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Help Planting Fruit Trees

 
Liz Proko
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Hi awesome people!

I'm new here, so please bear with me. We are moving in a couple of weeks to a beautiful farm of 30 acres in Missouri (so very excited!) I want to plant a variety of fruit trees (apples, pears, plum, apricots, you name it) and am having trouble finding information about how to start an orchard with multiple varieties of fruit trees. We plan to have pastured pigs and chickens and I'm not sure where to plant the trees. Do I put them on the hill by the house, or spread them around the pastures so that the animals can get the windfall? Also, how do I work nut trees into the mix? Can anyone recommend books or articles that I could read? Of course, any advice is much appreciated!
 
John Elliott
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Welcome to Permies, Liz!

Try putting your fruit trees everywhere, and the ones that do well, keep, and the ones that don't, you won't have to worry about. Sometimes we have ideas about where to put a fruit tree, and Nature has a different idea. Rather than trying to fight nature, put more out than you want, and then you can keep just the ones that are doing well.

With fall coming on, this is the perfect time to be taking hardwood cuttings and sticking them in the ground. Then next spring, when they leaf out, you will see which ones are happy and which ones aren't going to make it. Here is a link I have been giving people who want to get started with an orchard. If you see some particularly nice trees in your area, ask the owner if you can take some cuttings.

As far as nut trees, black walnuts are pretty common in MO. The best way to start these is with 1 or 2 year old bare root seedlings, and the best time to plant them is in March. The only thing about black walnuts is that they exude a hormone, juglone, that kills off a lot of their competitors. If you plant a black walnut, figure on not having anything else within 20' of it.
 
Liz Proko
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Thanks, John! That was a very helpful link! I can tell I'm going to be spending a lot of time at that site
 
John Merrifield
Posts: 92
Location: West Virginia 6a Avgerage Rainfall 54" est. Average snowfall 36"
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John, I would also like to thank you for the very informative link.
 
Patrick Mann
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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Check out the permaculture orchard thread on this site for ideas:
http://www.permies.com/t/29713/videos/Permaculture-Orchard-Organic-DVD-pre

For an orchard, rows and alleys are a more effective layout than just random distribution.
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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Nursery-grown, grafted trees are a pretty expensive investment to risk on profligate planting. For these it seems wiser to carefully pick a few sites that will give them the best chance, and then propagate the successful ones into other more risky sites later. Planting on a slope is often helpful for early bloomers since cold air can drain off and reduce the risk of late frost. This might be less likely if the slope faces south, though.
If you can obtain cheap propagules.....seed, seedlings, cuttings, etc. you can use these for more here and there, take-your-chances plantings. You can plant nuts directly from seed and the taprooted seedlings will thrive better that way.
If you are really serious about useful trees on any scale, set aside an area for a nursery where you can plant seeds, cuttings, new grafts, etc. in containers and baby them for a year or two. I've discovered the hard way that plants in gallon containers survive better than smaller ones.

Another hint, which might not be easy to implement on a slope, is to tuck your new fruit trees into plots devoted for the first few years to annuals, whether vegetables, corn, etc. Prepare the area as you would for a garden, by mulching, making beds, whatever, and then plant the trees right in there. Grow your annuals for the next few years around them till the trees begin to cast significant shade and take up space. The young trees will benefit hugely from the additional water and attention primarily directed at the annuals. Later, fill in the space with perennials, improved pasture, whatever. meanwhile move your gardens to the next spot. The permaculture word for this is managed succession. Trying to tuck isolated new trees into existing meadow, pasture, woodland, etc. starts them out at an extreme disadvantage from the surrounding established plants, the roots of which will be attracted to the water, amendments, etc. given to the new plants. So try to work with patches of disturbance and replacement, rather than isolated plants.
Last hint....if your soil is a heavy clay, do NOT put manure, compost, or anything else mixed into the soil in the planting holes. Fill them back in with unamended clay, and apply the amendments on top as a mulch. The reason for this is the improved pore space in the organic matter will fill up with water after a rain and this will only very slowly seep into the surrounding tight clay.....if this happens when the trees are in leaf they will quickly drown. If you want to use humanure or something else nasty that just has to be buried, dig a separate hole off to the side....the roots will find their way over to it at leisure.....
 
Ann Torrence
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Michael Phillips book the Holistic Orchard is a good book for beginning orchardists.

You might end up doing both, some fruits for table near the house and some larger trees for shade and fodder in the pasture.

Consider how to water anything in the early years. Lugging hoses is not fun.
 
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