Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to Start Your Own Home Orchard

Location, Location, Location
Choose a sunny area with well-drained, fertile soil. High-clay soils will benefit from an addition of compost at the time of planting; add 1/3 compost to 2/3 native soil.

Self-Pollinating or Not?
Fruit set is the end result of flower pollination, which is usually facilitated by bees. When deciding on trees for your yard, keep in mind some varieties need pollen from another variety. Self-pollinating varieties do not need a second variety for fruit to set.

Pollinator Requirements for W&W Fruit Trees:
Apple—In general all varieties need another variety for pollination.
Pear—All varieties need another variety for pollination.
Cherry—Most are self-pollinating Peach—All are self-pollinating

Making Room for Your Orchard
The trees offered at W&W are either dwarf (8–10’) or semi-dwarf (12–15’). In general, these trees should be planted around 12–14’ apart, keeping like varieties together (i.e., apples with apples). When planting additional rows, try to keep them separated by approximately 20’.

Due to their small size, little is usually needed in the home orchard. When the tree is young:
1. Remove any branches crossing over another that touch or will create an injury.
2. Thin out inward growing branches 3. Remove anything broken. 4. Lightly trimming off the tips on larger branches will encourage branching. Shaping comes later. In the first years of growth, it is beneficial to remove most of the fruit set. This ensures energy is directed towards establishing a healthy, strong root system. As trees mature, careful pruning will help to shape them. Pear, apple and cherry trees are usually trained to one central leader in the home orchard. Peaches are trained into a broad vase shape without a central leader. At any time during your tree’s life you should repeat steps 1, 2 & 3 from above. Reduce suckers and water sprouts. Apple and pear trees can be pruned any time the tree is dormant. Peach, cherry and plum trees should be pruned when in blossom. (Perennial Canker, a fungus, infects open wounds in cool weather.)

A compost addition is beneficial when planting. Wait 30 days after planting to add fertilizer. A general fertilizer can then be worked into the top 1” of soil about 1 1/2–2” from the tree trunk.

During the first growing season, new trees will benefit from a deep soak once a week if there has been no rain. Established trees should be watered in times of drought.

Additional Care
Spraying: To provide disease and insect protection, you need several spray combinations that have been developed. Ask a Garden Center Professional for a program that works for you. Be sure to read labels for proper application directions.

Physical Barriers
Rabbits, voles, field mice and deer may dine on your trees in the winter. Possible protection in the form of tree wraps, fencing and bitter-tasting sprays may be an option.

*Tree Management Calendars are available upon request at our Garden Center. 

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