Ask a Question forum: Developing an orchard

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Name: Bill Breitbach
Richmond, VA. (Zone 7a)
Sep 4, 2016 5:23 PM CST
Thumb of 2016-09-04/bbreitba/f49026

I am planning to put an orchard in my backyard, any advice welcome. Apples, apricots, cherrys, pears, figs, and peaches.

Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Sep 4, 2016 6:08 PM CST
Hi Bill, Welcome! to NGA

I have some thoughts for you:

Choose varieties that don't all ripen at the same time.

Give them lots of room. At least 15 feet between each planting hole.

Plant two trees per hole. You can plant twice as many that way. They grow to form a single canopy with two trunks. Choose trees with similar eventual size. Don't plant a walnut with a peach, for instance.

Spend some time going to local farmers markets and taste fruit. Ask for the names of the ones you like best.

Don't plant your entire orchard in one year. Plant a couple peaches now and plant a couple more in 5 years. Then, when the first two die of old age, you still have peaches while waiting for the replacements to grow up.

Walnut trees get huge! Plan accordingly. Walnuts should be planted 25 to 30 feet apart.

Learn the growing conditions and pruning and spraying needs of all the trees you plant.

Plant PLUOTS! I love pluots. They need a pollinizer, usually a plum or another pluot. My personal favorites are Splash, Dinosaur Egg and Flavor King (and those 3 will pollinate eachother).

I think that's it. Smiling

Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Sep 4, 2016 7:37 PM CST
Be sure to consider the eventual height of your fruit trees - do I see power lines crossing over your planting area there? Consider dwarf trees. They take up less room, the fruit stays lower where you can pick it easier and they are still very productive. Even commercial fruit growers plant dwarf trees nowadays because they also take less time to grow to fruit-bearing size. Regular cherry trees especially can get really tall and might take over the whole yard. So would a walnut - you didn't say you wanted to grow walnuts anyway and I sure wouldn't.

I'd also think about taking out whatever the tree is at the left side of your picture. Remember any tree spreads its roots out even further than its branches reach, so a 10ft. wide tree has roots in a 14ft. circle around it. You don't want your fruit trees competing with other (non-fruit bearing) trees for water and nutrients. This is also true of growing lawn under your fruit trees - the grass will consume a lot of water and fertilizer that otherwise would get to the trees. Your orchard will grow better and faster if you remove the grass around the trees and just mulch the ground to keep weeds down and moisture in the soil.

Daisy is right on about the pluots - they taste better than apricots (jmho) and are also probably more hardy, being related to plums. When we lived in Utah the neighbors had a beautiful apricot tree but in the 14 years we lived there it only bore fruit twice. We had plum trees that buried us in fruit every year.


"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
Sep 5, 2016 8:23 AM CST
Read a lot before you commit

Some need spraying to prevent disease, most need pruning. Some should have fruit thinned. In other words, this may be a whole new level of care than typical landscape items.

Figs are easy. They should be hardy for you, and I have not sprayed mine at all, no diseases there.

I am in Maryland so we share climate. I've "grown" peaches for 8 years (sprouted seedlings from compost) and brown rot is awful (unless you spray). I've never gotten to eat a ripe fruit. This year looked ok (small, some spots, but good enough to eat around) until something stole every single fruit just before ripening (squirrels?) Peaches grow a lot and should have yearly pruning. I have a Santa Rosa plum, it's become very big in just four years, is too tall for me to prune, I did have a huge crop this year for the first time (no spraying) and ate quite a few small but tasty ones that fell and ripened. ( And a whole lot more rotted).

Blueberries have been super easy and carefree here. Fifteen years on those.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)

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