bareroot fruit trees.....4 trees in 1 hole?

lucia_ca(z9 CA)September 17, 2008

Hi everyone,

I'm looking forward to my nursery publishing its bareroot fruit tree list this November and am planning more-or-less what I'll want to order and where I'll want to plant it.

This year, however, I want to plant 4 (yes, four) bareroot trees in 1 (yes, one) a website suggests.

Am I crazy to do this? Have you done this or have any experience and/or stories to share regarding planting 4 bareroots of the same fruit, but differing varieties, in one hole?

I've tried the 3-in-1, 4-in-1 trees and, for example, my plum has degenerated into having only one variety's limbs survive and at this point, I can't really tell what the name of the variety is. All the other limbs have either torn off or have become non-producing..... It looks like one variety sort of "won out" and now even that doesn't produce much. Got a whopping 10 plums this year.....maybe because it needs the other varieties around to fruit well?

So I think I'll have better long lasting luck with separate trees for different varieties...but need to save square feet space, so am thinking of the one-hole idea.... I'm just not sure how far apart to plant the 4 bareroots and do the 4 trunks eventually meld into 1 big happy gorgeous mess of a fruiting tree?



lucia_ca in coco county

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

The trees will always be separate, but just like in your cocktail tree, NOT EQUAL. It will be up to you and your pruning to try and equalize the growth and prevent the stronger from taking over. Personally I would prefer them grown spaced apart even if only three feet between them the maintenance would be easier. Al

    Bookmark   September 17, 2008 at 8:21AM
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vall3fam(9 CentralCA)

Hi Lucia,

I have 26 trees planted in this manner. I have 3 peaches, 3 nectarines, 4 plums, 4 pears, 4 cherries, 4 pluots/apriums and 4 peach/nectarines. The oldest group is in it's third season and it is the three in one hole. I planted them about 18" apart and I can see it's too close for my taste. The others I've planted 30" apart and find it's easier to keep separate and keep pruned open.

I do find I must be diligent with my summer pruning as once they're established, it's easy for them to get over grown. I prune once in May and again late August.

As Al says, you need to keep the trees growing somewhat equally. The one that tries to be dominate and larger, I prune more severely and shorter than the lesser trees, so that they can catch up.

I should have my first "real" crops next year and was teased with a preview of what's to come this year. Even with keeping the trees small, there is still ample fruit to be had. I've deliberately chosen trees that have a wide range of ripening times so that I can extend my season of fresh fruit all summer.

My three in one hole, being three years old, I am now keeping at just my head high (being 6'). That makes it easy for pruning, picking, spraying and by seeing what happended this year, bird protection!

It's still an experiment for me and in the early stages. But I am pleased so far. So, if you have any questions, let me know!


    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 1:07AM
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CA Kate

This is the pertinent portions of a thread from a few years ago that might help:

Multiple Plants in One Hole

The three-to-a-hole thing is a totally new concept to me. I question if that would work because each of the trees would grow at unequal rates. I have a Fuerte, a Reed and a Haas planted in close proximity (15 feet apart) and clearly the Fuerte is growing much faster than the other two. All three were planted at the same time, but the Fuerte is easily twice as big as the other two.

If you put three trees in the same hole, wouldn't one eventually overgrow the other two?

Three in a hole planting is easy. To insure good drainage first make a 12" to 18" mound that is at least 4 or 5 feet wide. Then dig a hole in it large enough for the three 5 gallon size trees. Throw some slow release fertilizer in the hole. Make sure the trees are a few inches above the soil surface. They may settle a little. And you don`t want them planted too low. Cover the whole mound with a thick coat of mulch and you are set. The trees won`t grow any slower because they are sharing a hole. Its a great space saver.

Reed and Pinkerton are Guatemalan and Fuerte is a hybrid. You need a Mexican for better pollination. Bacon would be a good choice.

For years I`ve done the 3 in a hole planting with all my fruit trees from avocados, persimmons, cherimoyas, asian pears and guavas to peaches, plums, nectarines, apples and apricots. I get good production from all of them. I`ve never had one of the three trees grow faster and take over the hole.

It works especially well with stone fruits like peaches. In one hole I have a early bearing peach, a mid season and a late season variety.

My avocado trees are still young so I don`t get that many avocados yet.

Three in one or 4 in 1 up to several in one hole is a very good alternative to multigraft trees. I have pears that are not graft compatible so I planted them all in one hole, and they are not complaining. They've been busy supplying me with fruits for two seasons now. But then again, most of my fruits are multi-grafts, some I did the grafting myself.

It is still possible to plant them in one hole if the difference in size is not great. So just find a bigger Granny Smith to match the size of your Pink Pearl. During the dormant season, you can dig out the pink pearl to bare root it. Make sure to prune the top to compensate for the root disturbance. You can prune the pearl to be the same size as that of granny smith. Then plant them back together in the same hole.

Deciduous trees that go a period of dormancy are okay for this. I have even dug bigger trees, bare-rooted them and relocated them to the proper place. When the winter temperature is mild, I dump a lot of ice around the plant everyday for one week before I dig them out and bare-root them. You can not do this with Avocados and most other evergreen fruit trees like citruses.

??? You're mentioning 5 gal plants.... I was under the, perhaps misguided, impression that to do this 'multiples in one hole' technique you had to use bare root trees. ????

You don`t see bare root avocado plants. For some reason only "stone" fruits like peaches, plums and apricots are available bare root. I`ve only seen avocado plants in 5 or 15 gallon containers. The trunks aren`t as close as they would be if they were bare root, but it hasn`t made a difference in my trees.

I think the reason you don't see bare-root Avocados and Citrus is because they're evergreen trees. You can't really bare-root an evergreen commercially.
__________________________________________________________________ can i place all three 5gal buckets(with the bottoms cut out) in the hole?? will that work??? only reason ide like to do that is i once heard that the buckets serve as a guide for the roots to shoot more downward rather than outward.. that way the roots dont get all crazy and lift my back wall up in the future... but if you just drop all 3 in the hole bare root style so be it..whatevers best for the tree's is best for me. i love hass and reed never tasted bacon though .. anymore tasty trios that will work great together??..


    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 2:20AM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

I have had good success with this. Follow the instructions on Dave Wilson Nursery's website.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 7:29PM
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Hello all,

I have been reading these threads with a lot of interest, since I am starting an orchard as well. However, the thing that is not clear to me is, does this arrangement primarily save space or does the vicinity cause the trees to yield more than they would if separate? Also, any other advantages?

Also in some threads people have discussed extending the season with this. Was that due to plnating of different varieties or does this arrangement, even with same variety, extend seasons?

Sorry, if this was already explained. I did not get a clear answer to this. TIA.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 11:11AM
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lucia_ca(z9 CA)

Hi Homey Bird,

I am doing this for several reasons...... (and hope the money spent will be a good investment in the long run!)

The advantages as I understand them (and I am NO expert....I'm an experimenting newbie like you) are that you save space, you enable easy cross pollination because of the proximity, your harvest is more manageable (because you prune the trees to stay smaller..and I think they tend to stay a bit smaller on their own since they are "crowding" one another) and your harvest is extended (because you plant varieties with differing maturation dates).

If you do a search on "best taste in fruit testing, consecutive harvest times" you will find my personal plan for choosing several varieties with different maturation dates (most of them scored high on the Dave Wilson tasting test....but I don't know how inclusive the test was....I hope it isn't simply a marketing ploy!)

good luck and let me know how it goes for you!

---lucia in N CA

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 7:17PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

This is great news to me!! I love lemons, limes, grapefruit and all that. I can't wait till the bare root varieties come to Costco. I was going to buy dwarf, but, if putting them all in one hole dwarfs them, why bother? I am very excited! Thanks for all your information!! I will go visit that website you suggest! Hurry up! Get that delivery truck to the stores now! I want my citrus!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 12:09PM
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lucia_ca(z9 CA)

Hi desertdance,

Please read up at Dave Wilson's site before planing and spending.......

I think you should have the SAME fruit (just different varietieis) on the SAME rootstock when you plant in "one" big hole....

....though, since I've never done this before, I cannot say I know what all the limitations are......

have fun and good luck!
----lucia in coco county

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 12:42AM
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I have 3 nectarines growing together from some seeds I dumped in the ground a few years ago. I had 4 but pulled one because it was smaller. I read a long time ago that trees could be planted together but was told by my horticulture brother that they would strangle each other. They are only about 3 or 4 feet tall and I was going to take one or two out but now I'm thinking I should just leave them. Will it take them longer to fruit if they do stay together?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 3:31PM
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