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Anyone have a Fruit Tree Circle?

 
Justin Hitt
Posts: 32
Location: Martinsville, VA (Zone 7)
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I'm trying to help my wife understand the new Fruit Tree Circle I've installed over the last week or so. She's seeing it in the ugly "why are you digging up the landscaping" view. Would be great to see pictures of your fruit tree circles in full glory.

Here's what I finished with five apple trees south of our house. Notice all the evergreens on the south side here, I'm slowly replacing them with trees that lose leaves in winter so we can harvest some of that sun.



When putting this together I couldn't find many pictures of finished fruit circles, so I modeled "magic circles" or banana circles adding a keyhole for maintenance. We have deer here, so this one is designed so I can put up a parameter net with a door at the keyhole.

Will add peaches, pears, and later citrus circles in grid moving south along contour. Just would like to show my wife some pictures of what this might look like in a few years so she isn't so confused about mounds.

I'm excited to share your very best fruit tree or intensive orchard pictures with my wife.

Sincerely,

Justin
 
Patrick Mann
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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What is the advantage of this circle planting? Seems like at least one of the trees would be shaded out.
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Patrick Mann wrote:What is the advantage of this circle planting? Seems like at least one of the trees would be shaded out.


If you put some myco on them all then it won't matter. Though I'm not sure of the advantage other than space. Still I'm betting it will look sweet when it grows up.
 
Justin Hitt
Posts: 32
Location: Martinsville, VA (Zone 7)
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Patrick Mann wrote:What is the advantage of this circle planting? Seems like at least one of the trees would be shaded out.

BENEFITS: They take up less space, have utility value with beds between trees, draws water away from tree in my clay soil, once covered will have higher humidity low in circle during hot summer, provides a place for compost, offers easy to reach bedding, and is easy to protect from deer while still access.

Location on hill gives all trees tops morning sun into mid-afternoon in all seasons. Even when taller the tops will still get full sun while trunks will be shaded.

It's not a perfect solution, but with five trees little outside 4' on center I get less shade from other trees according to the angles. When the sun is higher in the summer it will come deep into the top of the circle, when lower in late fall all the tops will have full sun. I'm going to keep them short per intensive backyard orchards culture per Dave Wilson Nursery.

It took a few weeks of observation and some sun position calculations over several seasons to select this particular spot. Fortunately I'm a math nerd. Ten feet higher on the hill in this position they will be shaded by an oak tree, twelve feet lower by the edge of the woods. Sun is better as I move towards the neighbors house so I can expand starting here.

If I had more space to work with I might go with what VA Cooperative Extension is recommending for intensive orchards which is 6' on center. But I've read recommendations dwarf fruit trees as close as 18" in clusters, or 24" inches in rows, or 4' in hexagonal grids like biointensive plants.

Literature also notes fruit tree guilds with tall undergrowth, even sweet potato vines up trees. While I couldn't find pictures, I imagined it would work like this which is basically (if I dare) a cross between sepp holzer's fruit tree guilds and Geoff Lawton's banana circles with a splash of keyhole.

Best,

Justin

P. s. I'm using pentagonal verse hexagonal (5 vs 6) because the shorter duration of shadow overlapping another tree but hexagonal is more space effective. Apple trees selected ripen in different parts of season, I could have aligned them according to ripening schedule to maximize sun but thought about that after they were in the ground.

P. p. s. Don't give me those looks, as much as I've read about fruit tree guilds and banana circles; someone is bound to be doing this too. Please pictures so my wife doesn't think I'm crazy for all the measurements, stakes, and measuring shadows.
 
James Flour
Posts: 14
Location: PNW
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there was an experimental plot with one of the universities where they planted 5 fir trees in a rosette around a single alder to see if the extra nitrogen fixing from the alder would increase the growth. The firs wowed out from the base, but that isn't a concern of yours, you aren't growing lumber.

Sounds like an interesting thing to do, though. You would have to match your trees in size so they don't get shaded out. Thank you for the idea.
 
Saybian Morgan
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Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Am I correct in considering the fruit tree circle to be an adaptation of the banana circle system. If so it's only appropriate to certain tree growth pattern types, it's not the shading out that's the issue but the tangling and stunting of one another via shading. In the case of a palm let's say the tree's race each other upwards and resolve the spacing with each other via their mono stemlike nature. It doesn't work with tree's that unpruned would naturally form a cone, but I can tell you a willow coppice circle hasg some serious advantages.

Aside from the risk of pioneering I say go for it for better or worse as someone defied conventional thinking when the banana circle was invented. You may not hit it with one type of fruit tree, then score a big one for all of us with another.
 
Justin Hitt
Posts: 32
Location: Martinsville, VA (Zone 7)
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Saybian,

It's my belief that pioneers come home full of arrows. No inventing or pioneering here, just don't have time for that.

While I'm describing the banana circle system as part of the design (more a point of reference) I'm real sure this isn't anything unique. I referenced a few of supporting sources, others are growing intense fruit orchards as close as 18" in apart in four tree clusters, and two-foot on center in commercial orchards.

You are right, I will need to manage growth patterns. Apple trees will likely never get taller than 8' with a maximum width of 8' when mature. James' point about making sure trees are matched in size is also important.

Also sure I'll need to build out the berms as the trees get larger, so I'm planning for wider beds as I stake out area for next set. For as much literature as I found about intensive orchards, I thought someone else would have had one of these already.

Best,

Justin
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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I'm not familiar with fruit tree circles done the way you are doing them..but it would be interesting to see how it works. May I ask where you got your original information on doing things this way? I'm a bit curious about new things.

I do fruit tree circles but mine are different..with ONE tree in the center of the circle with perennial crops under the tree and annual crops here and there in the open areas..in the forest garden way.

keep us posted as to how this works for you and please link us to any online info or let us know of books that teach this method..thanks
 
Jae eaj
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I have a circle of fruit trees with a little pond in the center. Mine is a little wider than yours. I live in NM were water, and not sun, is the issue (unless it's too much sun). I also have in the front yard a little tiny ultra super dwarf fruit tree circle (3 trees - cherry, oriental pear, white peach(babock?))

NM is a little getting a little bipolar on the weather extremes. A little pond in the center helps balance the temperature. Otherwise the blossoms bloom early and then freezes and unless you can get your tree to bloom again, then you lost any chance of fruit production. So circle is ideal. More ideal might be creating a surrounding moat but that gets a little excessive. : )

ps. The other value of a pond in the middle of a circle of fruit trees is free fertilizer via goldfish.
 
Justin Hitt
Posts: 32
Location: Martinsville, VA (Zone 7)
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Jae eaj wrote:I have a circle of fruit trees with a little pond in the center. Mine is a little wider than yours.

That's an awesome idea. The pond will also help create humidity to support trees in high heat. Post some pictures if you have them, this sounds really awesome.

It would be interesting to bury a wide mouth 55 gallon drum about half way up in a tree circle for raising tilapia. The hole in the center of mind if 4' deep, so I'm sure I could bury a drum. A large circle (i.e. 12' across) with a fountain in the middle surrounded by a bench would provide a shady place to sit.

I would need to research what this would do in my climate, but for NM type (hot and dry) weather it is a very practical solution. Well done.

Sincerely,

Justin
 
Saybian Morgan
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Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Wait a minute one of the apple tree's I have is called a something " my wife told me and I didn't listen" It's a pollard apple maybe, basically the apple tree has no branches and just goes straight up and bear's apples on the trunk/stem Im not sure what I consider it.
Those apples would take off in a circle scenario because there's little lateral competition and there's no pruning. I always thought it was a broke branch of one of the bigger tree's that got planted but it's a totally different type of apple tree she says. Im itching to do a jerusalem artichoke circle for rabbit forage, but now im going to harrass my wife for a list because if other fruit tree's of this perticular growth habit are available that might just be the tipping point to tempurate banana circles of explosive yields. Now I can't say it would out produce one mature apple but one mature apple tree can also bite the dust in 1 season, where my stick apple tree's have survived everything.
 
Jae eaj
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This pic is from maybe 2 years ago. The pond is now twice as big as the little swimming pool in the center. The trees are also much larger.
 
Saybian Morgan
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Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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I found it well better said I got home from work for once while my wife was awake. Im way off on the word pollard I should have known better at that guess.
It's called a columnar apple This could very well be the species of apple for the temperate fruit bearing tree circles.
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James Slaughter
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An idea on how to manage them, especially if you plant them a bit on the close side, is to use ties and rope to help shape them away from the center to begin with. Horizontal growth bears more fruit, and open center helps with air flow which helps with disease and potential for overshading of the less vigorous varieties. This is especially important if you are growing different varieties as in my own experience with blood plums, you will often get a dominant one that will try to out pressure the others in the circle. I would also set up a worm farm in the middle of the circle and simply water through this on a regular basis (every second week or so) as a means of providing fertilizer. Another thing I would recommend though is the use of a foliar feed with a seaweed solution and perhaps a liquid fish based fertilizer, just to make certain that each plant is getting the nutrition it needs. Once it is up and going, maintenance and harvesting is a breeze, and you can remove the ties with the main branches of the tree growing in the way you have directed them. Cheers.
 
Guillermo Ri
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Jennifer Wadsworth
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Saybian Morgan wrote:Am I correct in considering the fruit tree circle to be an adaptation of the banana circle system. If so it's only appropriate to certain tree growth pattern types, it's not the shading out that's the issue but the tangling and stunting of one another via shading. In the case of a palm let's say the tree's race each other upwards and resolve the spacing with each other via their mono stemlike nature. It doesn't work with tree's that unpruned would naturally form a cone, but I can tell you a willow coppice circle hasg some serious advantages.

Aside from the risk of pioneering I say go for it for better or worse as someone defied conventional thinking when the banana circle was invented. You may not hit it with one type of fruit tree, then score a big one for all of us with another.


Saybian - that was my understanding too. The type of tree used should have no lower branches. This is what makes palms, bananas, pawpaws such a good fit for these circles. I was recently in geoff lawton's inaugural online PDC - when he described banana circles he got SLAMMED with questions from people in temperate climates wanting to do similar things with temperate climate fruit trees. He essentially said that traditional branching fruit trees were ill-suited to "banana circle" style planting. However, bamboo would work. Those columnar apple trees may do the trick as well.

I think it's worth noting that not all permaculture methods work across all climates. For instance, where I live in the low desert (Phoenix) - herb spirals, raised hugelkultur beds and large open bodies of water (ponds) are counter productive thanks to our high heat and extremely low humidity. Anything raised dries out and super heats. Exposed water evaporates leaving behind salts and adding to our soil's problems. Appropriate design for climate is HUGE. I learned so much from that class.
 
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