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Backyard Orchard Planting

Posted by brian_zn_5_ks N.E. Kansas (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 3, 11 at 14:31

Curious if anyone has experience or observations about this method of fruit tree growing:

Dave Wilson Nursery
Backyard Orchard Production

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Backyard Orchard Planting

Brian, I am using their methods with some apples and pears for good results. My experience is that irrigation and extra fertilization are required due to the competition from adjoining trees. Pruning, too, has to be somewhat more aggressive. Others here will recommend grafting as a preferred alternative. Both have pros and cons. Misterbaby.

RE: Backyard Orchard Planting

I've done it with mixed success. Best tree is the one that is alone, I have to say. On the other hand, I planted a large pit and put four trees in it. 'Double Jewel' set heavily as a young tree then stunted out. I finally removed it. 'Fantastic Elberta' did not successfully set fruit in our cold climate for years, and therefore grew big, dwarfing the 'J.H. Hale' (a particularly unvigorous tree) next to it. Now the Elberta is bearing.

Other hole had 'Redhaven' and some cold-hardy low-bearing nectarine whose name I forget. I took out the nectarine so the other tree is by itself.

I probably would have been better off with 'Hale' 'Redhaven' and 'Polly' all in separate holes. But how would I have known in advance that those are the ones that would work?

My advice is to go ahead, but pay attention to relative vigor. that means more than just planting same kind of fruit on same rootstock, but paying attention to the actual type of tree it is.

Also, don't be afraid to cut down a clinker after a few years (if you don't need it for pollination).

RE: Backyard Orchard Planting

I have many close plantings; they have both advantages and disadvantages.


  • I can grow 700 different varieties of fruit in my suburban yard.
  • You can have an extended harvest range of about anything.
  • It is easier to keep the trees lower height -- its like the major scaffold branch point is 2' below the ground instead of 2' above so all trees have fruiting zones moved 4' lower this way. You need to get branching going low on the trees to take advantage of this.
  • As kokopelli mentions, if one variety is bust chop it down and let the others fill in. Many varieties don't work out so this is a very handy thing to be able to do. If you are growing fewer varieties it will take 3-4 years to get that new tree going.
  • Compared to grafting many varietes on one stock it has the advantage that if one stock goes bad you still have the other varieties there, again saving that 3-4 years to get the replacement going.

  • Pruning the trees is in fact quite difficult. I think if you are in California you can be sloppy about it, but in the more humid parts of the US there will be too much disease if one is not very careful on pruning. Along with diseases, problems you can run into problems with lack of or limited fruiting due to too much vegetative growth. The key to solving this problem is along with summer pruning be quite strict about limiting the number of scaffold branches, and in general look at every branching point where multiple branches come out as a possible thinning point where one or more branches can be removed.
  • It is very possible for one variety to dominate others if you are not careful about the pruning. Again with experience this can be solved but its not beginner stuff by any means.
  • The overall yield may not be as great as with a regular planting - the pruning decisions that need to be made to keep one variety from dominating or from being too thick in one spot sometimes prevent other choices from being made which would yield more fruitfulness. I have found it varies how well I do based on variety, on peaches persimmons and Japanese plums I get great yields but on apples and pears and cherries it is harder. Also experience in pruning can help a lot here, I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning.

For me I have overall been very happy with them. The biggest mistakes I made was not knowing how to prune right for several years, and doing some plantings that were too close, closer than the recommendations. Pears and European plums in particular were the biggest problems and I would say they need at least 4' per tree. I have some pretty odd-looking pears and Euro plums because they did have too many scaffolds but I later removed many, including all but one at some big branch points, so now the trunks zig and zag.


RE: Backyard Orchard Planting

scottfsmith Did you plant close from the beginning or could someone go back and plant a row of trees between two existing tree? Does close planting discourage deer or are they not a problem for you?

RE: Backyard Orchard Planting

Marcus, it is difficult to add trees to a close planting since the new tree will not get enough light and it will be continual work pruning back the competition to it. If there is still a whole lot of light in the in-between spots it can work however. I don't think it is a plus or minus on deer. Lower plantings are a minus because the deer can reach more. I have lots of deer problems, but they are worse on my berries and veggies than on the fruit trees - the main problem I have on the fruit trees is younger trees that can't get growing because the deer keep munching them back.


RE: Backyard Orchard Planting

I've gone from 6ft by 8ft to about 2ft by 8ft on stone fruit in my greenhouse. I'm just the 2nd year into the extra thick planting so any negatives haven't shown up yet. At the worst I'll trim trees or take out trees. It's a great way to learn. But if done half way will lead to overcrowding and the issues Scott brings up.

My yields and fruit quality have been great so far.

Biggest concern is getting renewal wood down low. After a few years the good fruitful wood gets higher and higher in the tree. Eventually renewal pruning becomes necessary. So I've been taking out large limbs down low. This doesn't always result in new wood as low as I'd like it. On the new thicker trees I plan to force new wood down low sooner rather than later. We'll see how that goes.

RE: Backyard Orchard Planting

I just planted 4 trees in a 6x4 box on friday, bing and craigs crimson cherries. an arctic jay nectarine, and a snow queen peach. shade from another tree I need to prune is my only foreseen issue... hopefully it will work out!

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