There is no place like home. Yes, indeed! But there is something better than just a home – a home with an orchard. Many homeowners now create orchards in their backyards or in wide, free spaces near their homes. They want to grow their favorite trees, have a source of their favorite nuts and fruits, or simply to bring nature closer to them.
Having a home orchard is really ideal. However, it is not that easy to put up your own home orchard. Of course, you have to be dedicated and patient in growing the fruit trees and other plants.
PLANNING YOUR ORCHARD
Before you start a home orchard, you have to consider a few things. First, you have to ask yourself if you have ample time and interest in maintaining your orchard trees and plants. You also have to consider the ability of your space, especially the soil quality in your backyard if it can potentially grow fruit trees.
In planning our orchard, we should consider our purpose. Our purpose will determine the amount of dedication and extensiveness of the maintenance that our orchard needs. Basically, some of us simply want to have an orchard with one fruit-bearing tree, more like a simple homestead garden. But for some, they wanted to create income out of the trees that they have planted in their orchard.
Apart from the healthy and fertile soil, the location where you will set your orchard is important. It should be in a place where there is easy access to good air and water drainage. The most common location of an orchard is a slope, like small hills. Avoid low-lying sites. It is the worst location especially in winter, killing all your trees. A northern slope will also delay blooming and fruit production. So choose the southern slope. Also, avoid windy hilltops.
Basically, the space required of the home orchard depends on the size and the number of trees you wanted to plant. For example, if you want to have dwarf Apple trees, then 15 feet of wall is enough. If you are planning for more trees of various trees, you need at least ½ acres. For large properties, the minimum size for growing a wide variety of trees would be 10 acres.
Do you have an experience? Well, it doesn’t really require all the technical skills. As long as you have the passion in taking care of the environment, you can do it! But if you are aiming for something huge (go back to purpose), you have to be knowledgeable about the types of trees and how to maintain them. You also have to know about pest control, harvesting and other care and maintenance methods. Well, you can always seek the help of experts.
Again, the cost will depend on your purpose. But maintaining an orchard really requires a budget. You should also consider the different varieties of fruit-trees, as their rate and their need for maintenance differ from each other. Plus, consider the cost of materials and equipment, irrigation and maintenance, among others. In commercial-level, many potential successful orchards have failed because of their insufficient operating capital. Thus, apart from time and dedication, money is important, too.
SELECTING THE TREES
When you select your trees, you should anticipate how big it will grow in the future. Consider the size and location of your space. Large-scale property orchards have large trees that require you to use a ladder for pruning and harvesting. However, if you just want to utilize your backyard, you can select dwarf or semi-dwarf trees. They don’t require too much space, plus they can be planted in smaller distances.
Ideally, a dwarf fruit tree needs a space that is eight feet in diameter as they don’t grow that large. Semi-dwarf trees grow from ten to sixteen feet tall, whereas standard fruit trees can grow up to over thirty feet tall.
In choosing the trees, consider your needs. If you want Apple, then you can decide among the wide variety of Apple fruit trees. There are other perfect choices such as apricots, cherries, hazelnuts, butternuts, peaches, pears, plums, and prunes, among others.
You also have to consider how much effort you can be able to provide in the care, maintenance, and harvesting. It will also be easier for you to choose a tree that is natural to your local environment. Apples and pears can adapt to dry soil. Peaches need to have access to rain. Plums grow better in damp soil. If you choose exotic trees, you have to be extra cautious so that it will survive in your orchard.
PLANTING YOUR TREES
If your soil is already ideal to start creating an orchard, then you can start planting the trees. To start, get your shovel and dig a hole that is about 18 to 20 inches deep or depending on the size of the tree. Ideally, the minimum size of the tree hole should be three times the size of the root ball. However, the bigger, the better so that water can naturally flow to the roots and for the tree to have ample space to grow.
In digging, you have to separate the topsoil as it should be backfilled to the bottom part of the hole. When you are done creating a hole, slowly plant the tree vertically. Make sure that the graft line on the tree is one to two inches exposed above the ground level. Now, slowly backfill the hole, ensuring that the tree still stands upright. Also, avoid air pockets in the surroundings of the trunk. After backfilling, add mulch around the trunk and make sure that the foundation of the soil is compacted. To assist the position of the tree, you can use a stake to keep it in a vertical position, especially in slope locations.
If you plant two or more trees, it is ideal to plant regular fruit trees 20 feet apart. For dwarf fruit trees, make sure they are 10 feet apart from each other.
Now, you have successfully started your own orchard. The real work begins with the care and maintenance where you should dedicate more time, money and energy to provide the needs of your own home orchard.