Planning and planting your home orchard
Unlike commercial orchards with their regimental rows, your home orchard can be created from as many different types of fruit trees and berries as you like, in any number of creative layouts.
Don’t forget – if you’re short on space, fruiting trees don’t need to be confined to your home orchard. Quinces, cherimoyas and mulberries are all picturesque trees which can make beautiful specimens in your home garden. Avocados, olives, feijoas and strawberry guavas are fantastic for boundaries, and for hedging why not consider olives, guavas or feijoas. Grapes, passionfruit and of course, kiwifruit, look wonderful growing over trellis and can be used to create a brilliant natural screen.
Rows of raspberries or currents can create an attractive, if prickly, living partition or if you’re very dedicated you could espalier a pear or apple on wire.
Now that your mouth is watering at the thought of all that wonderful fruit, it’s time to start planning.
Before you start planting up a storm, it does pay to do your homework. Firstly, your soil may need some work to create the optimum conditions for your new plants. If you aren’t soil-savvy, it is worth getting a soil test done to help you figure out what you many need more or less of.
Next up is to ensure you have a good water source. You will also need to consider sunlight, aspect and prevailing wind direction. If the area is very exposed you may need to hold off planting you orchard for a year or two to give shelter plants a chance to grow. If you can’t possibly wait that long, you may need to consider individually protecting each plant. A great tip for windy areas is to plant your trees in a diamond pattern; straight rows allow the wind to funnel through, whereas a diamond pattern gives mutual protection.
Deciduous trees tend to require colder temperatures, tolerate heavier soils and like windier spots, so put them wherever the prevailing wind will hit first. By contrast, for subtropicals you will need to pick the most sheltered, still, warm, humid area, or alternatively put them in pots in a glasshouse or on the deck. Many will still produce if put in a large container. In Northland, our subtropical temperatures mean we are lucky enough to be able to grow bananas, pineapple, pepino and even certain varieties of cherries and apricots.
A word of warning – It can be very easy to plant your trees too close together. Straight from the nursery, your new purchases can look so small that it seems ridiculous to put them metres apart, but most fruit trees should be planted at least 4 metres apart. Consider how high and wide they are likely to grow and be honest about how much pruning you are likely to do.
If space is limited don’t despair! Trees grafted onto dwarf rootstock are a great option. M9 rootstock for apples is a great variety. Dwarf varieties are also worth considering. ‘Blush Babe’ apple or ‘Honey Babe’ peach are both wonderful choices. These trees are compact but still produce full size fruit.
Berries and vines should be planted closer to the house as they are generally smaller growing and need a bit more attention when the fruit starts to ripen; regular picking and covering to keep birds away from your ripening harvest.
When selecting varieties pay careful attention to their fruiting times; with a bit of careful planning you can successfully have an abundance of fruit year-round!
Make sure you have pollination covered by either planting self-fertile varieties, or carefully choosing to make sure you have pollinators for those which need it. It can be very frustrating when you’ve been waiting years for your tree to fruit, only to find out it needs a pollinator!
Happy Healthy Home Orchard
Just as we do, our plants need some TLC from to keep them in top shape. Although fruiting plants can be susceptible to pests and diseases, most of these problems are easily fixed (or better yet, prevented!). Thorough soil preparation and good planting practices, plus regular fertilising, will keep your home orchard happy and healthy.
To avoid problems, the most important task is to spray with mineral oil and copper over the winter months to keep your plants bug-free over summer. Occasionally, spraying may be required for specific problems through the growing season, but a bit of extra effort in winter will usually lead to smooth sailing through the summer.
Home Orchard Planting: The basics
To begin, dig a hole as wide as it is deep to accommodate roots when fully spread out. Break up soil in the base of the hole, mix through compost and place sheep pellets in the base of the hole.
Evergreen trees will need watering prior to planting. Remove the tree from its container, and trim off any damaged roots from bare-rooted trees. Place the tree in the hole to check the depth, adjusting the soil level so the top of the root ball sits at ground level and the graft union on grafted trees is above ground level.
Backfill the hole with soil and compost mixed together, compacting soil firmly as you go. Once planted, water the tree well to settle them, mulch with compost or fine bark, stake the tree and protect with wind or frost cloth if necessary. Finally, apply slow-release fertiliser in early spring and enjoy your bountiful harvest!
Let us help you find the perfect property to establish the home orchard of your dreams. If you can’t wait that long – we’ll find you a ready-made one! Call our sales specialists today.