Backyard Orchard Culture

by Daisy on 12/28/2013

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This year, like every year, I caved in to the desire to buy more plants, edible plants. I believed that between the time I ordered them and the time they arrived for their dormant season planting, new sunny places in my yard would appear to welcome them. There would be a special dimension, a wrinkle in the earth, or some inexplicable expansion to accommodate them.

They arrived a week ago, deceptively compact in two small boxes.  I had spots picked out for a few of them. The rest would have to wait for a miracle.

However, the miracle had already happened. I discovered a planting method (after I’d already ordered way too many fruit trees) that promises to help me and other magical thinkers like me. I ran across Dave Wilson Nursery’s Backyard Orchard Culture method. I won’t go into it in detail here because it is handled very clearly on the website, but the gist of it is that I can plant my trees more closely together than the recommended distances. I can do that because I am a backyard orchardist (at best) and not a commercial orchardist.  I don’t need to get a tractor between my rows and don’t even need rows. I also don’t need to get the maximum yield from each of my trees because I’m not trying to run a business, just trying to get some nice fruit out of my yard.

I also don’t have to let the trees get as big as they can. I decide how big I want them to get and keep them pruned accordingly.

There’s a lot more to this method and a lot of information on the site. I’ve never bought any plants from their nursery, just enjoyed the free information and the permission to mold my trees to fit my needs, not the needs of an arbitrary, commercial-production-oriented guideline.

All the trees have found homes. They are squished; they are very squished in some cases, but that’s they way it has to be in my yard and time will tell if it’s going to work.  Among others, I have two asian pears about 18 inches apart, two plums in the same hole, and two persimmons fewer than ten feet apart. And so be it.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cinnamon Vogue December 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm

LOL Daisy. You go girl! Well that information is very useful especially about not having to fit tractor. 🙂 Still I am not sure about the Asian pears being only 18 inches apart. I think they should be planted about how thick they get at the top which would be about 4-6 feet apart I reckon. And if they don’t get relatively big it won’t produce good fruit in sufficient quantity. At least that is my feeling.

Abby December 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Well, you know, if it doesn’t work and all your trees die, you’re just out the time and money to buy them. But if it does work, and you get some fruit off of them, then I’d call it a success! What are you going to do with bushels and bushels of fruit, anyway? You just need *enough*.

I look forward to the report on their progress.

Cassandra December 29, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I have the same affliction!

Holly January 1, 2014 at 7:49 am

Check out the books on Permaculture. They describe “fedges”: fruit tree hedges; layered orchards with edible and medicinal plants below the trees, vines climbing up into them, dwarf trees or shrubs, and then taller canopy trees, often nut trees over them. It’s way cool

Betty-Ellen January 1, 2014 at 7:49 am

thank you so much. I do have room to plant some fruit trees after all. Awesome!

Chris Diehl January 1, 2014 at 11:12 am

I have the same affliction. On my very small suburban lot I have a fig tree, 3 cherry trees, 3 apple trees, 4 different types of grapes, kiwi, blueberries, gooseberries, lingonberries, asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, raspberries, and six garden plots with various types of edibles. Amazing how much fruit you can get on a small tree. The fig tree has two harvests but the second harvest usually drops since it gets too cold here in WA state. My daughter just bought me a green house so now I can keep my many types of citrus trees (more like shrubs) and my huge potted avocado trees from dropping all their leaves in winter. I can’t bring these inside as I don’t have a garage and my dogs use them as a latrine if I bring them in the house. My citrus includes Meyer lemons, lime, and blood orange. Oh and I also have a pomegranate shrub too. Ok long winded.

Daisy January 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Chris Deihl–I’m right there with you, with a few substitutions in deference to our climate here. Do you get avocados and citrus? That would be a dream come true. I just planted pomegranates last spring–is yours producing?

Daisy January 1, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Betty-Ellen–It really makes sense, I think. We can do it!

Daisy January 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Holly–I’ve read Gaia’s Garden. What do you recommend next?

Daisy January 1, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Abby–Exactly. I will keep you updated as it goes. . .

Daisy January 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

CV–Only time will tell!

Holly January 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm

That’s a great source. The number of permaculture books on the market increases daily. Most of them are quite good. If you want to go to the great-grandfather of Permaculture, Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual is the original Bible on which all the subsequent work was based. For temperate climates David Jacke’s two-volume Edible Forest Gardens is a great resource. It is much more specific of species and what they call “guilds” than Bill Mollison’s, mostly because BM was covering every aspect of design over the entire planet, which Jacke’s book does not try to do. Neither of these is cheap, so you could just go forward with the basic principles and spend your money on experimenting rather than books! I’ll be watching. It sounds like great fun. I’ve got a couple of acres and am finishing up the design cert offered online through the Regenerative Leadership Institute, even tho I was first introduced to Permaculture back in the 80’s. Part of the certification is finishing a design on my own place, so looking forward to that. Happy New Year!

Vhris Diehl January 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Daisy, I do get citrus, lemon and limes. My Pomegranites produce flowers and that’s it. No avocados yet. My one oldest tree is about 7 years old.

Daisy January 1, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Chris–How old are the poms and how old were the citrus when they began to fruit? (If I may be so greedy for info?)

Chris Diehl January 1, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I can’t remember how old. Bought poms from online store I bought lime and lemon from Home Depot and they already had fruit. The other citrus were pretty small and not too much bigger now. I bought those online. Sorry for inadequate info. I really need to keep a journal.

Daisy January 1, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Good idea, a blog would do as well.

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