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How to grow your own organic fruit orchard

Written by Nicola Wallis

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Posted on 27 December 2021

Why plant an Orchard?

An orchard gives you a variety of your own organic fruit which can include a variety of that isn’t readily available in shops as they are regarded unsuitable for mass production. Growing your own orchard allows you to grow your own organic fresh and seasonal fruit.

What to consider when planting an orchard?

Choose local varieties as these are likely to suit both the climate and soils of your region.  It can be fruitless (no pun intended) trying to produce crops of peaches, apricots, and other non-indigenous fruits suitable to a warmer and drier climate.

Variety in an orchard is super important for pollination as most apples, plums and pears require a partner with a flowering period that partially overlaps with their own. For example, an apple tree within 30m of another will pollinate so if there isn’t one in sight one will need to be planted. In terms of location keep fruit trees out of the wind as it deters pollinating insects.

What type of soil does an orchard need?

Ideally fruit trees need at least 2ft of soil before they hit any substrate as this is the area where they develop their feeder roots. Well drained, uncompacted, and loamy soil is the most preferable for fruit trees. Soil quality can be improved over time with mulch and other organic matter.

How much sunlight does an orchard need?

Work out the amount of sun your potential orchard area receives as the amount required for each orchard varies depending upon the variety of fruit being grown in it. Most orchards require 6 to 8 hours whilst cooking varieties require fewer hours.

How many trees do you need to make an orchard?

The size of your orchard really depends upon the size of the space you have available. There is no general rule as to what constitutes an orchard although it’s a good idea to start with six trees.

Which fruit should I choose for my orchard?

It is critical to choose varieties with the right rootstock as this will determine the size and vigour of the tree and in turn the overall size of your orchard.

  • Apples- these are the hardiest of fruit trees, perhaps consider one variety to eat fresh and the other for cooking. It is also worth thinking about choosing spur fruiting varieties rather than the tip-fruiting as the tip is generally cut off when you prune back.
  • Pears- perhaps grow a self-pollinator such as a Conference pear. Or again choose two varieties, which are pollination compatible, one for fresh eating and the other for cooking.
  • Cherries- self-fertile are a good option think about Cherry Stella or a Morello cherry.
  • Plum- Victoria Plum is a favourite and known for being reliably productive. This variety is also self-fertile and can also be a pollinator for Damson, Plumcot and other plum-like fruit.
  • Other less common fruit trees to consider include, Quince, Mulberry and Medlar.

What are dwarf fruit trees and the advantages of them?

Dwarf fruit trees are a bud of one tree grafted onto the roots of another tree which are chosen for their desired size and maturity. Due to their root structure, dwarf trees can begin to produce generously within three to five years of being planted whereas standard-size fruit trees bear fruit in seven to ten years.

How do you space and layout an orchard?

Spacing and layout usually depends upon your space, the varieties and number of trees you have chosen. Orchards are traditionally laid out in rectangular or square grid like formations with bare grass left under the trees. Fruit trees usually run in rows from north to south as this maximises the amount of sunlight to reach each tree.

It is best to purchase the fruit trees for your orchard from an experienced nursey which will be able to give you expert advice related to the exact varieties and their specific requirements. Generally, trees in pollinating pairs need to be no further than 100 feet away, yet some fruit tree spacing can be as close as two to three feet away. Standard apple trees need to be around five metres apart whilst dwarf varieties need to be planted about three metres apart.

How do I plant an orchard?

  • Make a scaled plan on graph paper and then set out your plan in the orchard location with canes.
  • Remove any grass or weeds from your desired location.
  • Prepare each hole at least 30% larger than the tree’s existing root system requires to ensures the roots have sufficient space to grow into.
  • Support the trees with a low stake to prevent the roots from being pulled over while, leaving the upper tree to flex and develop resilience.
  • Use a tree guard to prevent wildlife removing the bark around the base.
  • Mulch around the base as this removes grass competition, helps retain water and suppresses weeds.
  • Water when you plant and then regularly throughout the first 18 months.

  

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