I have struggled for a few years with a desire to have more fruit trees than my 1/3 acre lot can accomodate. A third-acre is actually pretty big by urban standards, but only one-quarter of our property is given over to edibles. The house, driveway, paths, shady areas and kid’s play area (aka lawn) take their footprint out of the total, so we have just 1/12th of an acre of total food growing space including access paths and storage.
Most of what we’ve focused on in the past five years has been annual vegetable production, and I think we are just starting to have some idea what we’re doing with the veggies. As I have gotten the hang of veggies, I have found that my desire for more fruit production has just gone crazy. I want more trees. I want more canes. I want more vines. I want more fruit.
For months I have been flipping through the Raintree catalog at night in bed and obsessively circling and highlighting and dog-earing and crossing out and re-circling varieties that sound too good to pass up. I have made spreadsheets – massive, massive spreadsheets – detailing ripening time, scab and disease resistance, rootstock and price of the fruits I am interested in. Which is most of them.
I have had to stop myself from impulsively buying trees that grow fruit that I have never once eaten and have no idea if I’d enjoy (goumi?) simply because they sound so cool.
|Three-tier combo Apple: Gala, Liberty & Spartan on one tree|
And it’s not as if I don’t have any fruit growing in that 1/12th of an acre. So far in that space we’ve crammed:
- 1, 3-tier Combination espalier apple
- 1, 3-tier Combination espalier Asian pear
- 2, 3-tier Combination espalier European pear
- 2 Italian prune plums (old and wonderful and inherited with the property)
- 2 Columnar apples (Scarlet and Golden Sentinel)
- 1 Violetta Fig
- 1 Lapins sweet cherry (just planted)
- 4 Grape vines
- 2 Boysenberries
- 2 Stands of Amity raspberries
- 1 Stand of Fall Gold raspberry
- 4 Blueberry bushes (not yet large enough to produce)
- Enough strawberry plants that we look at them as an invasive weed with big-time benefits. They move around but currently we have a 4×8 bed full of them and a second 4×8 bed is planned for this spring.
|Violetta fig ripened fruit for the first time last year|
- Standard growing suggestions for fruit trees are based on commercial grower’s techniques to maximize yield. The needs of the backyard grower are totally different and include maximizing the number of weeks out of the year that perfectly ripe fresh fruit is ready for harvest, not the total harvestable yield all at once.
- Trees with compatible rootstocks and successive ripening times are selected and planted close together.
- Trees are kept small – no taller than 6 or 8 feet – with consistent pruning, including a lot of summer pruning for the dwarfing effect it has on trees. Trees are trained as “fruit bushes” and owners take responsibility for the overall size of their trees.
|Planting guidelines for a high density orchard|