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Spacing of trees in forest garden

 
John Point
Posts: 9
Location: Ontario
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I am planning a small orchard based on ideas from the YouTube videos by Stefan Sobkowiak at Miracle Farms. What I am confused about is the spacing. Most of the trees I am interested in recommend different spacing between trees and rows. ie Apples and plums. Do you default to the larger distance of the 2 species? Do you keep a consistent distance between rows? If you are using guilds with lupine, yarrow, daffodils, etc do you increase the space between trees? I am pretty new at this and want to get it right. I plan on eventually having an orchard of approx 60 trees but likely won't plant them all this year. And advice is greatly appreciated. I am located in SE Ontario in zone 5b.
 
Michelle Bisson
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Hi John,

First of all, I highly suggest that you buy Stephan Sobkowiak's video. The Permaculture Orchard : Beyond Organic http://www.permacultureorchard.com, plus listen to the free followup video.  This will give you a strong foundation about planting an orchard.  Also do a search on this forum about Stephan Sobkowiak.  His method allows you to plant your trees closer since you then train your branches to maximize a smaller space.

I purchased the video when it first came out and throughly enjoyed it and definitely learnt a lot.  Plus he understands your climate & growing conditions in Ontario since he is not far in southern Québec.  He gives tours of his orchard so you might like to make a visit to him.  Since you will be planting 60 trees, it might be worth to hire him for some consulting, if he offers this service.  An hour of his time could be money well spent since you are planting to grow lots of fruit trees.

 
John Point
Posts: 9
Location: Ontario
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Hi Michelle,

I didn't realize that Stephan had a video. That sounds like a great investment. I may also contact him about a tour or consulting. Thanks for great advice!

 
Michelle Bisson
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Hi John,

What I am confused about is the spacing. Most of the trees I am interested in recommend different spacing between trees and rows. ie Apples and plums. Do you default to the larger distance of the 2 species?


"Recommended" spacing will differ if you plan to let your trees grow full size or prune them to 8' for example. 


Do you keep a consistent distance between rows?


Often spacing between rows dépends on what size of equipment you use. You need more space if you use a farm tractor compared to a wheel barrel.  Are you wanting your rows on contour or parallel to the fence line for example? Is your land flat or has a slop?  How will you harvest the water to benefit the trees? These are some factors which determine layout and spacing .


How much space overall you have for will have an impact on spacing. Ex. if you have a one acre field to plant your 60 trees, your spacing will likely be different than if you have 1/4 acre.


If you are using guilds with lupine, yarrow, daffodils, etc do you increase the space between trees?

I think that the trees are foundational, so choose your spacing and then you plant your other plants around them as space allows.


One does not have to have classic rows.  You could do plan a curvy pathway system or follow that natural layout of the land.  I have one area on our GoPermaculture Food Forest which we cleared some trees in the back forest.  The land is naturally very lumpy, so we planted our fruit trees on these lumps.  These lumps were were where the cut down or fallen trees used to grow.  The low ground between the lumps were too saturated in the the spring time. Fruit trees usually do not like wet feet for long periods.  We really followed the pattern the forest was growing before.  We have no rows.  Just some pathways between the trees.  So far they look happy....


I am pretty new at this and want to get it right.
  I am not sure that there is the perfect "Right way"

So many décisions will be made because of your goals & desires.  Two people can have the same piece of land, same plants & trees but both orchards can look total different and in both cases the trees & plants are happy as well as the orchard growers.  And often even if things are not "perfect" plants can thrive just fine.



 
Marco Banks
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When in doubt, opt for the wider spacing.  It's frustrating to nurture a tree for 5 years, only to then realize that you've planted it too close and there is no way to move it.

If you are looking to mimic Stephan Sobkowiak's orchard, then even if your trees are too generous spaced, you can interplant with fruit bearing bushes, and even annuals.  I interplant tomatoes, peppers, vining crops like watermelon and cucumbers, as well as goji berries, blue berries, boysen berries . . .  all sorts of food sources (nettles, chaya, sweet potatoes).

In some respects, its like thinning small fruit on a tree.  It feels so counter-intuitive to be plucking fruit off, but if you want big healthy fruit, you've got to thin aggressively.  The same goes for tree spacing.  If your orchard is too crowded, you'll be frustrated with the need to constantly prune things to assure that light gets in.  So wider spacing is better ---- better for air flow, for access, for light penetration to the understory plants, etc.
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Personal preference to some extent. All of my trees are an even 10 feet apart. What my trees are not is consistent in type and size. I have dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard sized trees and mixed up. I mixed them up to the extent that the standard trees are flanked by dwarf on each side, etc. Plus my rows aren't traditional rows in that they are on contour and thus it's not a 10 foot straight line. I think my trees will be fine spaced like they are. They're small still, so perhaps I'll be proven wrong.

Suppose I should point out that with STUN work here I had an 80% fatality rate on those tree lines. The Kraters have had a better success rate and then the spacing there is a bit hard to quantify.
 
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