Late last year while wondering around a local nursery I began to notice fruit trees for sale. I knew nothing whatsoever about fruit trees, but it seemed like something I should explore to learn more about since our family had recently moved out into the country and had some land that might work to grow something on.
While I was learning more about this new mysterious subject, I stumbled upon Growing Fruit. I can’t begin to explain how helpful the members of this forum have been in sharing their knowledge.
Since it’s now been about 6 months from starting this adventure with much more than a curiosity, I thought I’d create a thread to share how things have been progressing in our tiny “Fruit Forest” as we like to call it. I’m in Zone 8b, just SW of Portland, Oregon
One of the things learned was that it was important to get a soil analysis test and work elements into the soil before planting. I dug a few holes, took some samples, mixed them up and then took this soil mixture down to a local lab. After getting the soil analysis test back the recommended elements were spread out over the planting area and tilled into the soil. (late Feb '20)
I had many decisions to make, no experience to rely on, and wanted to get something in the ground soon. How many trees to plant, what kind of trees to plant, what kind of tree spacing and row layout, and on and on…
Given the space I had and how we planned on using it, I decided to plant 4 rows of trees with 6 trees in each row. I was beginning to follow Backyard Orchard Culture ideas and spaced the trees on a 11ft grid. The rows would follow the slope downhill in order to help with the drainage.
After a few long periods of rain (you did notice I live in Oregon right?), I began to wonder about the soil not draining well enough. I asked about this and the helpful Growing Fruit members here suggested that planting the trees on mounds would alleviate the drainage concern.
I read very mixed views both for and against staking trees, but ultimately decided to put in stakes for now with plans to remove them later on down the road when the little trees had been given time to spread their roots.
What types of fruit, what varieties, what root stock, what is successive ripening, what does my family like to eat, what even grows here? These were the next pressing decisions to be made.
Fruit tree varieties are a fascinating subject to learn about. Seems there are so many conflicting opinions on best flavor, viability, etc. There would always be second guessing, but I narrowed down the choices for the 24 spots I had prepared for them.
It was decided that cherries, peaches & nectarines, plums, plum-hybrids, pears, and apples would be the types of fruit. We’d try and plant 4 varieties of each for pollination and flavor selection. The peaches & nectarines might be iffy for this location, but our family likes them so well I was willing to roll the dice.
The adventure continued with the task of finding a source for the tree’s I had selected for our soon to be “fruit forest”. As luck would have it, One Green World is not all that far away and they had almost every bare root tree in the rootstock I was searching for. The rest of the trees I ordered from Raintree Nursery, just north of us in Washington.
As the trees arrived, I put them into garbage cans filled with water to keep the roots moist. Before planting the bare root trees, I dipped the roots into another bucket filled with mycorrhizal fungi concentrate & water. Maybe this was magic pixie dust but figured it couldn’t hurt.
It was the end of February '20 and the moment of trepidation had come. I had read in Backyard Orchard Culture about this next step.
In order to establish a low scaffold and to keep tree size manageable, a topping was now in order. Using my newly purchased Felco shears I carefully cut into these fragile looking bare root trees hoping I wasn’t going to regret this unintuitive and seemly rash act. The deed was done, and the evidence left me to ponder what I had just done.
I am excited for you on your new journey. I am at about the same stage you are. I started my backyard orchard three years ago. I am just outside of Portland Oregon. So I am very interested in how your trees grow and handle our conditions here.
I have many of the same varieties as you so hopefully we chose wisely. I have gold rush and honeycrisp apple, Bartlett and comice pear, two plums (euro prune unk and grafted shiro/satsuma), Rainier cherry, frost and Elberta peach, and multiple figs. I also have had lots of success with berries and grapes here. I plan on adding a persimmon and more olives this year. I don’t spray at this time and there are no plans in the future.
My peaches have grown well and I even got fruit this year. You may have issues with peach leaf curl. I just pulled the infected leaves off in the spring every few days.
The plums fruited well. But the European ones did get some “worms”. The Asian plums were bug free.
The pears are solid and productive. There are a few with worms but not many.
Rainier cherry is very solid and tasty.
Apples haven’t fruited yet.
Figs are very productive and growing well.
All the berries and grapes we doing very well. The currants got catepillars and worms though.
I think you have made the proper steps so far. Keep it up and good luck.
While Oregon is known for getting its fair share of rain, we actually have dry warm summers (it’s going to be 99F here today).
It was decided that putting in irrigation to the orchard would pay dividends in the future and give me less to worry about. I put in a valve manifold and then trenched laterals between each row and then to drip rings around each tree. For good measure, faucets were added to the corners of the orchard area. In a future post I’ll detail how I’m measuring and monitoring soil moisture.
One morning I was up early and enjoying the peacefulness of the country when I noticed a few deer walking across the field. I couple of days later I found them in our back yard. I then realized that they would soon be snacking on the leaves of our little fruit trees if I didn’t put some type of fence in place to keep them at bay.
After a bit of research I ordered 7ft tall fencing, poles, and a few gates to go around the perimeter of our orchard and proceeded to install the fence. It’s staked down at the bottom preventing anything from crawling under as well.
Wow, 99ºF @ 45ºN, that’s pretty toasty. I had you pegged closer to the crashing waves, but that’s sounding more inland. Got to 108º here in the desert and thanks to the breeze I get to go out and salvage a couple hours yet. Love the journal. Keep 'em coming.
As the little bare root trees began to leaf out (April-May '20), so did all manner of weeds that began growing up between the rows of trees. I’m trying to minimize the use of herbicides in our little fruit forest, so the weeding quickly became tedious.
I pondered all types of row covers. The first priority was weed control, and second was moisture retention, and third was longevity. With this in mind I settled on cedar chips. We covered the row area between trees with weed control fabric as an extra defensive measure.
So far this seems to be working well. The weeds are kept at bay, and it’s made a tremendous difference to the moisture stability in the soil. At some point I may border the cedar chips with log poles, but it’s been staying in place fairly well even with the orchard mowing.
Our little fruit forest has transformed the once empty muddy field and created an enjoyable space to spend time in.