Orchard is Done!!

mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)February 23, 2014

Well at least this years trees are in. I hope to add oh maybe 5 more next year.

So far I have 3 peach, Ranger, Elberta, O' Henry, 2 apple Fuji and Gala, 2 plum, Methley and Santa Rosa

i need to add a Granny Smith apple. Those are my daughters favorite and she would be so excited to have them. I also would like to add one more either Peach or nectarine. I understand Nectarines dont do so well here so may just get another peach. Probably Red Haven. Oh and cherries too but that will be next year.

And I would also like to try some Pluots. I havent found much information on how well they would do here but I love to eat them so I cant see a reason to not at least try them.

I spaced these 4 feet between trees and 6 feet between rows. I plan to never let them get more than 7-8 feet tall and probably a bit shorter.


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If those are dwarf varieties, using some form of espalier pruning technique might work for those planting distances. Nothing else will work, at those distances, even for dwarf varieties.

If those are standard varieties, you've planted them waaaay to close together, no matter how you prune them.

An open vase pruning technique might work for dwarf varieties planted at seven or eight feet apart, providing the variety doesn't get more than eight to ten feet or so high, at maturity. That's still mighty close, tho'. Four feet apart? Use espalier.

Another option, which I've employed, is to double plant trees in one bed and use a combination of open vase and espalier pruning techniques, but plant the tree beds six or seven yards apart, at a minimum.

Unless you want to spend some time keep things pruned back, and hard, and spend a lot of time and money on disease and pest control, you may want to reposition those trees. For example, if a tree grows to be fifteen feet tall at maturity, it will generally be fifteen to twenty feet wide at maturity. If you don't want to keep them pruned back, you will want to plant two such trees about fifteen to twenty feet apart. If a tree is thirty feet tall, the ideal would be a sixty foot distance between two similar trees, etc. and so on. Unless you like to do a lot of spring and/or fall pruning. (I like pruning, myself, but I'm weird that way.)

I'm not certain of your intent, here, so that's just what I think. YMMV. Batteries not included.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:05PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

thanks for the info Warren. I have been studying and researching High density planting and Im confident in what I have done and plan to do a lot of pruning. As I mentioned I wont allow these trees to be any taller than 7 or 8 feet. They will be the height I want, not what they want. If I fail its no big deal.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:24PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Mike, When I read your initial post, I thought to myself "Oh wow, the pruning it will take to keep those manageable!

'm not fond of pruning so I would go crazy if I had to do the level of pruning that will be required for your high-density orchard. You're a better person than me if you're willing to spend that much time maintaining trees.

My fruit trees, which aren't dwarfs, generally are about 20' from each other, but it wasn't because of any great plan.....I just stuck them in open, sunny parts of the yard that had room for a fruit tree. Each tree is about as wide as it is tall. I keep them at about 12' tall, and they are pruned into a lovely bowl shape. In our best fruit year ever, which was either 2009 or 2010, I think, we harvested over 400 lbs. of fruit. Some years they all bloom too early and we lose the fruit to late freezes.

Fifteen years later, other yard trees are starting to shade the fruit trees a bit too much although we have limbed up some yard trees to let more sunlight through to the lawn and the fruit trees. Now I'm planting replacements for the fruit trees out in the back garden far away from any possible shade trees. By the time my yard trees are too shaded to produce fruit well, the newer trees out back will be large enough to produce good yields.

We do have Mexican plum trees growing in our woodland as understory trees and they generally get enough sunlight to produce a decent crop, so my yard trees may not suffer as much from being shaded as I think they will in a few more years.

I would love to have a real orchard with everything neatly planted in nice orderly rows and a tall fence to keep the deer out, but it is unlikely to ever happen. That won't stop me from putting a few trees in the newish (new last year) fenced garden out back though. I already have two fig trees out there. I'd like to add plums, peaches and cherries, but will have to plant all of them in gopher cages because last year the voles journeyed uphill from the woodland and ate the fig tree roots. I saved the tree they loved most, but it was touch-and-go for a while.

My favorite tree is the orange tree in a large container and I'd grow it even if it never produced fruit because the aroma of orange blossoms is simply intoxicating.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:37AM
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It sounds like an interesting experiment, Mike. keep us updated, will ya?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:59AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

I know its seems crazy to do what i am but sometimes you have to push the envelop a little and try new things. In the end if I fail Im only out some time and a little money for the trees. I do have a big enough yard to space them as Tradition tells us to but this plan works better for me. I will keep this post updated.
However I did do some thinking last night and I may move the apples. They are in the middle. That would give me 12 feet between rows but I will keep the 4 feet between trees. I dont know yet Im still debating. This tight of spacing will require winter, spring and summer pruning. I am single and have a bunch of free time so thats not much of an issue. Plus oddly I love pruning plants. My inspiration has been Tom Spellman and his videos on Backyard Orchards. It amazing what you can actually do with pruning. I know they are in California where growing is easy and I have taken that into consideration.
I also found a lot of information on a concept called Tall- spindle and fruiting wall pruning. Basically the trees are planted on 3 foot centers allowed to reach a desired height. Once they reach that height they are topped and the canopy is kept at around 3 to 3.5 feet creating a Wall of apples. Commercial orchards are starting to adapt this technique because of the huge increase in yields per acre and easy of maintenance. I am by no means a professional but the ideas seems simple and efficient. I dont have a need for bushels of fruit and I dont want to get out the ladder or pole to harvest so this plan seems right for me.

Edit= I do think I will move the apples that are in the middle. I think I will move them to the edge of the garden. That will give me about 12 feet between the peach and plum row. The apples would go the opposite direction and form another row that would be about 10 feet from the end of the other rows. I drew it on paper and it should create a nice walk way between all the trees.

This post was edited by mksmth on Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 16:23

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 9:27AM
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I have a plumcot and it is wonderful if the freezes dont get me. It blooms and harvests early. I am trying to get a aprium and a trilite (peachXplum) they have the same problem i understand but the plumcot is so good i have to try the others

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 5:54PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

My peaches and plums tend to bloom too early at least 1 year out of every 3 and the freezes get them, but in the years when the freezes don't get them, they are so incredibly wonderful that it is worth putting up with the bad years.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:22PM
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I don't think you're crazy, Mike. After you explained yourself and revealed that you'd done your research, I honestly believe that it'll be an interesting experiment. I do think that your adjustment to twelve feet between rows is a wise decision. This early in the planning and planting stages, adjustments are easy and relatively simple. Getting the trees in the right position for an espalier technique (an assumption, on my part) can be tricky, but once the limbs are established in the right position and the 'training' has begun, it gets a lot easier.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 11:15PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Well after more time thinking about my layout I decided yesterday to move the trees a little. I also added one more, a Red Haven peach. I couldnt resist it for $12.99 at tractor supply. Plus it was on my wish list.

this is the final spacing but I did leave room on the south side to add more trees in the future.
the row on the left is 3 peaches, 4' on center and 4' from the fence. The tree in the row towards the outside is a Fuji apple. It is 7 feet from the peaches.

The row on the right is Redhaven and the plums. they are also 4' on center but now 8' from the other row. The tree on the outside is Gala.
My goal is to add on more row in similiar fashion. Types are yet to be determined but I do know I will add a Granny smith apple for my daughter.

This set up will allow the apples to have more room and the peach/plums rows to be more of a hedge style pruning and give more room to walk between them all. Everything will be pruned to below 7-8 feet and the canopies will be around 4-5 feet in diameter.
I could have moved the apple closer to the edge of the mulch but I wanted to leave as much under the canopy as I could and have room to mow against it.

So far only O'henry is really showing any bud break.

this photo makes them look a lot closer but really its not. I guess we will see how well I do.


This post was edited by mksmth on Mon, Mar 10, 14 at 14:45

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 2:32PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Just an update. Keep in mind the spacing is probably closer than anyone would think it right but I am doing this as a High density planting and size control will be done with summer and winter pruning. Nothing will be more than 6-7 feet tall. The peach and plums rows might end up in Hedge style one day. Havent decided but it may just happen on its own.

Everything is leafing out nicely. All except a Red Haven Peach. It was a bare root from tractor supply. It looked Ok in the store. Was bit dehydrated but I thought it was fine. No bud break yet except for a small sucker from the root stock.. the scion cambium is still green but I dont have much hope. When the big box stores put theirs on sale I may get something else. If not Ill wait until next year.
I Even had some flowering on a couple. Ranger peach and Gala apples set a couple of fruit and they actually made through the freeze. I know I need to remove them this season but sure is hard to.

I found a Granny smith at Walmart. It was really a freak thing too. I was walking the garden center and they had just gotten about 8-10 trees all for $9.98 each. The Granny smith at the store by my house was not the shape I wanted so I drove to 3 other stores and finally found one that I liked.
I have since added a couple grapes that you cant see in the photo.
Hopefully in a few years Ill have stuff to eat.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 9:23AM
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It looks great to me. I might be a little envious. I was supposed to be planting an orchard starting last fall but things made a turn and I had to put it off 1 yr. I look forward to getting fruit trees.
how long until that size reaches maturity?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 9:53AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Hey Kim.

I had other things I probably should have used my money on this year. But I came across someone, may have been Tom Spellman that said, The best time to plant fruit trees was 5 years ago.That has really stuck with me so I splurged and got it going. Really though I only have about $120 invested.

Im by far an expert so everything im doing is going to be trial and error. I dont plan to push these trees to grow. By that I mean I will provide enough nutrition if they need it to keep them happy and healthy but not so much that the vigor gets out of control. I am thinking by this time 2016 they will be just about the biggest they will ever be allowed to reach. After that I will continue to prune them to size.
We will see in a few years how well or how bad I do.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:47AM
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I have a few trees I planted last year that are doing well at the property I gave my son and his bride, peach, pear, and a pecan . They will share with me but I really desire my own space. I enjoy helping the kids but I am respectful that it is theirs.
I also have a friend who will give me 20 or pecan as soon as I have a place! I have moved so much I guess its hard to grow roots.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:50PM
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Mike, I'm glad you moved them and gave them a bit more space. The new layout, with your pruning plan, is absolutely doable. Looks good. You should have some very nice fruit out of that orchard.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 10:52AM
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