Nowadays, people are learning to be more self reliant. Our family wanted to plant fruit trees as a way to ensure we always have the ability to produce food without looking to others. Over time we've learned about planting, growing fruit trees, seasonality, and how pruning is part of a care plan.
Now we're learning to enjoy family life, independence, and self sustainability by starting and maintaining our own family orchard.
The Amazing Benefits of Growing your Family Trees
When I was little, anytime I ever went to visit my great grandmother, I would make a beeline straight to her plum, apricot, and peach trees in the backyard. I would eat fresh juicy fruit until I pretty much couldn't take another bite. That's when I learned that having fruit trees was one of my life aspirations. I looked forward to the day I could walk into my backyard and pluck my own snack.
Growing fruit trees is not only a great way to have your favorite foods all the time, but an easy way to reduce long-term fruit costs and also ensure you have your own food supply available at your fingertips.
Selecting the Best Trees
If you want to produce fruit, it's important to start by knowing what you're capable of growing. Every region has its own weather considerations that impact the success of certain trees as well as soil considerations (darn those plate tectonics) and local pests. The best way to find out how your desired trees grow is to ask a reputable nursery in your area. They can help with everything from how to plant fruit trees, pruning fruit trees, and growing season as well as how to prevent fungal disease.
Clearing out the Competition
Last year, I bought a 3 acre parcel of open land near a lake in the Northwest to start my farm and adventure life. Part of the plan was to raise animals (for pets, riding purposes and food), make a garden, and start a fruit grove. Shortly after spring, we threw a plum, apricot, and pear tree in the ground near a goat-defensible corner of the property. Now, we're caring for these trees and adding two additional Granny Smith apple trees in.
Part of this means ensuring that competing plants – which popped up during summer – are cut down and knocked out of the running. For this, I use my STIHL FS 250 trimmer which is the same heavy duty trimmer I used in California to prevent fire hazards by clearing brush. This not only reduces the loss of water to my desired plants, but also helps keep unwanted bugs from being attracted to my trees.
Breaking New Ground
One of my new favorites is the STIHL BT 131 Auger. Part of the fun of this project was being able to break this bad boy out and dig my new holes for these apple trees. Because they were in 15 gallon buckets, I used this STIHL auger to make four quick collective holes in the ground to create ample room to plant the trees.
When planting trees from a nursery pot, make sure to make a hole only deep enough to cover the top of the root ball with soil as well as wide enough to allow it to expand just a bit.
The best time to start growing fruit trees is early spring if they are very small. If you are beginning with a larger tree from a nursery and they have already gone through most of the growing season, be sure to get them in the ground a little over a month before you come to dormant season.
This is especially true if you are growing fruit trees in an area with a potential for a heavy frost or even snow. You want to allow those roots to set and adjust before a freeze. This'll help establish roots, solidify the ground around the tree, and push those nutrients around.
Build a Fortress for Growing Fruit Trees
Once I got my apple trees in the ground, I did something I learned from my father. I built a retaining wall for my fruit tree. Using a shovel, I build a tiny little retaining wall around my tree to hold water in when I irrigate and to reduce waste or loss of good drained soil (i.e. runoff). It also makes it easy to apply fertilizers and other things to help prevent pest and disease infestation.
The mound of dirt around the tree should be approximately 4-6 inches deep and have about a 3-foot diameter. This also makes hose watering easier, as all you have to do is fill the “moat” to the top every couple days when the tree is first planted. This way, growing fruit trees is made a lot easier and much more manageable.
Taming Existing Trees
Back at our home in the city, we have a cherry and apple tree that were planted at the same time but performed very differently due to other trees blocking sunlight from the apple tree. This resulted in an untamed but very well grown cherry tree, and a dwarfed apple tree that only grew to a quarter of the cherry tree's size. To fix this, we cut back the Elm trees in the back (had the power company do it for free because it was touching power lines).
We also want to produce fruit that is more robust this next growing season, so we looked into pruning overgrown fruit trees. For this reason, I decided to cut this tree back a LOT to keep its energy concentrated and its growth lateral as opposed to vertical.
This is the first time we've had to deal with fruit trees being TOO BIG. That said, when it comes to growing fruit trees, sometimes cutting back is the best way forward. It's not just about volume or height, it's about health and strength.
Starting with my STIHL PL 30 loppers, I begin cutting back the smaller lower branches. I went to a local tool rental shop and picked up a STIHL HT 131 pole trimmer to make the rest of the cutting even easier. The final height of my cherry tree before dormant season is now 10 feet. This means the new branches will grown out sideways from this level. making the cherries easier for the boys to get to. It will also mean we can better deal with invading pests like fruit worms next season.
I am very much enjoying my new hobby of growing fruit trees. Knowing that I have personal access to fruit when the season comes – and that my efforts will yield something that I had a stake – in makes it that much more wonderful!
Do you have experience growing fruit trees at your house?