchard, nut trees

Comments (7)

caserojj writes: I started home orchard several years ago. Even though I tried to follow the system of creating a plan and designing the space layout I was hampered by misunderstanding of what species of fruit trees would grow and fruit in my climate zone. You see I live in East Central Florida zone 9b and we do not get alot of chill hours over here. However, we usually get enough chill hours for it to be very lethal to tropical plants. Not enough for decidious fruit trees or so I thought but too much for the tropical trees I was accustomed to in South Florida. I made some bad peach tree choices initially. Yes they could tolerate the heat in my zone but had too high a chill hours requirement to reliably bear fruit. As I learned about chill hours and USDA zones I began to realize that some of this stuff is not really hard and fast. Online videos from Dave Wilson nursery and Kuffle Creek Nursery convinced me I should give apple trees a try especially those grafted to M-111 root stock and that originated from Australia. I have the usual low chill apple varieties like Anna, Dorsett Golden, and Tropic Sweet but I also have Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Arkansas Black and Golden Delicious. Pear trees If find to be the most problematic. There are some low chill varieties like Florda Home and Hood that supposedly can bear fruit in my zone but they don't grow very well or very fast. You would think citrus to be a sure bet in Central Florida but you would be wrong. The citrus industry down here is under assault from all kinds of diseases and insects like citrus greening and leaf miner. Yes I have a few citrus trees but they are not my favorites. Surprisingly I found Royal Blenheim Apricots to be a good fruit tree for my area. They grow very fast and will bear fruit down here. They are also a beautiful tree to look at in the Spring and Summer. My best advice I can give you is to go with a reliable local nursery if you can. It is better to see the trees in person before you buy them but if you have to use an online nursery go with some tried and tested choices like Stark Brothers Nurseries, Dave Wilson Nursery, and Kuffle Creek Nursery. I have had good results with Bay Laurel Nursery but I had disastrous results from an online nursery called "Fast Growing Trees" at Sometimes you get good stuff from them but they often will send you diseased trees. The nurseries they use often ship out whatever garbage they have left in their inventory including diseased trees. If they infect your orchard or cause problems for you they couldn't care less. This is what happened to me. I had pears and apples from them that showed up with rust and fungi. The pear trees I threw away but the granny smith apples they sent me with rust infected my whole orchard of apple trees. Now I have to spray copper fungicides regularly to control it. Stay away from at all costs. The other piece of good advice I can give you is to consider first and foremost the rootstock your trees are grafted. This is very important because a bad choice of root stock for your soil conditions will almost certainly end badly for you. At worst your trees will die at best they may just hang on but never grow or bear any fruit. I have found M-111 to be the best root stock for for apple trees. It produces a standard sized tree but you can easily control the height of the tree with proper pruning. Don't choose rootstock to control tree height. Choose the rootstock best adapted to your soil conditions and then go from there.
Posted: 9:09 am on October 17th
TerryRhodes writes: Really nice
Posted: 3:39 am on March 30th
RuchikaaKale writes: That's a good idea!!
Posted: 2:57 am on February 26th
FitoorsRey writes: It's Great for health
Posted: 5:35 am on February 16th
RegunRoy writes: What aaa wonderfull ideas
Posted: 2:18 am on January 26th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Hi ruth_d!

Oh yes! I totally agree & we've grown blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries at our last three homes. Loved every one of them! This time we want to concentrate more on the trees since we've had limited experience with them. I've grown apples, oranges, lemons, peaches, apricots, cherries, and pears. But we've never had a full orchard before this. It's very exciting!
Posted: 9:38 pm on September 12th
ruth_d writes: Way to go, Chris, and best of luck with the new homestead. As you choose your fruits, don't forget blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries. They bear more quickly than tree fruits, and they're less subject to pests. And if you can grow kiwi, do that too. All are delicious, of course. As you plan, consider fruiting season (so you have a nice selection for as many months as possible), care required (pruning, netting, pest control), your family's likes and dislikes, and so on. I've got a pretty good selection here, but I'm glad I'm retired, as I'm spending a lot of time on it.
Posted: 2:57 pm on August 12th
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