NOVA’s tiny yard in NoVA

New Year is always a good time for New Year’s Resolution. Here is mine. :smiley:

I always wanted to start a thread to track what’s happening in my yard, but very intimidated to say or do something stupid. Because I am a newbie compared with most of people here. However I finally decided to start one for a few good reasons. One: I learned a lot and got a lot of help from members on this forum. I found details were very important. I am hoping my posts would be useful to someone in the same shoes someday. Two: I tend to only ask questions when running into specific issues. It’s better to share the progress of my garden rather than just sharing the issues. Three: only a couple of my friends are really into gardening. Most friends wouldn’t get too excited when seeing the pictures of my trees full of fruits. Only like-minded people can really appreciate them.

I used the word Garden instead of Orchard because I have a very small urban yard in Northern VA and fruit trees are just part of the design. I will track not only fruit trees but also other plants (mostly about fruit trees though). Hope it’s not considered as too far off-topic.


I think a lot of us experience this. What is WRONG with all of our friends, anyway??? :joy:

Hope you enjoy chronicling your garden orchard here. I will look forward to reading about (and seeing pictures of) your progress!!


I am working on feeling out which of my local friends I can get to join me on the fruit tree train. There are just a few prospects but I think I am slowly making headway! :joy:


The inspiration

I bought my current home 3 years ago, and planted 1 multi-graft plum and 3 cherry trees at that time. All 3 cherry trees died miserably in that summer. That’s when I realized that it’s not that simple to grow something successfully. If I want to grow them, I should ensure they will survive, otherwise I shouldn’t plant them. So I started my research. Along the process, I found the inspiration from “Big Dreams Small Spaces” featuring Monty Don. An orchard can be beautiful and a garden can be functional. They may have some conflicts, but there are ways to find a good balance.

  1. Big Dreams Small Spaces
    I watched all episodes on Netflix back then but they are no longer available there. Monty Don is such a great gardener and host. The show is fun to watch.
  1. Monty Don Gardening
    It’s a very different video from the “Big Dreams Small Spaces”, but very inspirational as well.

Thanks! And LOL.

I did the same thing. I have 2 gardening buddies now. We share projects with each other. :blush: It’s so much fun instead of doing it alone.


i started turning my wifes 1 acre lawn into a food and medicine forest 7 yrs. ago before that i only had a small garden that i wasnt really passionate about. i researched and researched some more. finally i took the plunge and havent stop improving and adding to what i have. now the once lawn has over 60 types of fruit trees, bushes, fruiting groundcovers, medicinal plants as well as raised beds for vegetables. not everything did well at 1st. it took some trial and error to get everything to do well. its a ongoing learning experience . if its not working out i find out why. its all part of the fun of growing things. my yards starting to look like i envisioned and in a few more seasons everything will come into full production and should only need minimal input to keep it that way. my goal is to produce enough fruit so i never need to go buy any from the store again. my elderly neighbors are my biggest fans. ive given seedlings/ cuttings to them to help them in their food production. they are amazed in the types of fruit im growing as many are from other parts of the world. my wifes not a gardener but she was supportive enough to donate her lawn to my project and likes much of what im growing. dont be afraid to try new plants and growing techniques. its all part of the learning experience. i even have our spare room converted into a grow room with led lights so i can grow all winter long. skys the limit! good luck in your journey!


@NoVA, thanks for the links. I’m in the shenandoah valley of virginia, and I look forward to reading your posts! There is a lot of magic in any garden where the owner is passionate about their plants and trees. During all sorts of weather, you can find me most days walking among the trees and yard, sometimes making notes about what I see. My neighbors drive by and are probably thinking–theres that crazy lady again… As long as it brings me joy, thats what counts. As you explore your garden, we will really enjoy watching and learning from you.

BTW, how did I not make the connection NoVA=northern virginia. Geez.


Looking forward to this thread and it’s pictures, successes, and lessons. I too am in Northern Virginia in Fairfax County.


Thanks you! And thanks for sharing your story too! You are far ahead of me and have a far bigger playground. Gardening is a quite different journey. It requires a lot of patience. I think that’s the beauty of it - you have to think ahead and plan the long term.

Haha. I do the same, taking notes while walking the yard. I try to take photos for all plants/trees once every two weeks during growing seasons. This way I can look back and see the progress.
I totally understand your joy. It’s such a rewarding experience to see a whip grows into a beautiful productive tree.

Thanks! I am in Fairfax County too. Probably not too far from you. I’d love to connect after this COVID thing is under control. Will send you a PM.

you will be amazed as time goes by how much wildlife will show up in your yard. the bugs , frogs, snakes and birds have increased 10 fold in 7 years. many more birds are nesting in my big spruces and pines lining my property than before. im guessing thats because theres more food to be found now. even found a family of pileated woodpeckers that made a nest in a old dead poplar in the yard last spring. they are usually only found in deep woods yet here they are with houses all around them.


I’m in Fairfax, VA as well

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You certainly created a food forest for them. :laughing: I don’t have that many trees, but I do see similar increased interests from animals and birds. I enjoy their visits most of the time.

Love to connect. Will PM you.

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The planning

Winter is a slow time in the garden, but a good time for planning.

When I planted the first four trees 3 years ago, I did not know much about gardening or growing fruit trees. Each year I learned something new, then I planned the yard differently. Each iteration I would move the plants/trees around. That’s a lot of digging! Some of the trees got moved every year. Luckily only a few plants died during the process and all trees survived. Now looking back, I feel the planning is utterly important. If I had enough experiences and had thought it through at the beginning, it would save me so much time and energy to get things started properly and shape the garden into the desired design more quickly. But the problem is I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I feel lucky to find this forum where so much valuable information is available and members are very supportive. I know it’s impossible to plan everything 100% correct. That’s the just the nature of gardening. It’s a living thing. But I feel more confident now with the help from everyone here.

My yard is the typical suburban yard and the lot is not big, so I have to make use of the space efficiently. I think most people living in urban/suburban areas are facing the same challenge. Eventually I settled on 8 ft spacing and this should be the permanent set up. It’s a good balance. The trees will be maintained at 10-12 ft height for easy picking. I considered 4 in a hole set up, but 4 trunks together do not look good to me. The visual effect is an important factor here because we do have HOA.

Now regarding HOA, I do have a story to share. I called our HOA when I first move in and I was told by the lady in charge that there were no restrictions on planting trees. Then I bought 4 and planted them. No issues. I planted a few more the next 2 years, no issues. But this year, I received a notice from HOA out of the blue saying I was in violation because anything taller than 4ft should be approved. It’s listed in the HOA documents. To keep the long story short, I eventually got their approval after 3 months. The board was reasonable. When I showed them my design and plan and assured them that these trees will be maintained at 10-12 ft tall, they approved my application. They have their good reasons because I do see many tall trees in my neighborhood, which should NOT be planted in these small yards. These trees got topped each year and they look ugly.

It’s funny how life turns out. If the lady had told me about this approval process, 99% of the chance I would not start a garden at all. But now I have it, I wouldn’t want to give it up. Gardening is such a good healthy hobby to have.:grinning:

Below is Monty Don’s orchard. I like the grid setup. That’s when I decided to do the same. Just allocate the holes first then fill the trees in them. Easy and efficient.:wink:


@NoVA, I have moved the same apple and pear trees from a house in Natural Bridge to Lexington to Brownsburg, and then around the yard in several places. These were 4-5 foot trees. Hard on the trees, and on me. They are finally starting to come into their own. I agree, plan first, dig second.

I’m likely to be out at all hours and weather in the spring and summer. There was a joke going around the neighborhood not to be worried when someone sees me out digging holes in the back yard in the dark. That is, nothing dastardly afoot.:confused:


I am another in Fairfax.

What do you plan to grow?

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Hi, Mike,
Glad to know one more member here!
Right now my focus is plums and apricots. Also Cherries, Pomegranates, Persimmons, Asian Pears and Jujubes. Wanted to try peaches and apples, but was a little worried that they might require much bigger efforts.
I will update my profile when I get a chance to add the list.

I am also in the process of building a new orchard because I just moved to a new house.

At my old house I had good success with Juliet cherries and Nikitski Ranni pomegranates.

At my new house I am putting in those two, plus Salavatski (pom) and will be putting in a variety of persimmons and jujubes and other fruit.

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Design Tools

I tried different tools to design my garden. Now I feel the most convenient tool for me is actually Excel. Below are my thoughts.

  1. Graph Paper: Very easy. No training is required. Good for drafts.
  2. Excel: Easy to use and sufficiently accurate. Good for maintenance.
  3. Sketchup: Pro level. 3D and sun light analysis. But it has deep learning curve.
    I also tried garden design software, but did not like them because they are pretty rigid. It may be good for many people, but just not for me.
    And of course, you must have a map before you start any designs. I did spend 2 hours surveying my lot. It’s definitely worth the time.

Graph Paper: experts can draw really nice designs simply using graph papers.
Below is not my garden. Just to show the idea. I am not that good.

Excel: I changed the column width to match the height, so each cell represents 1ft x 1ft in the real world. I really like this method. You can move things around and add notes.

Sketchup: I learned it by chance. It is a cool tool – real 3D model. Plus, you can pin your lot to the exact geo location and study the sun light at any given day/time. You can observe the sun light changes easily like watching an animation. You can plug in tree models and many other things if you want.

The screenshot below shows the sunlight condition at 2PM on 6/23.


Hi, Mike,
Good to know your success of pomegrantes. I really love them, beautiful flowers and tasty fruits. What not to love.
I have Afganski, Nikitski Ranni, Salavatski and Phil’s Sweet. I also ordered a Parfianka this year. Afganski has fruited and tasted good. But I realized that the seeds were very hard and not very pleasant for fresh eating. That’s why I ordered a Parfianka. I knew it might not be cold hardy enough here, but I really can’t resist. As for Phil’s Sweet, it’s just an impulse purchase from Edible Landscaping. It was a tiny plant when I got it. I planted it in ground Spring 2020. Let’s hope it can survive this winter.

I am always tempted by the same sorts of things. It is hard to resist hoping for the best.

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