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 keeping 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 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.
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.
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!