“For a valiant heart, nothing is impossible”. Jacques Coeur
I’m a huge fan of words that are not as oft used as in their former glory days. For instance, have you considered the list of words used to describe different sections of the backyard garden as if they were separate rooms, like orchard, grove, vineyard, patch, and nuttery (which is where you will find the nutty trees and not your crazy aunt, silly!). Of course, there are others, like cutting garden, kitchen garden, and herb garden. While there are many options to consider, today we focus on the fruitier, a.k.a., the orchard.
During the first and second world wars, most homes had backyard gardens where families and communities grew their own fresh fruits and vegetables to eat and/or trade with their neighbors to address food shortages. Sadly, this trend did not keep pace with the test of time, which is why today we import food made in third countries that cannot possibly compare in quality, vigor, and/or taste to self-produced fresh food products. While establishing an orchard may seem like a lofty idea in concept, admittedly it may also unnerve some when considering factors like space, proper care, maintenance, etc. Which is why today we opened with Jacques Coeur’s point-of-view and emphasis on the possibilities.
In fact, advances in high-density farming and planting rootstock have crushed the “space constraints” of growing fruit trees. Today, many fruit trees are grown on dwarf rootstock, which result in reduced tree height and enable them to be planted closer together. Further, academic studies have shown that high-density fruit tree production yields better output and uses less resources than other growing methods.
Today’s challenge, if you should choose to accept it, is to check out different fruit tree varieties and to think about how you might incorporate them into your garden plan (if you’ve been following along). I actually have three potted fruit trees that I bring inside during the winter months because they are not rated for my growing zone, but I am determined to have them in my collection (a Mexican key lime, lemon, and Italian fig).
Factors to Consider When Planting Fruit Trees:
- Choose fruit trees grown on dwarf rootstock (you can prune trees to manage their height to 6-8 feet so that you don’t need a ladder to pick fruit);
- Take note of whether your tree variety is self-pollinating or requires a cross-pollinator (typically a different variety that blooms / flowers at the same time);
- Note your trees super powers / potential uses (some trees have specific culinary properties which make them suitable for cooking, making cider, canning, etc.);
- Trees can be planted in rows along a fence or other flat vertical plane, i.e., espalier (checkout River Road Farms in Tennesee to get the juices flowing at http://www.espaliertrees.com);
- Trees should be spaced at least five feet within the row and a space equal to the maximum tree height between rows (this allows the sun to hit all sides of the trees);
- Water regularly (young trees need between 12 and 15 gallons of water per week (May through September);
- Use an organic fungicide to control mildew, rust, leaf spot disease, etc. (I use bonide on my trees); and
- Prune trees annually once they are dormant (doing so will spur more growth the following spring).