I remember when I was in high school, I was taking a walk with my friend Dorri and somewhere in her neighborhood there was a granny smith apple tree ripe with fruit. It was a gorgeous sight to see and the fruit looked perfect. We figured no one would miss 2 little apples and we grabbed a little snack for our walk. I think about this rather insignificant walk a lot when envisioning what I want my yard to become. It seems silly to me that people don’t want to have fruit trees in urban areas because they consider them ‘dirty’ all because they would have to mow over fruit that has fallen. Sure, if your idea of a perfect yard is grass without a single weed and mowing your lawn into a perfect cross hatch pattern then you wouldn’t like an orchard in your backyard. I’m not the person though. I want to pack as much yummy food into our little parcel of land as I can.
I recently read an article about the best way to maximize the amount of fruit trees you can fit into a small area. This is a blog I read often and they also have a great book called the Urban Homestead which is a wonderful read for people interested in changing their home into a homestead. The article covers the method laid out by David Wilson. I won’t go into the full details because those two links cover the topic much better than I ever could but it certainly helped me plan out my orchard better than I would have on my own.
First, it points out that I should try to find different varieties of trees that have staggered ripening dates. This way, I don’t have 4 apple trees all harvesting on the exact same week. It also talks about how you can throw out the idea that one size fits all when it comes to planting. Obviously, I’m not a commercial orchard so I shouldn’t be following the same method that places like that do. After the trees are planted and start growing, it is recommended to prune often to keep them the size you want so you can easily harvest fruit. I noticed when I was looking at tree catalogs that many have rather expensive dwarf varieties available but what is the point if you can just keep pruning a standard variety so it stays petite?
As I mentioned before, I am trying to do this on the smallest budget possible. As I was looking at different nursery sites, I found that many had their trees starting around $30 and moving up that scale. I wanted to plant a whole orchard this year so everything would start growing right away and we could hope for some fruit in a few years. I didn’t want to spend $500-$1000 to get my yard started so I did an extensive search for really reasonably priced trees. I stumbled upon Willis Orchards online. They had the best prices for trees compared to any other place I had looked at. They also had great info about when each fruit ripens, which need pollinators and what other varieties are good to pollinate with.
I purchased the small, young trees because I have belonged to the Arbor Day foundation in the past and got there 10 free tree pack for signing up. I found that they grew much faster than I had anticipated and I could get my orchard started with limited investment quikly. They won’t come until March, or more likely April, because they wait for the ground to thaw enough to plant them. In the meantime, I need to plan out my planting locations for the backyard.