In regards to growing fruit, and knowing what you know now, would you go back and do things differently?
I initially wanted to plant native trees and fruits for wildlife. Oaks, native nuts, persimmon, pawpaw, ect. As I was doing research on what to plant, I eventually switched over to just planting only cultivated fruiting plants. That was in 2011. Now, I wish I had stuck to my original plan. I enjoy the fruiting plants, but it’s been a constant battle keeping pests at bay - insects, disease, birds… and spraying in the heat of late spring and summer isn’t my idea of enjoyment.
I’ve now decided to remove some of my fruit trees. I’m taking out some of the peaches and apple trees. If I could go back and do things differently, I probably wouldn’t have planted peaches and plums at all, as those are the most high maintenance.
I’ve also started adding oaks and nut trees, and already have several persimmon trees. I just recently ordered and received several oaks from Oikos and Nativ Nurseries.
So, I’ll remove some of my poorly performing fruit trees and start adding more natives and disease resistant trees. It seems like I’m starting over, and I think about how far along everything would be if I’d stuck with my original plan, but I’m excited where things will be in six more years, and many years in the future.
If you could do things differently, knowing what you know now, what would you change?
Well I was growing plants all my life, not that many edibles though. When I decided to grow edibles I knew it would be a hard job. I feel it’s just a matter of finding what works as far as pesticides. So no for me I love my peaches, and mine for the most part are perfect and have been for five years. Anything I wish I have done differently I could change. One thing is I have a little too many plants, easy to fix.
I could understand going more natural, I’m lucky enough to live in an are with limited pest pressure, it’s here but is also manageable.
It is said you need five years to see all the pest pressure you will face. So this is the worst right now for me, and my harvest is the biggest yet. Rob i see you’re in TN, and yeah I probably would not grow peaches and plums there either. You face more difficult pests than I do in Michigan. It’s not California though!
Gee, I think most of the things I started doing were wrong! So the smaller category is which things I got right.
Here is but a small selection of some mistakes I made … don’t plant apples in five hours sun … don’t graft anything to G16 stocks … don’t try spacing apples 1’ apart or pears 2’ apart in zig-zags, especially if the sun is not up all day … don’t plant peaches and plums not highly resistant to brown rot … don’t field graft grapes, persimmons, or peaches in cold weather … don’t keep around highly blight-susceptible apples and pears … don’t believe some random description of a variety, look for many corroborating ones …
Made any mistakes. The things that have gone right for me are mostly by chance.
If I could go back, I would learn the importance of rootstocks.
Pay attention to “disease resistant” varieties.
Not not planting trees this close to one another, particularly when I prune them to go out, not up.
Planted jujubes, persimmons and pawpaws from the get-go.
Not planting more than one peach tree, just to see how difficult it would be ( it is).
Have a solid overall plan of where every tree should be planted, not using a planting as you go approach.
Many more “I could have, should have” but those are from the top of my head.
Well mistakes are cool, you learn from them, keep letting us know what they are so I can skip them. Really this site and others helped avoid doing the wrong thing many times. I still made mistakes, but I had a good start, and knew what to avoid thanks to all the forums, mostly this one! Thanks Scott!
Plus you still have the same goals, you’re not abandoning much of anything. Except poor performers which many times you have to go through the school of hard knocks to know what is what anyway.
Of my original trees I picked to start, I have them all. A couple I would pick other ones, I knew that they were experiments. I can work with them anyway. Thanks to them I know how to graft now.
I think I’m pretty well set. I started with windbreak conifers. Then conifer seedlings for a backbone knowing I will remove some of them. Put in grafted conifers. Added all my favorite ornamentals. Left 2 acres for an orchard. Left an area for a minimum of 8 persimmons. Planted pecan seedlings to graft pecans, hickories, and hicans onto. Planted seed of pawpaw to form a thicket to graft on. Left space to plant roots of a pawpaw my buddy Tyler Halvin found in the wild that he says is better than any of the Peterson pawpaws; I will wait for Tyler to get me another pawpaw as a root sucker. Planted a 14-variety grape arbor. Am now looking at the vast places left for edible shrubs for human and animal consumption. Heck, I think I’m right on schedule. Plus while all my old friends on gardenweb laughed when I told them I spaced every tree (minus a few backbone conifers) so I will never need to remove them during my life & are spaced for 40-50 year dimensions, and I now see their gardens crammed in appearance, I’m the one laughing now so to speak. Even dwarf conifers which I have no interest for anymore, I spaced them for 50-years growth and so I could still walk between them and anything else nearest them.
I’ve always planned ahead on anything I do though. Fruit trees I’ve learned are unique animals. You can baby the shit out of them and the next day you see decline and know they’ll be dead in two weeks. That’s their nature. That’s what I’m finding with several types. So, it’s a forever project with them I’ve concluded. Some may live a long & healthy life but I don’t think most will.
Well, I can tell everybody here I planted one tree and built from that one tree for my entire six acres. Of course I was reading constantly and keeping lists of the plants I would put into my landscape… while grafting or getting cheap starter size plants. I have notes and notes and notes and notes written in word documents. 12-years worth I’d suspect before I ever put a shovel in the ground. But I didn’t know at the time I would be living on six acres when I began writing those notes. So a lot of luck in the end. I am happy I spaced things the way I did, however.
If I would start all over… hmmmmm I would not plant as many trees and if I did replant I would plant the trees in areas where all the same ones would ripen at the same time. This would have been a good idea if I decide to open a you pick orchard or help when I pick I don’t have to go all over the place to pick and I could just pick a certain area. I would of pruned heavier at the beginning and not let my trees get out of control and have to prune heavy all at once.
planting more native / disease resistant varieties would be number 1. resist the impulse to push the fertilizer. be more proactive with spraying schedule. stay within my planting zone. lost a number of plants trying to go a zone up. autumn olives aren’t zone 3 hardy as many nurseries claim!
Hmmm, if I could go back in time, I would build more and larger greenhouses simply because my current ones (16’x8’x10’ & 16’x9’x9’) are way over crowded with Fuyu/Izu persimmons & other fruit trees, as well as my hothouse veggies. I would have also kept more of my espaliered stone fruit combo trees instead of selling 3 out of 5 to my friends, mostly because they asked. But really, I can’t complain because I have no more space for more or larger greenhouses, living in the city, and trying to grow out 49 fruit trees & 32 citrus in a large urban backyard is crazy by most people’s standards. After the big losses from our harshest winter in 50 years, I wish I could go back in time and better protect my citrus collection instead of assuming we would enjoy another nice balmy winter. Had my most fruitful citrus growing year only to lose half my collection to a never-ending, extremely cold, icy winter which neither I nor my citrus were fully prepared for. That one mistake was my most expensive and heartbreaking one so far in my urban farming career.
Since space, my zone, etc. are a given the biggest changes would be what I plant and how I arrange it.
The arrange it part is probably the most important, since my little suburban plot gets a ton or bird, deer and rodent (chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons and even possibly rats from my neighbors compost). I have things arranged now as it occurred to me to plant them or as I turned new areas over to edibles, but that means they are scattered all over and makes trying to net them, etc. a huge challenge. It is like trying to fight a war on 50 fronts! I think if I did it again, I’d make it so I planted things that ripened at the same time together in an arrangement that would make it easier to net, and would have a fixed structure to net over for each grouping, with a band of chicken wire at the bottom and partially buried (6 inches).
And on what to plant, again with limited space, I would really focus on what isn’t available to me locally or what is so much better when you grow it yourself. For instance, I love having Black Currants and I pretty much only get them here is I grow them. Strawberries from the garden are awesome as well, particularly Mara des Bois. And I’m really enjoying the few edible crabapples I’m getting as my trees start to come into production and look forward to my pears, including the one seckel I have still hanging that I hope the squirrels will ignore. Figs are another awesome thing to grow here. But the blueberries I’m growing while good, really much different from what is readily available at our farmers markets, so probably not worth the effort. And why did I plant Aronia?
I would spend more time preparing the planting sites. I got in such a hurry to get trees in the ground that I didn’t get weeds under control. Next time, I will sheet mulch heavily for at least a year before planting. And plant in large blocks rather than scattered.
Agree on grafting. I would have learned how to graft much sooner. I thought it sounded complicated and dragged my feet for 4-5 years before I first tried. Much easier than I imagined. Should have done it a lot sooner.