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High Density Backyard Orchard

Posted by genghisbunny 8a No. CA (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 4, 13 at 0:08

I am wanting to plant a backyard orchard according to Dave Wilson's plan. I have an 18x30 foot area to plant in. Here is a diagram of what I am thinking of, but I think I probably have too many trees in the design. I would like some feedback regarding my design. Thank you!

Here is a link that might be useful: Dave Wilson's Backyard Orchard Culture


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by skyjs z8 OR, USA (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 4, 13 at 2:02

18 inches of distance from its neighbor. What kind of neighbor? CLover ok. ANother tree-not ok. I like to put non-related shrubs/vines in between fruit trees, like kiwi, grape, currant, blue berry. 6 feet is pretty tight for semi-dwarf, but not for espalier. What rootstock/arrangement?
John S
PDX OR


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Yeah 18 inches is way too close for that hedge like arrangement. Even for Dave Wilson style, which states 3 feet as the closest to do. At five feet apart they will form a solid wall of leaves (as shown in this year's videos). I spaced mine at 8 feet and they seem very close, but I do have room. I don't want a solid hedge. My dog needs room.. I guess you could space them like that in 4 in one hole groups, but I don't know many people who like that set up. Maybe they will comment here?
I spaced mine so I could easily net the trees.
My concern about 4 and 1 and even hedges is lack of good air circulation. Seems like trouble to me. Also if one tree say has a pest problem, you're going to have to spray nearby trees even though they may not need it or spray is not compatible. A good example is sulfur which you keep off plums, and apricots, but works well on peaches and cherries. You could use another product, but I myself like using sulfur. I need it for some for other plants, so I still will have to use it.
At 4 feet from the fence you will be trimming them back every year. I would not be happy if you were my neighbor. You miss one year and they will be three feet into my yard.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

I have tried many kinds of close plantings for 10 or more years now. I believe if trees are in a straight row with nothing in the way on the sides then very close spacing is possible, but any interference in that row wreaks havoc. The trees will grow into each other and they will go into a mode of producing a mass of shoots that you just keep trying to prune back, and they will never settle into fruiting mode. Been there, done that. So, your diagonal rows are out. You are also not taking into account tree canopy space in the picture, the trees will be 8' or more wide. I would suggest putting one row of 2' spaced trees straight across, and make sure there is 5' free space on either side of the row, no fence or the like impinging in the space and some free space at the ends. Apples and peaches could take 18" and pears and plums and apricots I would give 3' for.

Scott


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Drew, I am planning on pruning twice a year - once in the spring and once in the summer. But I see your point about being so close to the fence. I think it's a good idea to space them 5 feet from the fence. I don't want espalier. My goal is to have enough variety back there that we have some sort of fruit to eat year round. So I want to allow the trees to have some size in their canopy in order to facilitate that.

Scott, I appreciate hearing your input about them being in a straight row. What if I allow three feet between trees instead of 18 inches. Would you still say not to plant the diagonal? Your idea of one row of trees at two feet spacing is very interesting. How far apart would I need to put the pomes from the stones, though? I was trying to keep ten feet between them so that they don't interfere with each other. I'm curious why apples and peaches can grow so much closer together than plums and apricots.

Skyjs, thanks for the suggestion to separate the trees with another kind. What grouping is Fuyu Persimmon in? As far as rootstock, the pomes will be M11 and the stones will most likely be Citation.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

I have 15 trees in a small yard.The one area is about the same size as what you mention ( 10 x 15) the other is 15 x 6 or so). This area is aboyt 10 feet x 60 feet long. There is not much room to work with.

In the first bed I have 2 plum, and one evans cherry, the other has one apple and one pear. The other trees are a bit more scattered. Pears get wide and tall. Think of a 20 year old ash tree, very oval shape and tall. Mine are spaced about 5 feet apart, too close but these are 2 trees, not 15. Its much easier to get around.

The amount of pruning you will need to do will negate the positives that this close method of planting is supposed to do. I see the trees in the centers of the line being pruned to a spindle just so they can get enough light. If you were interested in this many trees, space then evenly through out that entire area.... No need to waste space in the middle there. Youll even have space to interplant with beneficial plants, still have the same number of trees yet still let them have some breathing room..

Plums and peaches get wide, very wide. This is why peaches and most plums are recommended being pruned in a vase shape (open center), that is their natural growth habit.

I just forsee too much pruning, and way too much work that should be needed for a home orchard. DW style was created to get more bang for the buck in orchards, where there is room for error and to fix spacing issues.

My advice would be to plant them 5 feet apart in offet lines (the next row being planted a few feet infront of the previous and planted in the spaces between that row) This way you have enough light to grow a nice ground cover, lets you have enough space between the trees. You could also get around interplanting other species like shrub fruits or beneficial trees which fix nitrogen, lessening the need for synthetic fert.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

I hope someday someone does a scientific comparison of trees given ample space and don't require summer pruning just to stop them from crowding each other to the DW method. I want to know about relative yields, brix , fruit size and color.

Of course, results would likely vary region to region, soil to soil, species to species, variety to variety, root stock to root stock.

I don't plant my trees nearly that close, do frequent summer pruning and they are still too close to give optimum sun to all parts of the trees, so fruit sweetness seems to vary more than it should on the trees. On sites where I give trees conventional space there is less work and possibly slightly higher brix fruit- at least more consistently high brix throughout the tree.

It might prove to be a superior approach just to graft multiple varieties on trees- at least superior for the growers themselves. Of course, if you want a lot of patented DW varieties, this wouldn't be legal.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Here's what may be the ultimate compact orchard. Gene Yale grows 97 apples with minimal pruning in a suburban back yard.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gene Yale's compact apple orchard


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Ghengis, I tried many systems that failed. All the ones that were not simple rows failed, unless the spacing between trees was 6' or more. If you could get it so no trunk was closer than 6' from any other trunk, it could be worth trying.

By the way if the sun exposure is not really good you will be in trouble from that as well. For close plantings you need areas with really good sun.

Scott


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Yeah I used an offset spacing in two rows where all are 8 feet apart. Ripening times vary, but I'm not that concerned about that. I don't mind eating frozen fruit. I'm more interested in growing varieties easy to grow, and that i would like. Hard to do but possible.
You have an interesting project. Keep us updated on progress. Lot's of choices to consider now.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Here is a great yard with a mature high density orchard, it's from DWN Youtube....

Here is a link that might be useful: High Density Orchard


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

This is all awesome info. Thanks everyone! I have so much to think about! Keep it coming!

Scott, when you say insufficient sun exposure, are you speaking of all seasons or in the spring and summer. The yard is in full sun during the summer, but in the winter is at least 50% shade. Would this be a problem?


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Winter doesn't need sun, just spring summer and fall.

Scott


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Here is the new design. Thanks for the recommendation to Dave Wilson's Youtube channel. It is very informative. Based on what I saw there, I'm going to give three feet between each tree and five between each row. The trees will be eight feet from the patio and five feet from each fence. Please take a look at my design and tell me what I could improve. I've got to order the trees soon, but my husband lost his job, so I had to wait until he got a new one before I could finish this project!


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

You are going to have problems with access when those trees mature. The ones by the fence are going to grow into the fence very quickly. It also depends on how tall the fence is and whether it is solid or chain; if its high and solid it will also be blocking sun and making diseases more likely. I would do just one row spaced 2' apart down the middle for 10 trees total.

Scott


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 6, 13 at 22:50

I know that earlier in the thread you mentioned that you don't want espalier, but that may be the easiest way to squeeze in a few more along the fence and the patio.

There is even a Dave Wilson picture (from here) showing a hedgerow with an espalier running parallel. You could have most of your trees in the hedgerow 2.5' (30" per the pic below) apart. That would make 8, giving you 6' on the left and right. Then, along the fence and along the patio, you could have 2 espaliers with 3 trees each. That would give you 14 total, exactly the amount you have above.

Which direction is north in the diagram? It would be best if it is up, as the top fence would then be South facing and not block much sun...


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by skyjs z8 OR, USA (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 7, 13 at 0:41

Another way to think about this, Genghis, is to use grafting to get many varieties in a smaller space. You could use dwarf rootstocks for many of these, but I don't like dwarf rootstocks on huge fruit. I had a Karmijn da Sonnaville apple tree break below the graft this year and now it is just dwarf rootstock. I would use grafting, and mix of dwarf and semi dwarf rootstocks to get the same variety on a much more manageable number of trees. Remember it's not just the branches that are interlocking, the roots are as well.
John S
PDX OR


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Scott, I like your idea of the one row spaced two feet apart. I went to a local orchard today with some high density planting and noticed that the sides of the trees that were closest to each other had been cut so that there was almost no growth in the center. So three in a grouping would be growing outward, but the inside has almost no branches in it. That started making me concerned about where the branches would go if I had two rows so close together. If I do one row with two feet between, how would you recommend I train them? How far from the back fence (the top of the drawing) and the west fence (on the left) would you start the trees?

Your solution will also help to keep the trees from the downhill portion of the yard where it tends to get waterlogged in the winter...

The top of the drawing does face north, so there is no concern about the fence blocking the sun. My yard is in full sun during the summer.

Bob_z6, thanks for the recommendation of espalier. You are right that it would introduce a few more varieties into the mix. I will keep that in mind as a future option.

Skyjs, I have considered grafting and may explore it as a possibility in the future. But my goals are both variety and production. With a large family, we can eat through a lot of fruit very quickly. After having spoken to several people, I have decided that I would prefer to have separate varieties of trees as opposed to one tree with many varieties because there will be more of a root system to produce more fruit. I know that the close planting will stunt production per tree, but overall I'm hoping that I will get more from ten trees than three or four that are grafted.

Thanks so much for the advice! It is helping me so much. I really appreciate it.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

You are mistaken in the belief that more trees will produce more fruit. Even in commercial production with appropriate dwarfing rootstocks, the primary bonus comes from earlier fruiting not ultimate potential bins per acre. In commercial production, two extra years of productivity is huge but this is a different concept than the DW method, which DW does not tout as being ultimately more productive.

If it was more productive, commercial growers would have adopted this extra tight spacing- they are already pushing the envelope for tightest spacing to enhance yield and are planting more trees per acre than ever before.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Ghengis, when the trees are mature the fact that they are on one or multiple roots is not much of a factor in terms of vigor, there is only so much soil for the roots to mine for nutrients. And, you don't want them overly vigorous either, then its too hard to keep the trees small - you will get wood and not fruit. So, overall the single vs multi grafts is not a huge difference. And, hman is correct that more trees will not produce more fruit. In fact they will produce less due to all the extra pruning constraints - each tree needs to have its own spot to grow into. The main advantage of many trees is successive ripening and more different fruits. Also you can thin out the ones you don't like so much and let the ones you like grow bigger. I have done a lot of the latter, this winter I am removing at least 30 trees.

Anyway, I think 10 in a single row at 2' spacing will be fine for you.

Scott


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Why I don't like the grafts I stated before, if I had 4 trees, they would not be dependant on each other. With a 4 in 1 graft, two grafts have to be cut way back to match the two that grew slower. So each graft is dependant on the others, if 4 trees, I could have let the vigorous growers go for it. I have no choice but to cut them way back, in one case as much as 75% growth, and worried that actually might hurt that graft cutting back so much.
Hey it works, and mine will be fine, but it's not ideal.
Grafting as a way to add more varieties makes more sense, trees are older, and easy to expose new graft by positioning in a good spot. Starting out with a grafted tree is harder to manage.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Drew, my favorite method is to begin as a central leader tree and place new grafts on the center, making a two or three tier tree with a different variety on each tier, each subsequent variety an extension of the trunk, starting with most vigorous varieties. This creates a tree that actually requires less pruning as it balances the tendency for higher tiers to be more vigorous.

It's my idea but it works so well and is such an obvious solution to the problem of competing scaffolds, I'm pretty sure it's been done plenty around the world and over the centuries.

You can even change over to open center, but in that case, make sure your more vigorous variety is pointing north.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

That sounds like a very good method, thanks for sharing as I suspect one day I will want to do this. The good news about my tree is the vigorous grafts are the ones falling behind, I guess the north was too shady for it. but it should be able to catch up. I removed some limbs from a nearby tree to give it more morning light next year. And I will trim down the southern grafts to also give it more light.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 7, 13 at 17:49

genghisbunny, I'm living the high-intensity planting dream on a standard suburban lot. I bring in fresh fruit and veg any and every day of the year. I follow the instructions on the DWN site for blueberries, stone and pom fruits, Four Winds Growers for citrus and squarefoot gardening for veggies.

My best advice is to frame your property with hedgerows of trees according to DWN instructions. 3' to 4' spacing works fine in general, 8' spacing for citrus. You can then plant 3 or more to a hole in interior locations where it makes sense, and/or setup your veggie beds. I have 3 peaches in one hole on 18" centers doing fine on very vigorous rootstocks. It can be done if you are willing to tune out some of the noise and simply follow the instructions on the DWN site.

I'm rockin' and rollin' with 30+ trees as we speak. Today I brought in pomegranates, grapes. two types of lemons and kishu mandarin oranges (which I may have left a few on the tree too long).


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Mr. Clint,

"...if you are willing to tune out some of the noise and simply follow the instructions on the DWN site.". To me, it is not a nice statement.

Everyone here is trying to help each other out by giving their best advice from their own experience and observation. The OP is an adult. She/he can make her/his own final decison from all the info given.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

I believe the DWN instructions say you decide width, you decide height. That is the whole idea. All the advice does follow DWN rules for BYOC.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Perhaps Mr. Clint was actually trying to be polite and not begin a specific argument about any post here. I went over the posts and realize that one I made might be seen as a put down on DW tight spacing methods.

I should have pointed out that my experience with close spacings is in the northeast and not very relevant to CA conditions so as not to discourage GB from using this method at a site that gets almost no rain during most of the growing season.

I assume that this fact vastly changes the dynamic of tighter spacing, primarily as a result of reducing vigor by the natural reduction in irrigation which would increase the concentration of sugar in most varieties of fruit. So many consecutive blue sky days has to help as well. Disease pressure from poor air circulation would also be less important in a lower humidity environment.

I would still like to see the method studied more closely, even in CA conditions. There is always a limitation to anecdotal testimonials, especially when not based on comparative experiences.

The less shading, the higher the quality of the fruit- I think we can all agree on that as a general rule.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Sun, Dec 8, 13 at 21:34

mamuang, I wasn't picking a fight. The original poster is talking/asking specifically about DWN's BYOC planting techniques. They really want to proceed with this approach that works well for a lot of people, especially for those of us in California. Anything that isn't helpful toward that end would be noise. My experience is that BYOC is a great way to go, what say you?

Drew51 is correct for the most part, the instructions to prune the newly planted tree at knee height is going to vary -- for me that cut is about 2'. The tree spacing is also somewhat variable and as previously stated, I have hedgerows with 3' to 4' spacing, 8' for citrus (framing the property) and 3 to a hole at 18" spacing (in a bed) and all are working well. No tree is allowed to grow higher than I can reach standing flat-footed on the ground.

I can't speak directly to brix or production competitions for BYOC as they are outside the context of successive ripening, But the fruit I bring in is excellent and there is always enough to share. I prune heavily to maintain size and thin about 3 to 5 times more fruit than I actually harvest. It isn't a conventional approach to fruit production or tree husbandry.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Mrclint, first I envy your success, I'm getting there and this year was a nice start with a flow of fruit and vegetables. Not much from trees, but bushes, vines, and the garden. The trees are still young and even next year I don't expect to harvest much. I'm still training my trees. I do have a few mature cherry trees I harvest every year. As Harvestman says I worry about the close spacing here, so I went to the other extreme of planting them 8 feet apart. I'm in the Midwest, and although we are drier than the Northeast, we are not as dry as the west. So I allowed for more sun and air circulation. I also plan on keeping them small. I also needed room for my dog, he is only 1 years old, and needs to run the yard. He has reduced animal pressure almost to zero, so a great asset. I don't need to net anything in my yard thanks to Jesse the wonder dog!
Scott uses the close spacing and has had great success with minimal spraying too. So as far as the close spacing working here, I think Scott has proved it can.
In Michigan our commercial farmers are all going towards the close spacing and using dwarf rootstocks. Our major agricultural University MSU, recommends this approach. So smaller spacing is even starting to be used in commercial production. MSU is studying many close spacing techniques. I use the KBG method with cherries.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Mr. Clint,

It's my bad to criticize your choice of word and wording. I've read this forum for over 5 years so I do know you've been very successful with Dave Wilson's method and is an advocate for it.

The OP also asks for others' opinions about her plan. That's why people chime in fron inside and outside CA.

I am envious of your climate. I also hope the OP will get all the info she needs and have the best-laid plan for her orchard.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Mr Clint you have pics or video of your BYOC? would like to see it....


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 10, 13 at 0:40

melikeeatplants, hopefully my response won't take us too far off topic.

I've most recently posted about Wonderful Poms, Meyer Lemons, Microgreens, Pink Lemonade, Black Jack figs, and Washington Navel among other things. Some of my posts are no longer available on GW (for whatever reason).

Note that garlic, strawberries, tomatoes, kale, peaches and whatever else from a tree, shrub or sprout are all of equal value in my garden. All have their season, and all have their reason. :)


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

I wish I could find the link on YouTube that I watched. The guy said that the height of the trees should not be more than 90% of the distance between rows. My trees are 5' apart with 7' rows, this means that my trees should not be more than 6' high.

FWIW I have decided to espalier my rows so they will get enough light. If they were pruned as open vase then there wouldn't be room to walk between them. (Plus I want to plant veggies between the rows).

With the sun high in the summer the privacy fences don't make too much shade, but my neighbor's shade trees are tall enough to shade quite a bit.

Someone here once suggested looking at the "sun path" of a person's house to see exactly how much sun they would have to deal with. Maybe you could google it.


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"have their season, and all have their reason. :)"

My main reason is to eat them! I really don't care that much about timing. Well eating quality comes first. I have a couple peach trees that ripen at the same time, but I need them both, too good not to have. I just freeze excess. Even with one tree at the size I grow, one tree produces more than I can consume before spoilage. But timing is nice. I have 5 red currant cultivars that ripen at different times.
Well sort of, some times they ripen earlier or later depending on season variables.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Drew, things change as trees increase in size. In a mature orchard It becomes very time consuming to both thin to achieve high quality and then to deal with massive crops that quickly exceed your capacity to use during the entire year or to jar. Even large freezers fill up very quickly, hand picking consumes a lot of time as does distributing the surplus to friends and/or the food bank.

In a mature orchard you begin to appreciate the many advantages of a staggered harvest.

What's more, I really don't need more than one excellent variety of peach and nectarine at any given time. There will also be plums and other fruit to surprise my palate and with only about two weeks between variety cycles, I don't get jaded that quickly.


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I can see in an orchard you would want to balance things but I have a backyard. And I do want to balance too, but it is not that important as for one I have early, mid, and late season covered so any additions when they ripen are not a concern. I also can and dry fruit so have more room in the freezer. I have 5 peach/nectarine trees and that is about 2 too many, so no more additions will be added.
I love being out there, so I hope a mature backyard spread is time consuming! I could add more, but to tell the truth other fruits are more interesting to me, besides the fact their is no room for more. Plus i have to leave them all when i move. Silly to add more.
I have 5 more seasons here, so trees will just be getting nice! Argh! Yeah i get the continued harvest but having that, only cultivars that taste great are of concern.
I do have other trees here too. But there again only being able to add a couple more, ripening times were of little concern. It doesn't vary that much with cherries.
Plums yes, but I only have room for 2 trees.
One tree the Old Mixon Free peach i want to take with me, when i move. Only one nursery sells it. But a local nursery said they would graft 4 or 5 trees for me at a decent price. So I will probably do that. The rest can easily be replaced.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Wed, Dec 11, 13 at 11:22


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 11, 13 at 15:37

Drew51, there isn't a thing in the world wrong with having completely different goals with BYOC. Some folks love to can, dry, etc. I can't speak to that as my preference is for fresh eating. Along with quality and timing, there also has to be holding ability, reliability and disease resistance to meet my successive ripening goals. I'm in an low-rainfall low-chill area, so my fruit choices and methods might not apply to your situation. Fruit quality doesn't take a back seat at all with successive ripening.

I have overlap of fruit harvests just not too much of the same like and kind. I'm usually bringing in 3 to 4 different fruits at a time -- especially in the summer. Having yellow peaches coming in at the same time is less desirable than spreading them out through the summer.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

If I lived in S. CA I would not be the least interested in storing fruit, believe me. There is no place in the country more conducive to tightly spaced trees of many varieties. The growing season starts in Feb. and ends in Nov. with no reason not to have some kinds of fruit to pick into winter. I've picked golden seedless grapes there in Jan on vines with yellow leaves. They were almost too sweet.

Do love the climate there but it's not for me. I'm an expatriate with no intention of returning- Maybe a few hundred miles up coast or in the Sierra foothills, but not S. CA.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 12, 13 at 10:42

"I wish I could find the link on YouTube that I watched. The guy said that the height of the trees should not be more than 90% of the distance between rows."

Milehigh,

Maybe the video below is the one you watched. Bob of CT linked this video on another thread. The video is a talk by Dr. Terence Robinson of Cornell. Dr. Robinson mentions the statistic about optimum tree height and row width. It's 50 minutes long, but worth the time.

Even though the video is geared toward commercial, it is relevant to this thread because of the general discussion of high density. The video indicates high density does produce more apples per land area, and claims the apples are of better quality. The video also discusses basic tree physiology (i.e. the relationship of scaffold size and carbohydrate export to roots) so may be helpful to some on that level.

Having recommended the video, I'll offer the following criticisms of it. My criticisms are strictly based on the commercial application of high density, not BYOC. In my opinion, BYOC is a very relevant solution to limited space in a back yard.

First, commercially speaking, there is a huge shift in the apple industry to plant at high density. Farmers are starting to manage trees like row crops. Plant shorter-lived trees at high density in narrow rows using more inputs (i.e. fertilizer, water) and expect instant harvests.

Although it appears high density produces more apples, and is therefore probably more profitable, I think Dr. Robinson overstates the benefit and understates the risk.

I'm convinced high density takes more labor (not less as the video implies). These systems are based on cheap Hispanic labor and assume that won't change. I don't buy into that assumption. When commercial growers have to start paying higher wages, there will be a swing back to less labor intensive systems.

While the video does show higher density systems have the potential to lose more money in bad years, I think this is understated. Things happen besides frosts. I've seen pictures of whole plantings destroyed by various acts of nature. The most recent to come to mind is where whole trellises of apples were blown over by Sandy. At 1000 trees/acre, that is a lot of cost in replanting. One wonders where apples were planted at lower density with less dwarfing rootstocks (which provide better anchorage) if they didn't experience the same amount of damage as the high density plantings.

The video claims apple quality is better in high density because of better light penetration. This could be true, but I've tasted apples from high density and while good, were not remarkable. I suspect some of the extra benefit of light penetration is offset by the extra fertilizer and irrigation required.

Lastly, the video shows how fast (i.e. little labor is used) when pruning the trees. This portion of the video is deceptive in my opinion (but probably not so on purpose). The video shows two people pruning from a motorized platform. Together, they can prune a tree very very quickly. But the trees look like they are planted on 3' spacing. Additionally the rows are very narrow, so they have to be able to prune many many more trees to equal the same amount of wood/fruiting space of one tree in a low density orchard. In reality, the speed in pruning has nothing to do with density, but with how much annual wood must be removed. This is a function of tree vigor, not tree density.

Having said all this, I suspect high density is more profitable for the commercial grower in today's climate. I just think Dr. Robinson overstates the case.

I don't know how much of this applies to peaches (which is my main interest). I would not want to manage peaches at 3, 4, or 5 hundred trees/acre.

Here is a link that might be useful: The New Tall Spindle Apple Orchard


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

In Michigan as far as cherries, the move toward high density has nothing to do with labor. it's actually geared to new picking machines. MSU seems to actually be looking for ways to reduce labor via mechanization. It's mostly to do with cherries. They may be doing what you describe for apples. I don't know? I have not really followed the apple research as I have little interest at this time.
I know our commercial market for apples and cherries is excellent. It makes me not want to grow them as the commercial product is pretty good if not excellent. The cherries were so good this year I was thinking I could not grow them this good. Mine were not as good.

High density systems are being tested, no recommendations are being done yet. MSU went to Italy and Poland to see how they are conducing their high density crops. I guess Europe has been doing this for a long time. And as to not reinvent the wheel MSU is looking at these systems and trying to adapt them with some modification to fit our needs. Most ideas in high density are coming from Europe. MSU is also experimenting with Canadian machines and cultivars.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 12, 13 at 13:55

It's interesting you mention Europe Drew. Some of the high density systems did originate there. However apparently many cider orchards in Europe still use low density systems, even in new plantings.

There is currently some discussion of this very topic on another forum I follow called "Apple Crop". It's geared toward commercial production. One of the posters mentioned his trip to Europe in the context of cider tree density.

I do understand the reasoning behind designing cherry plantings for harvesting equipment. As you know, cherries require a huge amount of labor to hand harvest.

They have some mechanically assisted apple harvesters and I admit spindle systems are conducive to that type of harvesting.

It's unlikely peaches will be machine harvested in the foreseeable future. Some have experimented with peach plantings to use mechanical thinners (which is where the real labor is in a peach orchard) but I don't think anyone can draw any sweeping conclusions at this point.

I should have mentioned in my previous post, that while high density apple systems do obtain more yield per land area, those yields are highly dependent on the appropriate rootstocks for the planting density.

The spindle systems Dr. Robinson mentions use very dwarfing rootstocks. More vigorous rootstocks in the same high density planting would have lower yields than a low density planting. The vigorous trees would require too much pruning, turning the trees into "wood machines", as Scott has described.

I just want to mention this to prevent someone new from getting the impression crowded trees automatically = more fruit.

I would also mention some of the very dwarfing rootstocks require a high level of management and are not at all forgiving of the frequent mistakes of beginners (or even mistakes of veterans). Dr. Robinson glosses over this with the flippant comment, "You have to be able to grow trees."

Yeah, sometimes that's easier said than done, even with trees that aren't delicate (as anyone who has grown any amount of tree fruit can attest).


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

When Cornell talks about high density plantings, I believe it is based on their research using dwarfing rootstocks with apples and that is a very limited number of apple varieties. It is only partially related to growing trees on vigorous rootstocks where low vigor is maintained by a combination of close spacing and aggressive summer pruning.

It is interesting to note that I've read in Goodfruit magazine of Japanese orchards growing Fuji on seedling rootstock getting yield per acre as great as the best managed high density orchards in the U.S. and with superior quality.

U.S. growers needn't be concerned, however, as these apples are extremely expensive to grow and the labor is a big part of it, including highly skilled pruning methods. Price per apple in Japanese markets is said to be about $5 per perfect and huge apple.

What you can take away from this is that with proper pruning and other management even full sized trees can produce as good an apple as those on more dwarfing rootstock- commercial growers just can't afford to make that happen here.

I believe that dwarf apple trees not only take less time to prune per acre, but also a lot less skill. In other words, it can be done with straight labor after watching a video and being supervised for a short time. Skilled pruners cost the grower a lot more money.

A problem with growing apples on dwarfing rootstocks that Olpea doesn't mention is that fireblight often wipes out entire blocks when grown on non resistant rootstocks. Cornell has good reason to encourage high density plantings, if only because they have the patents on some of the best FB resistant dwarfing rootstocks.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Rereading my post, I want to mention that I'm not at all suggesting it is the profit motive that pushes Cornell to promote higher density plantings on dwarfing rootstock. It is where modern commercial fruit production is heading all over the world.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 12, 13 at 22:39

I'm replanting my greenhouse with stone fruit at nearly 8,000 trees per acre. That's 4ft by 1.5 ft. It's actually more than that as I'm squeezing 9 rows in a 32ft wide greenhouse. What do you think, crazy???


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Harvestman,
I don't know why they need to promote as it seems to be in extremely high demand, with advance orders years ahead of time. Wow!

Fruitnut,

Well I only need a hand full of trees to be happy, but if more is better for you, go for it. You can always thin them out. I'm squeezing brambles pretty close, so close they will eventually be impossible to tell apart. But I want to try more.
Nice write up btw, cool! Now i want a greenhouse super bad! Really i would like one, even a small one would be cool.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 13, 13 at 9:48

"I'm replanting my greenhouse with stone fruit at nearly 8,000 trees per acre....What do you think, crazy???"

Fruitnut,

Normally I would say it's crazy. Your GW name doesn't help :-)

Seriously though, you seem to be able to control virtually every aspect of the environment inside your greenhouse - humidity, temp, water, insects, disease, wind. It seems to me, with the greenhouse, you can walk that very fine line, extremely limiting tree growth without putting life threatening stress on the tree, which would be much more difficult to do were the trees outside.

I agree, nice article for DW.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by eboone 6a - SW PA (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 13, 13 at 12:14

No not crazy. Smart. You have figured out what will work for you.
Now if it was a whole acre under roof at that density, I would say crazy :)


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 13, 13 at 12:35

olpea:

Control of water allows a whole new ballgame in several regards; tree vigor and size, diseases of tree and fruit, and fruit quality.

I'm only doing this because I already have trees on Lovell, Nemaguard, Citation, and Krymsk 1 that will fit in 6-12 sq ft area without excess vigor. Mostly I want to see if it really will work. I was trying for a V system in 8ft rows but lacked the trellis. The V is very hard to train without a trellis.


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RE: High Density Backyard Orchard

Fruitnut, it looks like the fruit hobbyist world is catching up with you and you will soon have fellow greenhouse growers to share experiences with and profit from your advice. That should be fun.


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