Micro orchard expansion: help/advice wanted!

Hi folks! This site has been incredibly helpful as I plan, and I’m hoping that you guys might be able to help me make a few decisions.

  1. Quick background: Zone 6A (Western NY), small yard (900sqft), lots of veg growing experience. Planted four oblique cordons three years ago (Liberty apple, Freedom apple, Anjou pear, Bartlett pear). All growing well in their third spring, Bartlett fruited this year, still waiting on the others. Also grow raspberries and blueberries.

  2. Expanding the oblique cordons to include four more apples. Sun is a little less than ideal here further down the fence: 5 hours (8:30-1:30), with some dappled sun for another hour or two. Figured English apples would be a better fit, and wanted to extend the harvest season. Thinking Alkmene, Williams Pride, Egremont Russet, and Hudson Golden Gem. Chose them for variety of season, spur and growth habit. Would love to hear if you have other opinions. Apples you’ve grown successfully as cordons or other restricted forms, particularly under less-than-ideal sunlight conditions? Will purchase locally from here at Cummins Nursery.

  3. Have a west fence that gets sun from 11:30 to 6:30. Have the plan to train two trees as fans: a sour cherry and a plum. They’d be planted close - 6 ft spacing between them. I had originally considered a North Star cherry and an Opal plum, but several developments/concerns: Would a bush cherry (Romeo) be more appropriate as its growth habit is smaller? Can they still be trained as fans? Am I asking for trouble putting the plum that close? I uploaded a photo for reference.

  4. I have a great sun spot where an old whiskey barrel sits. 8+ hours. Was thinking of training a tree to a small open vase (max 5ft spread, height similar). I love apricots, but I know they can be difficult. Also considered one of Cliff England’s hybrid persimmons (JT-02 perhaps?). Would love thoughts on a smaller, more agreeably managable tree that would sort of round out the other plantings I’m considering.

Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. It’s a big step for me, but I’m excited for you guys to help me weigh some decisions based on your experiences.

Many thanks!


Watching this, specifically the whiskey barrel question.

I am moving in a similar direction. Looking for dwarf fruit tree suggestions for large containers. Something that would overwinter outside in zone 6. Apricots and persimmons are on my list as well, as well as more apple trees.

Good to know I’m not alone! My plan is to remove the whiskey barrel and plant in ground, as I tend, for whatever reason, to universally suck at growing things in containers.

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Got it. Unfortunately, I have a driveway that I don’t use but can’t get rid of, per the town building code. So, my plan is to turn it into a “fruitway”.


I driveway farm

That was in March. Here is 5 minutes ago


I have a small yard and 2 dogs too. They have their path around everything. My backyard.


Cool spread. How do you cut the grass with everything so close together?

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Looks lovely there. Are those wires and bamboo canes for the new apples or for the fans? If you are only doing two cordons with apples, clearly you are leaving some space open that could be filled with more branches… though the pattern will be easier to see like that since you will have the contrast of the unfilled area.

My best behaved and most fruitful espalier tree has been Goldrush, but season length is already borderline for me in 6b, might be unripe most years for you. I like Wickson a lot and it was doing well for me too until I killed it by painting straight neem oil on the trunk in July. It is pretty vigorous though so you would want it on B9 or something small for roots.

For your low sun areas, also consider gooseberries and currants. They fruit pretty well with little sun.


It’s not easy! It takes a long time. mostly use the weed trimmer, and a few minutes with the lawn mower! Once I accidentally ran over a small tart cherry. Man was I pissed. It did recover but I lost a year.
@Josh it’s good you’re planning this out. It’s fun to realize the end result. Now I’m fine tunning mine.

One thing I did was try to add some ornamental fruits to give it some character, but still basically be a fruit garden. Like Black Lace elderberry, flowering currants, and contorted trees like the contorted quince which remains fairly small. I also have the contorted Jujube So.


Holy Moley, Drew! That’s a ‘BLEEP-load’ of pots!!! :grin:

Yes I’m evaluating a lot of plants. I finally stopped adding until I eliminate some. I had set backs which delayed evaluation so I got way ahead of myself. I go around the neighborhood a few times a year during garbage day and pick up more pots than I can use.
Not everything is in pots. Most of the backyard is in raised beds.

I have dogs and they understand not to go into the raised beds.,They seem not to be able to tell grass from garden unless I have the raised beds.

Just some ideas of what can be done.


As for whiskey barrel and 5x5 high and wide space, you might want to plant a couple haskap, for very early very hardy fruit. Or goumi. Or jostaberry. Or goji, for something less berryish, more vegetable-like.

Haskap, goumi, and goji have been precocious here at a small size. Jostaberry looks to be coming on like a champ, too.

Personally, I would try a couple interlocking, pollinating haskap bushes to have such early blue fruit, May ripe, I would think. May or June or both depending on the varieties. Just one choice among dozens though.

I love this post and your containers! You give me hope. I need to plant two cherry trees in two separate pots. I need advice. I want to get the soil composition correct, since I can create it now and changing it later will be difficult. The pots are the biggest ones I could carry out of Costco years ago. Beautiful salmon Terracotta. I lined them with a hard plastic pot 14 years ago and have enjoyed them for a while. But can I just buy a few bags of soil and mix it with what? Hummus? compost? I need the perfect soil recipe for cherries. Maxima root stock.

I use pine bark as my base. It lasts a long time. My mix for all containers except blueberries is a
3-1-1-1/2 mix
3 parts pine bark about a 1/4 inch diameter to powder, the closer to 1/4 inch the better and more well draining.
1 part a good potting soil. I use Pro-mix. This is mostly for peat or coir content.
1 part compost or garden soil.
1/2 part diatomaceous earth the size of perlite. Perlite will work too but DE is far superior. It retains water, yet creates good drainage like perlite even when saturated.
Adds silicon to the soil. I have read numerous studies confirming how good DE. It is my secret weapon.
Here is one of them.

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Drew, this is Exactly what I needed! And I love diatomaceous earth, though I only have it in the powder. I will find it. Pine bark is oddly hard to find here. Do you use the chips or the mulch? Also, I have 6 blueberry plants I am planting. Would you be kind enough share your secret recipe? I am planting blueberries into raised beds that will need soil. I am very grateful. This will be my guide. Thank you! Colleen

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I am surprised you still have room to walk, incredible way of yard use.

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Free is this the pro mix blend you use? Or the veggie one?

I use the all purpose type. Here it is under 10 dollars at Menards. Looks like it is getting more expensive though!! All you need is Pete moss or coconut coir. So any brand will do. Even miracle grow potting soil. I like using the general purpose promix because I look at it as pete moss with it’s pH adjusted. Saves me from adding lime. I will use straight pete if I have extra from my blueberry soil. Which I will now go over.
I use 3 parts pine bark. I use the mulch or often pine bark is sold as soil conditioner… Pebbles if small would be ideal, but it is hard to find any. If 1/2 inch or less diameter will work just fine too. The mulch has a lot of powder, which will work, less drainage, and already composted, so will soon breakdown. Pebbles ;last years. But it is impossible to find the right size. I can only get large chunks of pine bark. Putting them through a chipper would make a perfect product!
2 parts Pete moss, 1 part is OK too. But regular pete only. Coir is not the best choice, pH is not low enough.
1 part DE which is slightly basic, but I still use it. That’s it. This mix has a pH of around 5.0
The best DE to buy is Optisorb oil absorbent. 100% DE.
The best price I have found is here.


Home Depot and Lowe sell Promix of various kinds.


We don’t have pine fine or pine as soil conditioner in central MA. The closest to it is pine bark mulch.

For DE, you can get them at Napa Auto Parts stores in your area.

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Drew, I DID IT! Today (very gusty day in Marblehead) I made your mix and planted my cherry trees ! I put them in grow bags for now because my planters are not ready yet. I needed to get the dormant trees on their schedule snd out of my bulkhead.
Next up, the blueberries!
Thank you for your help. I could not have done it without you!