Step 1: Planning the Orchard (Part II)

Hi again. I’m ready to finish Step 1: Planning the Orchard.  Let’s see, where did I leave off…

  • Educated myself (continued)

Having located local trustworthy sources of fruit tree information, I was able to answer a few more key questions necessary to move onto Step 2: Designing the Orchard Layout. I specifically needed to know 1) what type of fruit trees do well in my area and climate 2) their height and width at maturity, and 3) spacing between trees.  To answer this, I also needed to have a better understanding of rootstocks.

I was very fortunate to have stumbled onto the resources I did at the time I did, because these resources had already done the legwork for me.  The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) Orchard was a wealth of information and had been performing field tests on a large variety of fruit trees and rootstocks for a number of years.  Be sure to check out their Fruit Tree Evaluation and Recommendations List.

In addition to the UNCE Orchard’s fruit tree/rootstock recommendations, they passed on planting and tree spacing information as well.  We knew we wanted to grow a large variety of fruit trees in a limited area within our property, and we were interested in semi-dwarf varieties, so it made sense for us to go with the recommendation of the UNCE Orchard regarding spacing and pruning.

Their recommendation: grow bare root fruit trees on recommended rootstock in orchard rows with 10 x 10 spacing.  We also decided to follow their advice of maintaining our fruit trees at a height we could easily harvest without the use of a ladder (this is called ‘ladderless’).   The Orchard’s recommended tree height is 6 ½ feet to 7 feet, but both my husband and I are tall, so we felt we could go a little higher (7 feet to 8 feet).

Rootstocks… Why are they so important?

Rootstocks will determine things like, fruit production qualities, soil requirements (such as dry or wet preferences), tolerance or resistance to specific diseases, and ultimate size of the tree at maturity, just to name a few.  There are also trees that are commonly grown on their own roots like figs, olives and pomegranates and have their own set of growing, climate and soil condition requirements.

Rootstocks are extremely important when you are looking for a specific tree for your climate and soil conditions.  If you live in an area that receives a good amount of rain throughout the year, you certainly want to avoid a rootstock that prefers to have “dry feet” (roots) and is susceptible to diseases that are aggravated by wet conditions.  Play it safe and be sure to check with your local Cooperative Extension office for their recommendations.  Most local nurseries do a good job at selling what works well in an area, but some have a tendency to stock what sells (right or wrong).  So, please check with multiple sources of information before buying!

For more information on rootstocks vs. own-root fruit trees, check with your Local Cooperative Extension office.

  • Assessed my outdoor space

With the necessary information in hand (fruit trees/rootstocks, maturity size, spacing) I was ready to assess my space.

Walking around my property, I looked for “gotcha” kind of things.  Things that I needed to clear away or remove (i.e., weeds, old structures, ROCKS, etc.).  I also took detailed measurements of both my front and back yards (measuring twice, of course) noting property lines, City/County easements, etc.  This information can typically be found on your City/County Assessor’s website.

To facilitate the measuring process, I grabbed a few blank pieces of paper and proceeded to roughly sketch out the space and surrounding structures (i.e., patios, walls, house, etc.) noting measurements in the appropriate places.  I also went onto the County’s Assessors site to determine the outside measurements of my house and the position of our home within the property.

As part of my house measurements, I included…

  • Front and back door placement
  • Key windows I wanted to see the trees from and windows I wanted to keep my line of sight clear (like my kitchen window so I could keep a watchful eye on Pinny, my Border Collie, as she plays within her space and down the road, my chickens
  • Other areas I needed to be mindful of (i.e., gates, existing patios, etc.)

I then organized and placed all of my collected data and information on my computer to avoid misplacing my it and having to do re-work and re-measure everything.  Trust me… it happens.

I was now ready to move onto designing my orchard space.  Step 2: Designing the Orchard (Part I)

Well, I have a big DIY weekend ahead of me, so need to tuck in early.  Pleasant dreams!

Hope your weekend is full of joy and laughter.

God Bless

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