Designing with fruit & citrus trees

modern_miss(10A (15 Sunset) SF Bay Area CA)December 2, 2013

OK. I've finished the list of fruiting trees and shrubs that I want to plant in my backyard. About 2/3 are deciduous dwarf fruit trees, and 1/3 are evergreen (dwarf citrus and avocado). And then I have a bunch of blueberries and brambles. Plus the usual kitchen garden plants...

I want to work them into the landscape in a more natural way than just an grid or orchard. But when I look at photos of edible landscapes it looks looks like there is stuff planted under fruit can i figure out what to plant under/around fruit trees? I thought this was a no-no ---that the roots would compete with the fruit this not the case? Also, I'm expecting that I'll have to cover some of these trees (like the cherries or the blueberries) covered with nets to prevent the birds from getting the ripe fruit. How do I maintain access to trees?
Finally, would you recommend grouping these trees? Should I keep the fruiting evergreens (citrus + avo) together in a group - separate from the deciduous trees - or alternate deciduous and evergree?

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Suzi AKA DesertDance

It's too bad your post got neglected for so long. I think Christmas interferred with activity on some forums.

I'm in a different situation than you, so my advice will be limited. We inherited a ton of fruit trees, all on drip systems. One 1/2 acres of random plantings. I don't think anyone thought it out, but we don't plant anything under the trees. Weeds grow freely on the steep hill near the roots, and the trees still produce.

When you group things, you should consider the water and soil needs of both, and try to match them. It seems to me that both Avocados and Citrus like the same treatment because I've seen many grown grouped like you want to do.

Our Avocado is by our Macadamia and the Anna Apple. We didn't plan that. It just came that way.

Our citrus are random, and some are on the same drip as the peach, plum and apricots.

We did plant Mulberry bushes separately, and will plant wine grapes close to them. We have wine grapes in many areas of our acreage.

I plant herbs near water valves for the ease of reaching them and the assurance that inevitable leaks will make them happy.

I hope now that you have one answer, more will follow!


    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 1:21PM
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Jennifer_Ruth(Z 10, Sunset Z 23)

It's okay to have grass or other plants growing beneath your fruit trees. For the home gardener, that won't affect your crop enough to matter (it's different for farmers, who need maximum production). I've grown fruit trees in our lawn in Southern California, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

For grouping the trees, I think it looks more pleasing to group deciduous trees with other deciduous trees, and citrus with other citrus. I like having citrus planted along the route we take from the car to the house, because that way we can enjoy their fragrance as we come and go.

One way to plant deciduous fruit trees in a more natural arrangement is to plant similar trees in groups of three, here and there in your yard. (I'm not talking about the three-in-one-hole method; you'll still space them out some). For instance, you might have three apple trees in one area, three peaches in another, and so on. That also helps with fertilization if you're growing apples or plums or other trees that are not self-fertile.

When you plant the groups, don't put them in rigid triangles; if you stagger them a little, they look more natural. You might want to have one or two pairs of trees, too, to help with the natural look.

Blueberries make a very pretty hedge, so you might want to plant those along the front or side of your property.

Blackberries can be very unruly. I would put those where they're not particularly visible. Raspberries make quite a nice hedge. In Wisconsin, we planted the everbearing raspberries, because you can just mow them down once a year --very easy care! We had them as a border between our lawn and flower garden (they will spread, though, so we kept a strip of lawn on each side of them and mowed it regularly to keep them in check).

Cherries will definitely need bird netting. It's good you're using dwarf trees! I'm not sure about blueberries.

You live near my favorite nursery, Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond. She carries a grape called Emeryville Pink that will succeed in your area. It's listed in her online catalog under Vitis Emeryville Pink. It's not available all the time, though, so you might want to call them and ask when they'll have it next.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your garden! I'm sure it will be beautiful and fruitful.


Here is a link that might be useful: Emeryville Pink Grape

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 8:23PM
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farmerkevin(USDA 9)

I agree with the other posts. Especially about planting in groups.

I have lots of citrus, mainly as an outline to the yard. In this pic, this is a row of nectarines. While my layout is lots of straight lines, my yard is longer than wide, and faces north to south. So the row of nectarines is to hopefully provide shade as I walk back to the very back yard. I also planted for privacy, so that as the trees grew taller, I'd get privacy from the 2 story houses that they built behind me.

If I had more width to my property, I'd have planted more staggered.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 2:23AM
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Have you studied Permaculture at all? This methodology talks about the benefits of planting shrubs, herbs, flowers, etc... underneath fruit trees to benefit them, including pollination. Unfortunately I can't grow citrus trees in Central Indiana, but I planted a Stella Cherry, 4n1 Apple and a Contender Peach tree in late May. They are all growing great! This fall, I will be planting two Pear trees (one Bartlett and one Chojuro Asian Pear), a Montmorency Tart Cherry, Sunglo Nectarine, 2n1 Plum and an All-in-One Almond tree in my backyard. All trees were purchased as bare-root trees from Stark Bros Nursery in Missouri.

In the coming weeks, I am going to be tilling up a large area of my backyard so that I can underplant the fruit trees with herbs, fruiting shrubs (Bush Cherries and Red Currants) as well as lots of wildflowers. A portion of my yard will still be used as my annual vegetable garden, and I will also be planting perennial vegetables in other parts of the yard as well. I'm hoping that all of this will cut down on weed control, eliminate competition for the fruit trees and help with pollination. This is my first post on this forum but as everything is planted and ready to go, I'll be sure to post pictures.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2014 at 2:13PM
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@mfaulkner Please do update us. I am also developing a food forest.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2014 at 8:37PM
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ive read planting in groups works well, and
it seems to work fine for me.

i have a jujube, papaya, ginger, basil, Jerusalem artichoke and passionflower within 6ft of each other.
no problems.

I would not let grass grow near the foot of a fruit tree
not most of them anyway. herbs would be a much better choice. like mint or nasturiums.
sweet potato makes a good ground cover.
so do melons
you could incorporate vines like Kiwi or passionflower.

i have lots of flowering herbs to bring in beneficial insects.
catnip makes great tea also (a bit sedating too)

you could make a 5 point circle with 5 fruit trees
at like 6 or 8 ft from each other
and have a banana (or bamboo) in the middle
the banana leaves are excellent compost
and ground cover (so does bamboo)

    Bookmark   December 27, 2014 at 2:30PM
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Hi MM, I know exactly what you are experiencing. I too have an empty backyard and a list of trees which I want to plant in a pleasing manner to create outdoor rooms, I am thinking of placing evergreen citrus on the outside to create a privacy screen and keep the deciduous trees in the center so we can enjoy the sunshine in the winter. We have a 1/2 acre lot with the back yard facing south west so we have lots of sun. I have tried sketching different designs on graph paper placing trees based on their ultimate height. I used color pencils to get a better idea. I have not found any book which is really helpful in landscape designing with fruit trees. They are filled with other stuff. Just ordered one on amazon - which has 73 landscape designs by different landscapers - Ground breaking food gardens by Nikki Jabbour.Will let you know how that turns out. Please share if you found any landscape plans.

This post was edited by texasgardner on Tue, Dec 30, 14 at 23:07

    Bookmark   December 30, 2014 at 8:09PM
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