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Method For Planting Orchard

 
Clay Rogers
Posts: 33
Location: WI Zone 5a
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I am going to be planting the start of our orchard this year. So far I have apples, pears, cherries, and nectarines on order. I was originally planning on doing this more of the "backyard orchard" method where the trees are kept very small and easily manageable. I had watched an interesting video from a guy in england who has tons of apple trees and they are all spaced close together (6ft or so) as he keeps them pruned small. This is the method I had in mind.

After doing more reading, the permaculture way really interests me as I want to use no sprays or chemicals if possible. I know that having other species of plants in place to work together is a big part of that. One of my questions then is if I get some black locust trees for N fixers, won't they grow to the point where they block the sun from my fruit trees? Or, do I need to allow the fruit trees to continue to grow so the sun can reach them also?

I'm trying to figure out my spacing and layout now so I'm ready in advance of when the trees arrive.

Thanks as always for the help!
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You have to prune back the locust when they get too big (firewood and mulch). Your spacing can be anything, it really depends on the space you have to work with, how you want to manage it, and what size trees you ordered.
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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My questions would be A) how much space do you have to use for your orchard, and B) how much time are you willing to devote to this project?

As a reference, I've got lots of space and not so much time so 20 foot spacings with trees pruned once a year is my go to procedure.
 
Becky Proske
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Location: Wisconsin, USA (zone 4b)
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Hello Clay,

I plan to try the branch training suggestions i discovered in the Permaculture Orchard documentary. Branches are bent downward to stimulate fruit production on fruit trees. It might also save space on nitrogen fixers. The film is very insightful. Worth a look if you are not already familiar with Stefan Sobkowiak and Miracle Farm.

http://www.permacultureorchard.com/product/the-permaculture-orchard-beyond-organic-digital-download-english/

 
Tyler Ludens
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You might also consider using more herbaceous and shrub nitrogen fixers instead of trees, or if you do have some support trees, you can coppice them low so they don't shade much.

 
Clay Rogers
Posts: 33
Location: WI Zone 5a
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The miracle farms video was what got me thinking a "permaculture orchard" was an interesting concept and worth pursuing. Prior to that, I was thinking more like a backyard orchard where trees would be kept small.

I have an acre plus more I am willing to dedicate to an orchard. I would like to grow nuts also but am still investigating varieties that are cold hardy enough for my zone. I'm not sure if the nut trees would be in my orchard area or not as they would most likely get pretty big and I wouldn't want them to shade out and crowd the fruit trees.

I like the back to eden approach of providing cover with wood chips and I think planting a cover crop in the alleys makes a lot of sense. So, those all seem like general ideas. Now, I need to move past general and get specific on layout and what to plan in addition to the apple, pear, cherry, and nectarine trees I have on order.
 
Clay Rogers
Posts: 33
Location: WI Zone 5a
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If I plan on keep my apple trees to about 6 feet high, how far apart would I need to put them? How far between rows?

If I mix in other fruits the way a permaculture orchard would be, how much space do I allow for those? So far I have cherry, nectarine, and pear trees.
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Clay Rogers wrote:If I plan on keep my apple trees to about 6 feet high, how far apart would I need to put them? How far between rows?

If you are planning on keeping your trees that small, you can put them fairly close together. Exactly how close together will depend on how wide you are planning on letting the trees get. For example, in tall spindle configurations, trees are often planted between 2 and 4 feet from each other.
http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/tree_fruit/resources/The%20Tall%20Spindle%20Planting%20System.pdf
 
Clay Rogers
Posts: 33
Location: WI Zone 5a
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I was hoping I had some time to figure out pruning methods. Rookie mistake there.

So, I guess I would need recommendations on pruning method then. I have an acre of space I can dedicate to the orchard and my 20 (so far) trees. Is there a pruning method that would make the most sense for me? I am not space constrained, I am not looking for high output per acre (mainly wanting to feed my family and share with extended family), and don't want to use chemicals or spray. Each of harvesting and care would be a much higher priority than high production in a small space.

Thanks again for all the help so far!
 
Mick Fisch
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black locust coppice well, so you can keep them small and fairly low. They do have thorns. I'm experimenting with autumnberry, which is also nitrogen fixing and is supposed to produce a pretty good berry.
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Clay Rogers wrote:I was hoping I had some time to figure out pruning methods. Rookie mistake there. So, I guess I would need recommendations on pruning method then. I have an acre of space I can dedicate to the orchard and my 20 (so far) trees. Is there a pruning method that would make the most sense for me? I am not space constrained, I am not looking for high output per acre (mainly wanting to feed my family and share with extended family), and don't want to use chemicals or spray. Each of harvesting and care would be a much higher priority than high production in a small space. Thanks again for all the help so far!


An acre of land is a huge amount of space to work with if you're goals are just to feed your family and friends. At 20 foot by 20 foot spacings you could put 100 trees into that area. If you do put in 100 trees, a big challenge in planning is leveling out the production so that you have that same amount of fresh fruit in mid-June as you do mid-August.
 
Clay Rogers
Posts: 33
Location: WI Zone 5a
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John Wolfram wrote:
Clay Rogers wrote:I was hoping I had some time to figure out pruning methods. Rookie mistake there. So, I guess I would need recommendations on pruning method then. I have an acre of space I can dedicate to the orchard and my 20 (so far) trees. Is there a pruning method that would make the most sense for me? I am not space constrained, I am not looking for high output per acre (mainly wanting to feed my family and share with extended family), and don't want to use chemicals or spray. Each of harvesting and care would be a much higher priority than high production in a small space. Thanks again for all the help so far!


An acre of land is a huge amount of space to work with if you're goals are just to feed your family and friends. At 20 foot by 20 foot spacings you could put 100 trees into that area. If you do put in 100 trees, a big challenge in planning is leveling out the production so that you have that same amount of fresh fruit in mid-June as you do mid-August.


I agree. I know I'm not constrained for space. I'm trying to figure out what makes sense for me given that I do have room but yet don't want to space them so far apart that all I end up with is more isle space to manage etc. I don't want to waste the space either.

If I keep my apple trees to 6 feet tall, what is a reasonable diameter? Then, does that same diameter also apply to cherry, pear, and nectarine trees?
 
Abbey Battle
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Late to the party as usual.

The eventual size of the trees will depend on what rootstock they have been grafted on to. You can prune the trees to be bush or tree shaped. The spread will, again, depend on the rootstock.
You will want to do your first pruning soon. The heavier pruning will be done in the winter. That's when you'll regulate the shape and height of your trees.
You don't want them fruiting this year.

I've just planted my orchard. I'm a little concerned about the placing of your orchard, too late now but may be take this into consideration. An East facing slope gets the early morning sun. If you have any late frosts that are followed by bright sun you may loose you blossom to the frosts. Also, what direction do you get you dominant winds from? For me, that's an easterly. They come straight from Siberia and are cold winds.
My orchard has been planted on a SW facing slope in a small tree hedged field, tight against the NE hedge to protect from the worst winds.

I've sown some legumes in with my trees to help fix nitrogen to the soil. I've also planted some nitrogen fixing trees in the hedge. These can be coppiced and used as firewood.

Nut trees. Most nut trees should be frost hardy. I don't know how cold your climate gets but they all grow well in England. Walnuts Should not be planted near apples.
Cob / hazelnuts are a great choice as you can coppice these trees, also Sweet Chestnut. Again, they can be coppiced and the wood makes excellent stakes.

I've gone for local varieties and 'own rootstock'. These trees will take longer to mature than smaller rootstock varieties but will live longer. 25 years to full production with 100+ years of life as oppose to 3 yrs to full production and 25 yrs life. I want to leave something behind when I die. I've space my trees at 10m which is what, 30'? The reason is that I've planted on 'unimproved grassland' Here in England that means grazing land that has not been sprayed with chemicals. It is rich in flora and fauna. I want to maintain this diversity.

Have you planted any (wild) crab apples? These help with pollination, having a much longer blossom time and being more resistant to frost / wind. Mind, I have 5 trees in my garden and they are all in full blossom now. The same varieties in my orchard are not. I think my trees talk to each other and have agreed when to blossom. I'll see what happens in the orchard. I planted them in blossom order yet they have totally ignored this so far.
 
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