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Tree Spacing

Andrew Winsor
Posts: 58
Location: Aberdeen, WA
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Is there some general rules on tree spacing, (such as ones connected to height)?
Do these rules only apply to fruit trees?

The Catelogy I am thinking of buying tree's from has the Attached/below..

It says "Height and Spacing" Chart.
Am I to understand, That Tree are to be planted as far apart as they grow high?
For example if the Tree grows 8 feet, I put 8 feet between the Trees?
I also understand that I can also try to stick trees that are 4 feet part (4 feet high) inbetween the 8 feet trees.

So the question is, as a General Rule, If my Tree Grows X feet Tall, I put X Feet between that Tree and the Next Tree that same Size?

Also, If anyone has an awesome link about Tree spacing please share it. Almost every tree I look at, says how tall it gets, but Im not seeing much on how far apart to put them.
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Eric Thompson
Posts: 367
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
duck food preservation solar trees
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I would say canopy size is a better guide than height, but for the apple trees you show, they are pretty close to equal.
Some trees will have a much wider canopy, but in reality the trees will go a long way in adapting to the conditions they have. Just look at the differences between a fir tree in dense canopy and one growing along with limbs to the ground: they look much different but are both examples of healthy trees growing to best fill their space.
The reference pages of Edible Forest Gardens v2 give some canopy size estimates - just average the diameters for approximate spacing between trunks (50 ft next to a 20ft gives approx. 35 ft spacing)
William James
Posts: 1009
Location: Northern Italy
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Hi Andrew,
I recently went through the exact reasoning, also using Edible Forest Gardens as a guide and I got really hung up about making sure the tree spacings were correct.

I made a Exel file with all the heights and canopy widths of my target trees. If you want that I can post it here I suppose.

Then I had a revelation this fall, while my neighbor was giving me all his pollarding material to chip into mulch.

Instead of mulch, why don't I take a huge amount of cuttings from these? It's kind of what Mark Shepard/Restoration Agriculture is suggesting to do with seed propagation. You play a game with nature that is a percentages game and you (and nature) always win.

So, I stuck some of the cuttings into the ground, some of them I put into pots, and some I chopped up and put into little pots. I imagine I put away about 500 plants in total, and in my opinion that is far too little. Every year I could/should be putting about 1,000 or more into the ground. That is how nature works.

Next year something will grow leaves. At that point (in the fall) I have a choice. I can either leave it where it is, I can dig it up (not so difficult or traumatic for the plant) and replant it where I want it, or I could just chop and drop it - which is what I will be doing with the winter cuttings that don't make it. In any case I win. Sticking a cutting into the ground or putting it in a pot isn't that hard. You can find cuttings or seeds almost anywhere. If things go wrong you can always cut early without much hassle. The food forest takes shape as you harvest the cuttings you put in the ground and thin things out. You can sell the cuttings-now-small-trees, by the way.

I'm much less troubled by tree spacing at this point. I'm thinking a cutting can be about 15-20 cm from one another - that just made growing lots of trees in small spaces possible. When I plant it out I'll be a little more selective, but even then I'll tend to crowd them in, you can always cut something out later and potentially get a benefit from that action. It's much harder to fill open spaces.

Monitoring tree spacing attentively would make sense in a few cases:
-you're doing it for a client that wants only 2 year old trees planted.
-you are unable to care for the land after the planting, or the person who does care for the land can't make the decisions for some reason.
-you have access to high-quality trees that you are very sure will do well where they're planted.
-you have endless amounts of time to study tree spacing.
-you have endless amounts of time to care for trees after they are planted.
-you don't have access to seed or cuttings.

I could probably come up with a few more, but I fall into none of those categories, so mass-cropping then thinning makes much more sense to me. Being meagre with your plants/planting at the beginning, in my opinion, won't lead very quickly to abundance.

Sorry if this doesn't exactly answer your question.
Patrick Freeburger
Posts: 73
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Andrew, I have the same question. geoff lawton has some good schematics in his videos. I found the following images atPermaculture News and they show a 3 meter (10') spacing between trees with a coppiced legume tree between them. He does not mention dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties, but based on the fruit tree heights shown in the drawings of 3, 4, and 5 meters, it implies at least a semi-dwarf variety.

If anyone else has any spacing info for planting standard trees on contour (especially in a Mediterranean climate). Please post it here.

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Geoff Lawton's tree spacing - Aerial View
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Geoff Lawton's tree spacing - Side View
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Geoff Lawton's tree spacing - Inline View
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Darren Doherty talks about it in one of the videos on Youtube. He talks about modifying spacing for goals--for example, you keep walnut trees further apart if you want walnuts and put them closer together if you want lumber.
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