In an orchard there should be enough to eat, enough to lay up, enough to be stolen, and enough to rot on the ground. ~ Samuel Madden
There is something inherently satisfying in growing your own sustenance. As urban “homesteaders” we take it somewhat for granted that we will always have enough, like the quote says. If our gardening efforts fail us, we can run to the store. Also, we don’t have any productive fruit trees right now, so we can purchase fruit as well. My first attempts at growing fruit trees a few year back failed due to lack of knowledge about proper fruit tree planting techniques.This year, I found our local Master Gardeners group and took a class on tree planting and pruning. The “Master Gardener” program is available throughout the US, so take advantage. They are a free, hands on, in person resource that has proved invaluable to me so far with just two classes. Michael and I have since planted yet another apple tree using these new techniques and so far so good it seems to be doing just fine.
We even built a nice box around it to help keep the water from running off the mound. In just a few weeks it went from no leaves at all to the showy production of leaves you see below! I am pretty darn proud of our little Fuji experiment.
The main drive to growing a tree now (the thing probably wont produce fruit until after we move to our new place) was practice! I just wanted to grow something in conjunction with our plans for our property. Hopefully, we will be planting much of our orchard this coming fall 2016 or winter 2017. Most fruit and nut trees do better when planted during their dormant season.
Also, we learned from the Master Gardeners that for small production such as a homestead orchard the best type is ultra dwarf. They shouldn’t get more that 7-8 feet tall, and we can prune those back to 6 feet. We can harvest without needing a ladder. This provides ease and safety during harvest. The “trees” will actually be more like tall bushes.
Planning our orchard, as with all things related to our property, required research. Remember other than a small backyard garden and some chickens, our experience is quite minimal. So back to the internet I go. First I looked up what zone we were in for our property and length of the growing season. Turns out, our ideal growing season is only about 120 days tops… and our zone is 6a-5b.
I found a great website that let me search tree varieties based on climate zones so the below options is what I came up with so far. We will probably eliminate any varieties that do not have a dwarf option, or that has a mature height of more than 8-10 feet.
Another thing that we have to consider, is that even if a plant is rated for a certain zone, it helps if that plant was grown in that zone. So we will try to buy all of our whips as close to our property as possible. That means researching nurseries this summer and finding one we trust.
Fruit Trees (need 5 each) double checking for cross pollination needs.
|An apricot variety that can withstand cold winters. Researchers bred this tree in Michigan’s snow belt, so you can depend on its hardiness, vigor and production consistency, even in areas with lower-temperature climates. The fruit has a deep, tangy flavor — perfect for fresh eating or canning. Originates from Michigan, introduced in 1967. Cold-hardy. Freestone. Ripens in early July.||8-10′ Tall X 8-10′ Wide||8-10′||
Stark® Montmorency Pie Cherry
|The most popular cherry in the USA! This compact tree bears armloads of ripe, tangy, red cherries, which make mouthwatering, succulent pies and cobblers. Originates from Montmorency Valley, France circa 1600s, introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s. Cold-hardy. Ripens in mid June.||12-15′ tall x 12-15′ wide (no dwarf)||12-15′||Self-pollinating.|
|Chicago Hardy Fig||Also called bensonhurst purple fig
Productive and easy to grow. Bears delicious medium-size figs. Exhibits drought-tolerance once established. May die back in colder climates and resume growth in spring. Bears fruit early on new growth. Fruit produced on the older wood will appear in early summer and fruit on new growth will appear in early fall. Ripe fruit has a dark mahogany color. Originates from Sicily. Grows well in containers! Heat-tolerant. Ripens in July through frost.
|15-30′ tall x 15-35′ wide.||35-40’apart||Self-pollinating.|
|Mulberry Trees||Growing your own mulberry tree is a great way to enjoy fresh fruit and bring beauty and protection to your landscape. Our varieties are vigorous, productive and hardy. They are tolerant of many different kinds of soil and can thrive in a wide range of conditions. Throughout the summer, these trees will continue to produce unique, oblong-shaped berries with a sweet flavor that is great for fresh eating or making jams, wines, cobblers and other desserts. And, because of their long fruiting season, they make excellent protectors. While many of your other fruits and berries are ripening, mulberry trees will lure birds and squirrels, which prefer mulberries, away from those trees and plants.||Self Pollinating|
|Pawpaw Trees||Also called Indiana banana, American custard apple, banango
Pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) are native to North America, growing wild in much of the eastern and Midwest portions of the United States. The foliage is the sole food source for the Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar, and the butterflies are attracted to pawpaw trees as a result. Deer, on the other hand, are not interested in eating the leaves of pawpaw trees. The trees produce tropical-like fruit with vanilla or banana/mango flavors. When ripe, the fruit’s soft flesh is very creamy. The large seeds are easy to remove, making the pawpaw an excellent pick for fresh eating. Unique and delicious, the pawpaw is surprisingly uncommon despite its native status. A ripe pawpaw has a short shelf life, making it difficult to sell at farmer’s markets or grocery stores; and the trees are tricky to transplant because of their delicate feeder roots. When choosing pawpaw trees, look for varieties that are grown in containers (like Stark® EZ Start® pots)—this will ensure a larger root mass for successful planting.
|This variety requires another one for adequate pollination.
Cross-pollination by a different variety is key to its growing and bearing success.
|Pear Tree||Plant a pear tree in your yard, and delight in having your own convenient resource for nutritious, flavorful snacks that are more affordable than those you’ll find at the grocery store. If you’re new to growing your own fruit, a pear tree is a great start. The pear trees we offer fall into two categories:
Both types of pear tree feature delicate blossoms in the spring and vibrant foliage in the fall, adding seasonal beauty to your landscape. Choose from classic varieties you’re familiar with, like Bartlett and Bosc, or opt for red-skinned variations to add visual appeal from garden to table.
|Pollination by a different pear variety is key to the success of most pear trees.|
|Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro Asian Persimmon||The hardiest of all Asian persimmons. Nicknamed “Itchy,” this bountiful bearer features pucker-free fruit that is never sour — it’s sweet even when picked firm! Starts producing in 2-3 years. Heat-tolerant. Tree reaches 8-10′ tall. Ripens in September to October. Grafted.||8-10′ tall x 8-10′ wide.||8-10′ apart||Self-pollinating|
|Saijo Asian Persimmon||Beautiful and flavorful. The sweet, yellow flesh of this fruit has very few seeds, making it perfect for fresh eating. In late fall, the leaves turn orange, yellow and red, adding beauty to your landscape. Heat-tolerant. Tree reaches 15-20′ tall. Ripens in late September to early October. Grafted.||15-20′ tall x 15-20′ wide||15-20′ apart||Self-pollinating|
|Methley Plum||This tree looks great year-round. In summer, this variety yields sweet, purple-red plums; in spring, it offers white, fragrant flowers; and in fall and winter, the tree offers structural interest and a great place to hang holiday lights. A heavy bearer, Methley grows clusters of plums all throughout the tree. Vigorous and disease-resistant to fungal diseases like rust. A superb pollinator for other Japanese plum trees. Heat-tolerant. Clingstone. Ripens in mid July. .||8-10′ Tall X 8-10′ Wide||8-10′||Self-pollinating|
|Starking® Delicious™ Plum||A Stark Bro’s Exclusive!The best plum we know of, and an excellent choice for first-time growers. We never use the term “delicious” lightly, and this variety is no exception. Consistently bears heavy crops of dessert plums. Disease-resistant and heat-tolerant. Clingstone. Ripens in early August.A Stark Pick! Hand-selected by our experts for its simple upkeep and ease of growing — an excellent choice for both seasoned and first-time fruit growers.||8-10′ Tall X 8-10′ Wide||8-10′||
Best pollinators: Redheart, Shiro, Ozark Premier or Methley.
So, we have some options, and this isn’t all.