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fruit trees - how close together?

 
Michael Kalbow
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Hey guys, I have a question about planting density for fruit trees. I know that the professional tree growers say that most need 20 feet between them, or more, depending on variety. However, I've seen many people talking about planting dozens of trees in a small acreage situation. So, is there a source of information about how close together I can REALLY plant fruit trees?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Apparently most fruit trees can be kept small by pruning. So I'm planning to plant them about 10 feet apart in my food forest, though some sources say not to plant them too close together because it will make too much shade. I think this might be an issue in northern climates, but here in Texas, its is almost impossible to have too much shade. Trees on our land seem to grow really close together in most places, even only a foot or two away from each other.
 
Michael Kalbow
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Thanks Tyler, I'm in northeast Texas and the oaks and especially the pines grow very close together, however I have noticed that most of the very mature trees are much farther away from one another...
 
wayne fajkus
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There's different strategies. One is to plant them very far apart and don't put same type near each other.

This is to prevent a bug from going tree to tree. Make them work for it.

My plan is to grow them where they already exist, cause that's where they wanna be. They form a line in a dry creekbed. As pecans, peaches, pears become stable, the cedars and scrubs are coming down.

I'm texas also.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Diseases like fire blight are supposed to be worse if there isn't room for air to circulate around the trees. It makes sense to me. If you keep them pruned enough it might work.

I wanted as much variety as possible in my backyard and wanted to plant them close together, so I went with dwarfs. I'll never try that again. About the time they matured, they started dying. Over about four years, they all died. Fireblight, root rot, drought. 4 pears. 4 apples. 1 plum. 1 apricot. They are not hardy enough for our wet springs,hot dry summers, and strong winds. I've replanted with standard and semi standard. I didn't plants as many and I'm trying some severe pruning on a couple of them. Also I'm more willing to use chemicals now, fungicides anyway.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Michael Kalbow wrote: I have noticed that most of the very mature trees are much farther away from one another...


Yes, the large trees outcompete most of the other, smaller trees. But this wouldn't be an issue in a managed food forest where trees are kept small by pruning. A very large growing tree like a pecan wouldn't work in the kind of food forest I envision, because there could only be one or two trees, ultimately. You'd want to have acres of forest for those sorts of trees.



 
Jason Silberschneider
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I remember geoff lawton telling a story about how he'd planted an orchard full of trees really really close together, impossibly close together. Bill Mollison had come to have a look, and commented, "The trees are a bit far apart, aren't they?". I forget almost all the context in which this story had been told, or from which video.

If you plant the trees too far apart, you can always plant more in between. If you plant them too close together, you can always remove the weaker, underperforming ones. And the optimum time to plant them is ten years ago.

The important thing to avoid is what Geoff calls "Paralysis by analysis". Get those trees in the ground!

I'm currently setting up a 500m2 orchard as part of a larger 2500m2 food forest. I would easily have several hundred trees in that 500m2, about a metre apart, with paths between them wide enough to fit a wheelbarrow between them.
 
John Polk
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I know that the professional tree growers say that most need 20 feet between them, or more,

Don't forget that most commercial orchards are utilizing full sized trees, while most 'home growers' tend to use dwarf, or semi-dwarf trees. These trees are not only shorter, but also tend to have smaller drip lines. A tighter spacing should suffice with smaller trees. And, some judicious pruning should be able to keep everything under control.

Dwarf/semi-dwarf trees are not suitable for certain locations: extreme cold locations, nor areas with high winds. They are grown on root stock that is less vigorous (ergo "dwarf"), and generally do poorly in harsh conditions. St. Lawerence Nursery (in USDA zone 3) refuses to use dwarf stock for that reason. All of their apple trees are grown on Antonovka root stock because of those weather related problems. As an added bonus, Antonovka root stock has a deep tap root, which makes their trees more drought tolerant, once well established.

I believe that you still need to space them out a bit, particularly if you want some understory plantings.
 
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