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March 8, 2017

How to Plant a Homestead Orchard


How to plant an orchard on your homestead.

My "growing" goals are to try growing something new in the garden each year, and to plant another fruit tree each year.

We started out planting eight dwarf fruit trees the first autumn we lived at Oak Hill. Autumn is a great time plant fruit trees, but spring planting is also fruitful. (I hope you didn't groan at that choice of word.)

Since then we've tried to plant at least one new tree each spring. Not all of them have lived, but we haven't given up. We choose trees that will hopefully thrive in our climate, which means we haven't planted any apricot trees even though we love apricots: they bloom so early that the buds are almost always killed by a late Oklahoma frost.


Our first plum tree has grown enormously over the years.

Are you ready to start a homestead orchard? Here is what we've learned about selecting trees, and where and how to plant them.


Dwarf or Standard Trees?

Fruit trees are sold in at least three sizes: dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard. This refers to the mature size of the tree.

Dwarf trees mature in a shorter period of time, while standard trees take longer to produce. On the other hand, dwarf trees don't produce for as many years as standard trees do. If I were to do it again, I'd plant both dwarfs and standards. The dwarf varieties would produce first, and would provide fruit before the standard trees began to produce. When the dwarf trees "run out of gas" the standards would still be going strong.

Harvesting the yellow plums.


What Kind of Fruit Should You Plant?

If you don't care for apples, don't plant apple trees. That probably goes without saying!

What fruit do you enjoy eating? Will you eat it fresh or will you freeze or can the fruit? Does this type of fruit tree grow well in your climate? How much space do you have to grow trees? Does this tree need another variety for pollination? Most of this information can be found at nursery websites such as Stark Bros.

Peaches, almost ready to pick.


Choose the Best Location

Fruit trees grow best in full sun and in fertile, well-drained soil. Be sure to look around your prospective site for utility lines both in the ground and overhead, and for sewer lines, water pipes, buildings or walkways that will be within the mature trees' footprint. Remember that the trees will grow much bigger than their current immature size and locate them where they won't obstruct a view you like or block the sunlight from your garden. Avoid low spots where frost will settle.

Dwarf trees should be spaced 8-10 feet from each other, semi-dwarf trees 12-15 feet, and standard trees 18-20 feet from another tree.


Homegrown apples


Planting Tips

Dig a wide hole, twice as wide as the root ball of your tree, and deep enough that the roots will be able to expand easily. Add plenty of good compost to the soil you've removed.

Set the tree in the center of the hole with the roots spread out. Backfill the soil around the tree, being sure to keep the trunk vertical. Put the best soil in the bottom of the hole where it will nourish the roots. Water thoroughly after planting.

Watering young fruit trees deeply once or twice a week for the first two years will help the tree develop a deep root system and grow into a healthy and productive tree.

Do you have fruit trees? If not, what kind do you want to plant first?



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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24 comments:

  1. We planted peach and apple trees years ago. The apple trees had a run of bad luck. The peach trees didn't produce until last year. But the couple that we had were yummy! I hope they produce better this year. For the past couple of years, we've had crazy weather in February that makes them think it's spring far too early.

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    1. Aren't those fresh-off-the-tree peaches the most delicious ever!?

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  2. I just love freh of the tree fuits. You can`t compare them with what you can buy from the stores.

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    1. That's true, Cristina, homegrown is so much tastier!

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  3. I love having an orchard! Last year I got enough cherries to make a pie! I've struggled with getting much else. It's one of those projects you continue to learn with!

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    1. It certainly is. Sometimes there's so much to learn it just makes your head swim, doesn't it?

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  4. Yes, we have a young orchard. We have four cherry trees (2 sweet and 2 sour), two peach trees, four apple trees, two pears, and three blueberry bushes. You didn't say how many you're up to now?

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    1. You're doing really well, Michelle. Unfortunately some of those yearly trees merely replaced others that died for one reason or another, so we don't have as many as I'd like. Enjoy those cherries, they are my favorite, but the wilted leaves are toxic to goats so I didn't replace the two trees that died.

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  5. We inherited a few very old heirloom apple trees on our property when we moved in a few years ago. There had apparently been a dozen apple trees before an awful storm, complete with severe lightening and winds, took out all but the remaining three. Their apples are quite ugly, almost deformed or deceased looking, but after investigating I discovered their simple old heirloom varieties. While they're not good for eating fresh, they're amazing for baking and fruit smoothies!

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    1. Michelle, how lovely that you have three wonderful trees of apples for baking and fruit smoothies! Those are the best apples in my opinion. :-)

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  6. I remember my aunt's apple tree orchard from when I was a child! At our previous home we planted two apple trees, but weren't there long enough to enjoy more than a couple of seasons. Where we live now, we can walk across the road and enjoy our neighbour's apple trees. With our climate, apples are the easiest fruit tree to grow. Years ago we had a pear tree, but the fruit was small, and not very tasty!

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    1. It's sweet of neighbors to share! We had the blessing of neighbors who shared their cherry trees with us in Michigan.

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  7. Great tips! I'm looking forward to planting some apple and pear trees.

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    1. Wonderful, Tracy! I'm glad this post was helpful to you.

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  8. I dream about planting an orchard (but I doubt we'll actually do it, for a while anyway). I appreciate your recommendation about growing dwarf and standard sizes to get the benefits of both. Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop!

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    1. Thanks for hosting a great hop!

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  9. We have a small orchard that my husband has just given its annual prune. I have also planted a quince tree this year and I am going to plant a vine in the polytunnel very soon. I'd love a peach tree as my neighbour has one but she has it on a lovely south facing wall which I don't have adn I think it would get too big inside the tunnel. #WasteLessWednesday

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    1. Homegrown juicy peaches are the best, but only if the tree fits! Your neighbor was smart in choosing that location.

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  10. We never had much luck growing fruit trees - we have tried and each time after they seem like they are doing good and have got to the point of barring fruit sometime always happens to them and they die. I have a lot of food allergies so I can't eat many fruits so we just buy local organically grown fruits when they are in season. I thought your post was very interesting and helpful though. Congratulations of being featured on Homestead Blog Hop. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day! Pinning & tweeting!

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    1. Hi Marla, thank you for featuring my post! We've lost a few trees for no apparent reason, my neighbor said it's probably due to borers.

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  11. I feel so inspired! An orchard has been on our list for a couple of years. Thanks, for sharing!

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    1. You're so welcome, Anne. I'm glad it was inspiring!

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  12. I'm so glad we've been adding to our orchard since moving. And I'm so glad that we learned about grafting this year so that we can grow more trees without all of the cost!

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    1. I really want to learn how to graft!

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