We have been on our farm for five years now and we finally planted our orchard this year. We started with six fruit trees. I will continue to add more as our budget allows, but for now I am so thrilled to finally have trees in the ground! While I am no expert on orchards, and I am at the beginning stages of growing fruit I wanted to share what I have learned so far on how to plan a homestead orchard and maybe help you decide what you need to plant your own orchard.
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What is your zone?
What growing zone do you live in? First and most importantly, do you know your growing zone. Your growing zone will determine which trees you can grow and which ones would not thrive. Each fruit tree has their own growing requirements and knowing your zone will help you choose the correct trees for your climate. Find your zone here.
Another option when considering trees for your climate is to visit nearby orchards in your area. You can find out what variety of tree they are growing and gain some local knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. I chose my peach trees due to the fact that they are locally grown in my area, and I bought some for canning so I know they are delicious!!
How Much Room Do you have?
You may have more room to grow fruit trees than you think! There are three sizes of fruit trees to choose from:
Standard tree: grows up to 18-25 feet when fully matured. It is the largest of all the choices.
semi-dwarf: grows 12-15 feet.
dwarf: The smallest choice which grows 8-10 feet tall.
Remember your trees will need the same space around them as they are tall. This means if your tree matures at a height of 25 feet tall it will need 25 feet in all directions. Look up! Will your new tree interfere with any other trees, power lines, or gardens? Look down! Do you have any electric running underground, pipes, or drainage systems? Check and make sure it is safe to dig where you want to plant.
What about the soil?
Drainage: A tree needs a well-draining soil. To check this, you can dig a hole in the area you want to plant. Fill the hole with water if the water does not drain within twenty-four hours this is not a good place to dig.
soil testing: Just like with gardening it is highly recommended to test your soil and amend as needed. This will ensure that your tree has the nutrients it needs to grow and produce fruit.
Do I need to buy more than one tree?
Self-pollinating tree: A tree that does not need another tree to complete the pollination process. Two examples are peaches, and sour cherry.
Cross-pollinating tree: This tree needs a different variety of the same fruit to complete the pollination process. Make sure to have a compatible tree within 100 feet of each other and choose trees that bloom at the same time so ensure cross pollination.
When do I plant fruit trees?
Bare root trees should be planted in the spring or fall because the tree is dormant it will give its energy to establish its roots which will make for a strong and healthy tree. Potted trees can be planted any time of the year as long as you provide the sufficient amount of water.
When can I expect to harvest fruit?
You can expect to wait on average 3-6 years to harvest fruit from the trees. Most nurseries carry trees that are at least two years old, but you start to count the tree years once you plant the tree into the ground.
Where do I buy the fruit trees?
With a quick Google search, you can find many websites that sell fruit trees. While you can visit your local nurseries for trees, you will find more variety online.
I hope this helps you and answers some of your questions about planning a homestead orchard. My encouragement to you is go for it! Get those trees in the ground! Like I said I have been on my farm for five years and if I had planted fruit trees, we would be harvesting fruit this year. The best time to plant a tree is now!!
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