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Fruit Trees Planting Spotlights

Planting Multiple Fruit Trees Close Together for the Perfect Backyard Orchard

Planting Multiple Fruit Trees???

Planting Multiple Fruit Trees??? You’ve got a backyard, but want to plant more than just the usual one or two fruit trees. Did you know you can plant multiple trees in a small space, even three or four trees in the space you’d usually only plant one? We use “Backyard Orchard Culture” method (popularized by Dave Wilson Nursery).

BYOC is where fruit trees are planted close together to create a high density planting. The main advantages of this method include successive ripening for longer harvest season, and trees kept at manageable size through pruning; usually no higher than a person can reach. This is an excellent method for those who have limited space and want to enjoy fresh produce year-round while also having easy access to it.

By keeing your trees at a manageable size, you won’t have trouble harvesting your fruit. And you avoid climbing a ladder on uneven ground. Ultimately, it’s important that the branches are kept in check so they don’t grow too high and out of reach from humans. (One exception to this is citrus and avocado trees who hold their fruit for months, and can be picked using a pole-mounted fruit picker basket without damaging fruit. We let these trees grow to 10-12 feet.)

Planting Your Fruit Trees

Planting fruit trees close together also helps to maximize the amount of fruit that you’ll get from each space over a season. A backyard grower doesn’t usually have the same expectations as a commercial grower. Instead of 500 of one type of plum or apple all at one time, you’ll have 100-150 of three to four different varieties over an extended season! High Density Planting follows the same guidance as planting individual trees, with just a few added considerations.

  • Select fruit trees that are compatible with each other (when cross-pollination is required) and grow well in your area.
  • Find a spot in your yard that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day 
  • Place the trees as little as 2-3 feet apart from one another (trunk to trunk), and aim the desired branched of each tree away from the center of the grouping.
  • Dig a hole for each tree about twice as wide as th existing root ball is level with the ground 
  • Plant the tree a few inches above the existing soil grade and mound with dirt, to account for settling
  • Water them more regularly for the first couple months after planting (2-3 times per week, especially if hot weather is approaching) and fertilize after the tree has pushed out a few inches on initial growth.

Keeping Tree Size Manageable

We keep all size in check with two main methods: pruning, and fertilizing with a low-Nitrogen fertilizer to minimize vigorous vegetative growth.

Pruning

Pruning is a great way to keep trees manageable. Although pruning can feel like a daunting task, we recommend pruning the tree twice a year; In summer to control for size and vigor, and in late winter or early spring to prune for detail. Generally speaking, you prune to remove any branches that dead, dying, diseased, deformed, or damaged. This also includes branches which are crossing over others. This can cause rubbing which makes them more susceptible disease like fire blight or other pests and diseases.

Fertilizing

We also keep fruit trees at a manageable height is to limit the amount of Nitrogen they receive through feeding/fertilization. This is because Nitrogen encourages growth and can lead to a tree that’s too tall or wide for the space. You can use a balanced fertilzer for the first couple years after planting, then switch to a low Nitrogen fertilizer once you have an established canopy. Nitrogen is the 1st number represented on a fertilizer’s N-P-K numbers. When growing a new tree’s canopy we use 15-15-15, switching to a 3-12-12 once the canopy is established.

Conclusion

The benefits of planting fruit trees close together are many. First, you’ll have a higher density orchard which means more types of fruit and less space required to grow them in your yard (or wherever they’re planted). Second, you’ll enjoy some variety in your harvests. Finally, successive ripening allows an extended harvest season that lasts longer than just two weeks – instead lasting many months of the year depending on what type(s)of fruits you plant. You can do this!

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Fruit Trees Pruning

How to Winter Prune for Happy Fruit Trees (the 5 “D’s”)

Winter Prune Your Fruit Trees

Pruning fruit trees can feel really intimidating! I remember the first time I cut a branch off a fruit tree. I was convinced I’d just killed it. It turns out that pruning trees is a very important tool in the gardener’s toolkit. Replacing old wood with new wood is a natural process for a tree. This wood replacement happens through wind, too much fruit breaking limbs, etc. A tree is designed to respond to pruning by generating new, healthy growth.

As you prune while trees are dormant (usually in the winter in North America), you’ll want to focus your pruning on what are called the “5 D’s” of winter pruning. Be sure to use a pair of quality pruning shears to prune off any wood that is: dead, dying, damaged, diseased, or deformed.

Dead and Dying

Dead twig held in a hand

Wood that is dead and dying should be pruned off without thinking twice. Cutting already dead wood is probably the easiest cut for most gardeners, as the wood is already dead. Nobody feels guilty pruning off a dried twig or branch. One way to visually tell if a branch is dead or dying is whether or not the branch is flexible. A healthy branch has some flex to it, while a dead branch is very rigid and brittle. A dead branch can often looks gray and shriveled. This IS one of the more crucial cuts, because dead wood is a common entrance for bugs to enter the tree. Keeping your tree free of dead or dying wood is an important step in keeping your tree healthy.

Damaged

hand indicating a broken twig

Wood can become damaged in many ways, often through some sort of apparent trauma. Leaving damaged wood on your tree is an invitation for trouble. Damaged wood can allow pathogens to enter the tree’s system. Boring insects can use a damaged section of a tree as an opportunity to set up shop. Damaged wood, as sad as it is to remove, should be pruned off right away to allow other healthy wood to grow in its place.

Diseased

a closeup of a diseased area on a tree branch

Diseased wood should scare most people straight. If your tree has a disease, it is IMPERATIVE that you cut this diseased wood off. Left unchecked, the pathogens can travel from the currently affected parts to the healthy parts of the plant’s system. There are many of diseases which affect different types of trees. These diseases range from devastating “fire blight” in apples and pears, to “bacterial canker” in peach and nectarine. When removing diseased limbs, there are 2 main things to keep in mind:

Cut a few inches below the visible diseased area

A disease will often be found further into the tree than is visible from the outside. When pruning off a diseased limb, cut a few inches below the visibly diseased area to ensure you removed all the diseased wood.

Sterilize your shears between cuts, and between trees

Plant pathogens are like human pathogens, in that they can travel from subject to subject through contact. In the case of a tree, the disease travels on the pruning shears. When you cut a diseased tree, you must sterilize your shears between cuts, or you risk spreading the disease to other branches on the tree. This is especially true when moving from one tree to the next. Any type of pathogen that makes its way onto your shears from a cut will affect other limbs or trees if not sterilized with bleach, Lysol, or a number of other sterilizing substances.

Deformed

A deformed tree branch

When tending to fruit trees, you want to train the tree so it will support long-term healthy production of fruit. A deformed limb will not benefit the structure over time, so it makes the most sense to prune it early. These deformities may compound and have unintended consequences if left to continue growing. Remove this type of wood and allow more healthy wood to grow in its places.

“Just Make The Cut”

A pair of pruning shears cutting a branch.

Tom Spellman (of YouTube gardening fame) says “If you’re wondering whether or not you should make the cut; just make the cut”. He has recognized that beginner gardeners are often apprehensive about cutting a branch. The truth is that trees are resilient, and we have the privilege of encouraging them to produce excellent fruit. By taking a principled stand and making those winter pruning cuts, you set your tree up to happily produce for the long term.

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DIY Building Methods Fruit Trees Garden Uncategorized

2 Options for Protecting Your Plants From the Harsh Sun

Protecting Your Plants from Sun?

The sun is critical for fruit tree and plant growth. The rays of solar energy get absorbed by the leaves, promoting photosynthesis, allowing the plant to thrive and grow. Because we eat plants (or eat animals who eat plants) we’re all considered to be solar powered! There is a downside; Just like too much sun can give us a sunburn and speed up dehydration, too much sun can harm plants.

In this article, I walk through a couple options to keep your plants from getting too much sun. This is especially during the hotter months where plants are already dealing with higher ambient air temperatures.

Man standing in front of trees

Shade Cloth

The easiest method I’ve found to to protect your trees and plants is to use inexpensive shade cloth. Shade cloth is usually made of a UV resistant polymer, and comes rated in percentages of sun protection. For example, a 40% shade cloth will provide 40% shade, while letting through 60% of the sun. Most fruit trees or other plants generally left in the open benefit from a 30-40% shade cloth. That moderate coverage ought to provide enough protection from the sun’s rays. For more fragile plants (veggies and flowers), a higher shade value (60-70%) could be beneficial.

How to Use Shade Cloth

Draping

Man standing in front of berry bushes

I deploy shade cloth two main ways: I drape it over a tree or plant, and I use a wooden frame. Draping the shade cloth over plants is a very quick way to get your plants covered. I use garden clips to secure the edges of the shade cloth around branches to keep it in place in wind. It’s possible to also poke a stem or two through the shade cloth if you haven’t got clips available. One downside to draping shade cloth is that it makes contact with the actual plant. Depending on the plant, this added weight may cause some issues or damage.

Shade frame

Man standing in front of shade cloth frames

For a longer term or no-contact method, I created wooden frames out of 1X2’s and a few nuts and bolts. I then stapled on sheets of shade cloth to the frame. Shade frames have a few advantages, especially for smaller trees and plants. They allow a no-contact method which limits smooshing or bending of branches you’d see with the draping method. She frames are easily deployed and allow you to select the angle of protection, as well as the height. The cloth doesn’t need to be clipped to the tree, because it is already clipped to the frame. One nice thing about these frames is that they fold up, allowing you to stack several of them in a small space.

Pro-tip: Weigh the bottom of the frame down with a block or rock, as wind can topple these.

Paint Your Trees!

This might sound like a crazy idea, but it’s important to paint or whitewash your trees in order to prevent sunburn and sunscald. This is a larger topic which I will cover further in another article. In short, whitewashing your tree’s trunk and main branches is an important step to preventing sun damage, much like sunscreen protects damage to your skin. There are two main ways you can whitewash.

Latex Paint

For this method, you’ll want to get white interior latex paint. Mix the paint with water in a 50%-50% solution, and use a paintbrush to apply generously to the trunk and main branches. It’s possible to also put this solution in a spray bottle. Although, I’ve found that this sometimes creates clogs or my hand gets tired from all the spraying. There is a downside to using actual paint for this. While it isn’t dangerous to the tree or fruit, as the trunk expands, more and more paint will make its way into the soil, impacting the quality of the soil over time.

IV Organic 3-in-1 Plant Guard

Like the latex paint, IV Organic is painted on using a brush or diluted down into a spray bottle. Unlike latex paint, however, IV Organic is an OMRI certified organic whitewash. It contains many things that help guard against sun AND pest damage, such as diatomaceous earth, fragrant oils, etc. A big plus is as the tree trunk expands and bark falls to the ground, the soil gets better.

While it is more expensive, I’ve exclusively switched to using IV Organic because of its additional benefits, without the drawbacks.

Man standing in garden

What’s the point?

Whatever you’re using to protect your plants from excessive sun exposure, you’re essentially trying to take the edge off. Like sunscreen on your own body doesn’t prevent all sun from getting through, these methods serve to reduce the amount of UV rays causing damage on the warmest days. Whichever method you use, ensure that you’re protecting against the direction the sun is actually coming from (in North America, make sure to paint or protect the Southern facing side).

Protect them from excessive sun and heat, and your plants and trees will thank you for giving them a reprieve from the sun, and will reward you with tasty, nutritious fruit and vegetables!

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Fruit Trees Harvesting

How to Choose a Ripe Pomegranate

Pomegranates are one of the most unique fruit one can enjoy. Hanging on the tree, they resemble beautiful deep red Christmas bulbs. Open one up, and you’re met with gorgeous flesh covered seeds called “arils”, which resemble ruby jewels more than a juicy and tasty fruit. Pomegranate arils come with a variety of nutritional benefits, and are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins (C,K) and antioxidants.

We grow 3 types of pomegranate in our TBG orchard: “Wonderful” (the most common and commercially grown cultivar), “Sweet“, and “Parfianka” (hands down, the best pomegranate I’ve tried!). Because it’s such a unique fruit, many people have trouble detecting whether or not a pomegranate is ripe and ready for harvest. This article will share a few tried and true tips to picking the perfect pomegranate.

Red pomegranate held in a hand.

Color

The first indicator I look for in choosing a pomegranate is Color. I gravitate toward those which are a deeper red than the others around them. Take a look at the area where the stem meets the pomegranate. Is it still green? If so, give it some more time. If its color matches the rest of the fruit, move on to the next step

Shape

As a pomegranate grows, the arils inside will expand, pressing against the outer skin. A ripe pomegranate will generally take on a more angular, slightly cube-ish shape.

pomegranate held in a hand

Sound

If the shape is looks about right, a very telling indicator for ripeness is sound. By flicking the fruit, you can get a good idea of whether or not a pomegranate is ripe. In fact, among similar looking pomegranates, sound has been the most reliable indicator of a ripe pomegranate for me. A pomegranate’s sound will go from a dull thud to a more hollow “wood block” sound. Some people describe the sound as metallic, but it reminds me more of the percussion instrument. This change in sound means 2 things: 1) The skin is being pulled more tightly across the fruit, like a drum, and 2) The arils are swelling with juice, allowing sound to transmit better than through the soft pith.

Weight

Finally, you’ll want to choose a pomegranate by weight. Select a pomegranate that feels heavy for its size. Weight is a good indicator of juice filled arils. To physically pick your fruit, you’ll want to use a sharp pair of pruning shears or snips, and cut the stem off close to the base. Your pomegranate will last a couple weeks after harvesting, though the skin does get more tough and difficult to work with as it ages. Now it’s time to eat it!

Let’s Eat!

You may be like me, where extracting each aril is an enjoyable activity. For others, this sounds terrible! If you just want the juice, the easiest way to juice a pomegranate is to cut a pomegranate in half along its “equator” and to use a sturdy citrus press. Whatever way you enjoy them most, pomegranates are a tasty, healthy treat!