Do you dream of making your very own signature sauces, sweet chutneys, savory desserts, and silky smooth pies from fruits that flourish right in your backyard? Instead of hunting down the “organic and best quality” fruits in stores, would you prefer relishing the fruits you would grow with your own pair of hands? Are you running out of ideas of landscaping that huge slope in your backyard? Then why not get started with planting fruit trees in your backyard and building a miniature orchard in your own home with a selection of your choicest fruit types?
Here’s a starter list that may come handy:
1. Choose the right area in your garden
Most fruit trees flourish best in direct open sun. Don’t sweat over the fact that since you’re planting them young, they will be needing a lot of shade. They are the ones which are going to impart shade to your garden.
If you have a sloping area in your yard, that’s even better for ensuring optimum water retention. We got our orchard idea when we were thinking about landscaping the slope in our yard and now we see, this was the best we could have done.
2. Choose varieties that suit your climate
We live in Danville, California and typically enjoy warmer summers and harsher winters than the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area. On a very warm summer/early fall day, diurnal temperatures can rise up to the 95°F-105°F range while the scale can drop to as low as 30°F-32°F in winters. We have had the experience of both extremes: getting your plants scorched by extreme heat and also getting them all melted down by the winter frost. But with the fruit trees, since we wanted them to grow and prosper for years to come, we exercised extreme caution to choose varieties strong enough to withstand such weather fluctuations. We opted for:
- Elephant Heart Plum
- Santa Rosa Plum
- Cherry Minnie Royal
- Cherry Black Tartarian
- Fuyu Persimmon
- Nectarine Freckle Face
Pointer for Cherry Trees:
Check whether cherries are self or cross pollinating varieties. Self pollinating trees produce both male and female flowers making pollination possible within the same tree. Cross pollinating varieties need separate trees that produce male and female flowers. We got multiple self pollinating trees just because Hubby loves to eat cherries and we figured that one tree would be too less for him!
3. Take measures to protect them against weather fluctuations
Running a drip tube irrigation system in summer and covering the trees at night with plastic sheets (that’s when we get most of the sleet and frost) in winter would be really helpful.
4. The Taste Test
You want the sweetest and the juiciest varieties, right? But just make sure the sweetest varieties are compatible with the land and weather conditions you have to offer. Talk to your local nursery specialist. You can also check sweet index of fruit trees online.
5. Plant Size
Fruit trees can be very expensive if you plan on buying them from retail nursery. Their prices grow exponentially with their size, defying all mathematical laws of proportionality. But, if you get the trees really young and small, chances are they won’t be able to withstand the transfer shock and may face extreme difficulty in anchoring their roots in the new soil. Moderation is recommended; we got all our trees pretty much in the 5 ft range, neither too small nor too big.
6. Buy Wholesale
Avoid buying fruit trees from a retailer unless you want to end up with mediocre grade trees and a big hole in your pocket. Look for some good wholesale nurseries in your area. These nurseries usually offer excellent quality trees at almost one third of the retail price. If you’re located in or around San Francisco Bay Area, you can check out this wholesaler in the East Bay. The only issue you may face is that the wholesale guys won’t sell to the general public. But they will sell to a legit landscaper or a professional gardener who has a merchant account with these suppliers. All you need to do is to make a buying arrangement through your gardener or any other landscaper who can help you. If you take your landscaper with you, he will be able to help you better to select the right trees as these wholesale facilities generally won’t be having any salesperson or store assistant to help you out.
7. DON’T overkill with fertilizers
As long as they are getting appropriate sunlight and water supplies, younger trees do not need a bucket load of fertilizers. In fact, an excess of fertilizers can be actually detrimental. A mild fertilizer with occasional application in the first years should be good.
8. Use Mulch
A mulch is a protective layer of material applied to the soil surface primarily to conserve moisture and boost fertility of the soil by keeping a control on the weed growth. Since we live in California where drought conditions prevail and imposition of penalties on homeowners who use up excess water is a regular affair, we absolutely have to use mulch, in pretty circles surrounding the roots of the trees. Even if you live in an area where water usage is not a problem, you can use mulch to enhance the visual appeal of your landscape.
Also, if you have prank monster dogs fond of landscaping the yard by digging around the trees and disturbing the water supply systems, mulch can act as a big deterrent.
9. Feel free to ask for HELP
Whenever you feel something is less than perfect with the trees, their growth, their look, their leaves, Ask For Help! Ask your gardener. If he’s not sure about what’s going on, seek outside help. Once, we had an issue with some cherry leaves; in our desperation we picked one of the sick leaves and went to our neighboring LOWE’S nursery section to show. One look at the leaf and the store assistants will tell you which of their products you’ll need to fix the problem. It worked every time for us.
10. Always keep an eye on them
Growing fruit trees is not easy; you can roll out multiple vegetable gardens in the time you start tasting your first home grown fruits. Keep a constant watch on the trees: do you see the leaf margins curl, do you see one of the trees drooping, do you find a young tree bear loads of immature fruits and then wither out, do you see an insect attack? Be sure to act fast.
Take before & after pictures at regular intervals to follow their growth curve. Your home grown fruits are truly going to be your fruits of labor, keep that in mind when you get started with your orchard adventure.