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3 Tips To Keep Your Backyard Orchard Thriving

Listening to Tom Spellman talk about backyard orchards last week motivated a room of people into action to grow backyard orchards. Tom provides simple, practical ideas for starting and maintaining a successful backyard orchard. What seemed to be a mystery before became clear once you master three key steps for planning your orchard.

Tom works for Dave Wilson Nursery and has been helping people grow fruit in their backyards for years. He suggests what works for commercial growers is not necessarily the best plan for backyard orchards. Many processes are the same, but the key ones below are different from most commercial growers.

1. Accept the Fruit Bush Culture

Most mature fruit trees reach heights in access of 18'. How practical is an 18' fruit tree to the backyard gardener? Climbing ladders to prune and pick creates a hazard and most likely reduces the time you spend with your trees because of the trouble. Instead, prune your trees in the summer to keep their heights manageable. Nothing higher than you can reach easily from the ground or with a short picker. The fruit will be within easy reach, and you don't run the risk of falling off a ladder.

2. Consider the Importance of Successive Ripening

Many commercial grows attempt to ripen their fruit early and at the same time. This can be a disaster for the backyard orchard. You can only eat and give away so much fruit. Instead, consider growing multiple varieties ripening at different times. For example, planting four different varities of plums can help you enjoy plums from early June until mid-October. Your mileage may vary a little based on where you live, but you get the idea. Spread a little less fruit out over time, and you will end up enjoying it much more. You can see Tom's recommendations for multiple plantings here.

3. Grow What You Like

This sounds like a simple idea, but you have seen many people growing what’s on sale at the nursery instead of what they want to eat or love to look at while they are in the garden. Taste may change over time, and that's okay you can make changes. Take some time and think about what you love to eat and see in your orchard or garden and then grow lots of it.

It is always motivating to take something complicated and break it down into manageable steps. It makes a daunting task more manageable. As you can see if a backyard orchard sounds overwhelming and too much work starting with these three steps makes it more manageable. Thanks to Dave for these tips and if you have a few of your own, please feel free to add them to the comments section below.

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Richard Restuccia

Richard is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. He served on the Irrigation Association's Board of Directors and is a University of California Master Gardener. Richard also writes for other publications and is an award winning contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine. In 2014 his efforts were recognized with a “Leadership in Landscape” award. He has a great interest in the supply of clean water for people in developing countries and as an outdoorsman, spends his free time running, swimming and surfing.


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