November 15, 2010


We moved to Oak Hill one hot August, and that fall we planted a selection of dwarf fruit trees from Stark Bros nursery. Included in the collection were 4 apple trees, 3 plums and 2 cherries. Fall is an excellent time to plant fruit trees; they have an extra six months to put down roots and become established, compared to spring-planted trees.

The two cherry trees did not survive. One did not make it through the winter and the other died during that first hot summer. Stark Bros called us that next fall and asked how the trees were doing. They reimbursed us for the two cherry trees. They have great customer service. (I have no affiliation with the company, by the way.)

I wasn't too upset about the cherry trees, really, because the wilted leaves are toxic to goats. We planted our little dwarf orchard as far from the goat pen as we could to minimize tree damage if the goats got loose and so that the leaves would not blow where the goats could reach them, but as my husband says, I am rather obsessive and I would have worried anyway.

It's been five years since we started our little orchard. Dwarf trees produce shortly after planting, they are easy to care for and to harvest because they are small, but the truth is that dwarf trees don't produce as long as a standard tree. It will also be several additional years before you get fruit from a standard size tree. I think the ideal plan would be to plant both dwarfs and standards - you'll get fruit from the dwarfs first, and by the time the smaller trees are no longer producing, your standard trees should be putting out a bountiful harvest.

Two of the plum trees have never set fruit, but the third one is very prolific and makes up for them. Fortunately the thriving tree is a red plum, which I like better than the blue and yellow varieties.

I try to buy two new trees each year. Sometimes it seems that I'm just replacing the ones that died. This year we lost a young semi-dwarf peach tree that snapped in half in a windstorm.

We've run out of room in the spot we originally designated as our orchard and are trying to figure out a good spot for a second site, one that isn't near the goats' or the horses' fences, is close enough to be watered, and is also not in the usual path of deer.

The little orchard in a late winter storm
several years ago

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