I've collected quite a lot of cuttings from fruittrees and some are bearing roots. It includes apple, peach, plum, nectarine, apricot, cherry, grape and more.
I want to plant them all pretty close together- about 1.5 meters apart- along my fence. I've read this way they'll self-prune each other and I can fit a lot of different fruit trees in a small space like mine.
How many years should it take before these small cuttings will bear fruit? I've heard maybe 7 years? I'm wondering if it's better to just buy dwarf trees at $30 each which will produce fruit within about 3 years.
Also, is it just a fantasy to fit lots of trees close together this way and actually work?
The cuttings won't be from the dwarf root stock, so 1.5' might be a little close. Although I'll say this: The longer I keep planting trees and bushes, the thicker I'm placing them and having better success against pests. Although I mix them up, not apple-apple-apple, more like pear-cherry-chestnut. As far as when they'll fruit, you might get a couple of cherries or other pit fruits in two years, apples and pears can take three to five to fruit. But you really won't see a big harvest for about 7-10 years on any fruit tree.
Intensive (close spacing) of fruit trees is best done in large areas where you plan to thin the weak trees as time goes by.
This method will work in smaller spaces like a typical city or suburb back yard but you must understand that you will end up with far fewer than you initially plant.
The main reason you plant intensively is to be able to select the best of the best and remove the rest, this happens over a fairly long period of time, usually 10 to 15 years.
Thus you end up with an orchard full of very hardy, good producing trees that will service you for the next hundred years or so. (semi and full dwarf trees are not very long lived when compared to full size trees)
As marcus mentions, mix them up in alternating trees. A fruit tree from seed will take seven to ten years to first fruit, this period is the root establishment period and the crown shaping period.
Most fruit trees will set far more fruit than they are able to support to full ripeness, once the tree figures this out it drops all the fruit it won't be able to support, and it may do this two or more times through a growing season.
The number of fruits will increase every year once the tree root system is fully established, most trees will double the number of ripe fruits every two years, some every year, until they reach the point of maturity when they tend to produce the same numbers every year after.
Weather is a huge factor, high wind, lack of or glut of rain fall, temperatures, sun intensity are all things that will affect the crop of fruit on trees.