When you’re first setting up your homestead – even if that’s just gardening on a tiny patio big enough for a couple of big pots – one of the first considerations you need to have is for deciduous fruit and nut trees. Depending on how large you grow them, they can take anywhere from three to five years before they start producing. So you need to get them in as soon as you can in order to reap the rewards sooner rather than later.
As many of you know, I also blog for Mother Earth Living and last summer I wrote a post for them on How to Start a Mini Backyard Orchard. It’s a basically a quick start guide, where I overview how to choose trees, select a planting site, how to plant, when to prune and what to expect in terms of caring for your trees in the first year.
I’m happy to report my personal trees are coming into their second year mostly healthy and robust, and as I (and Ann Ralph in the revolutionary book Grow A Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees) recommend, I did not prune them over the winter. The concept is, prune in the winter to promote growth; prune in the summer to restrict growth. Since I want to keep my trees in short stature, summer pruning it is.
Two trees I did lose this winter were the persimmons – but only because they were eaten by rabbits! But it worked out anyway – the blueberry bushes were not happy in the spot I put them in last year (and honestly I just dug them in because I just had to get them planted somewhere) so they were relocated to the vacant spot where the persimmons had lived. The apples are quite robust and are leafing out nicely, with some new branches coming in – and it’s already fairly obvious which ones I’ll prune out in June and which ones I’ll leave. The hazelnuts were also appealing to the rabbits, but they fared better and are leafing out, so I’m hoping they’ll catch a break and hit a good growth spurt. I’ll probably give them a helping hand by putting hardware cloth cages around them for the season.
If you’re interested in setting up your own small orchard, check out How to Start a Mini Backyard Orchard for the primer on how to start your own fruit and nut orchard – it’s easier than it looks!