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Creating An Orchard
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Creating a Fruit Tree Orchard

The creation of a fruit tree orchard is a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience. But what constitutes a fruit tree orchard? The Collins Dictionary defines an ‘orchard as an area where fruit trees are grown’. Therefore, two fruit trees together would fit into this description, so would an orchard of many hundred trees. What a topic of conversation to be able to say you had your very own, productive, fruit tree orchard!

Moving on from our size of orchard, there is a large range of fruit trees which are commonly available.

The most common fruit tree species are:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Cherries
  • Damsons
  • Figs
  • Filberts/Hazels/Trazels
  • Gages
  • Medlars
  • Mirabelles
  • Mulberries
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Quinces

A number of factors will determine the design of your orchard. We have detailed below a number of issues worth considering. This is not exhaustive.

Choosing the correct species and varieties.

It appears quite daunting when deciding on which fruit trees to choose, but the following will help.

Size of Area

The number of fruit trees will be determined by the area available. Secondly, the final height of the tree has to be considered. Most fruit trees are grown on rootstocks, meaning that the rootstock vigour controls the height of the tree and cropping potential. Yearly, or twice yearly pruning of the fruit trees to a given height will also impact on the spacing between each tree. A tree that will reach a height of 2.6 metres will need to be spaced at between 4 and 5 metres to allow it to be free of major shade from an adjacent tree. The fruit of a tree that has significant shade cast over it will have a very different fruit crop than one in full sunlight.

Compatability of trees

This is important in terms of pollination and fertilisation purposes

There are in effect two groups of fruit trees. Self-fertile trees do not require another tree to act as a pollination partner, to ensure a fruit crop. Fruit trees which are not self-fertile require another fruit tree to act as a pollination partner to provide sufficient pollen for fertilisation. In the case of an extreme example, a fruit tree may be classed as a triploid, meaning the tree requires 2 pollination partners to produce enough pollen for fertilisation.

This at first sight might seem a difficult subject but it is simply a matter of making sure that another tree is capable of flowering in the same flowering period or one above or below. The grouping of trees into a series of flowering period categories will allow this task to be easily completed.

For example, with apples trees, they would be chosen as follows

An apple tree in group C3, would require another apple in the same flowering group (C1) or one from groups C2 or C4. These groups are acceptable as there is an overlap between the groups in terms of flowering.

Choosing the type of fruit (Eating or Cooking or Both)

Generally, there are some fruit varieties that are specifically for eating. Similarly, some fruit varieties are specifically for cooking. In a number of cases, fruit varieties are both able to be used for cooking and eating.

Time of planting trees

Fruit trees are supplied in two forms for planting. Bare-root trees are supplied for planting in the trees natural dormant season, which is normally mid-November mid-March. Planting of this form of tree is only successful when planted within these times.

Containerised trees are supplied all year round and can be safely planted at any time of the year.

With both types of trees, regular watering is essential until the trees root systems are established into the surrounding soil. Small fruit trees kept in containers will require permanent watering and feeding.

Time of Picking and Storage

The time of picking and storage ability is also important as timed correctly, then a supply of apples for 6 to 8 months could be possible, before bottling and freezing of the fruit is considered.

Climate Considerations

Many fruit tree species and varieties have to be considered in relation to where they are going to be planted. The differences in the British climate have to be considered when choosing a tree. These differences may to major, for example, a fruit tree suitable for growing in southern England may not be suitable for northern England or Scotland. The proximity to the sea, versus an inland location will also influence the choice of species and variety. At the other end of the scale the difference may be minor, for example, the aspect where the tree is planted. Is the tree south-west facing in full sunlight or is it north-west facing with less sunlight?

Disease/Virus Resistance

Disease and virus resistance is important. A great many varieties have been specifically bred to provide disease resistance to common diseases. These are very useful in our attempts to work towards producing organic produce.

This useful guide has been produced to highlight some considerations in planning and creating a fruit tree orchard.
A fruit tree orchard, no matter whether it is small or large could become a real focus of interest in any garden, not to mention the production of fruit!

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