Dwarf Fruit Trees in the Home Orchard
Why Grow Your Own Fruit
When planning your kitchen garden consider adding a couple of dwarf fruit trees. These small trees grow very well in small, urban areas, and can produce quite a bit of full size, delicious, organic fruit for free.
As more people become concerned with the food supply, its effect on the environment, and buying locally, it seems natural that there would be more interest in having a personal supply of fruit. After all, there are regularly recalls of fruit that has been grown commercially, whether in the United States or other countries. Growing your own fruit is another way to control what you are eating, and it is great for the earth. Transporting an apple 2,000 miles not only affects the freshness, the nutrition, and the taste; it affects the environment as well with all of the fossil fuels used in the transportation process.
Should I Choose Dwarf or Semi Dwarf Trees?
With the dwarf and semi dwarf type trees you can plant several in your urban back yard and be harvesting pounds of organic fruit within 3-5 years.
- Dwarf Trees-These are the best trees for small spaces. They can grow very well in only an eight foot diameter area. Most dwarf trees only reach five to ten feet tall. The fruit is normal sized, but the yield is significantly less than a full sized tree.
- Semi Dwarf Trees-These are the most popular for home gardens. The semi dwarf trees need about fifteen feet diameter of space to grow properly. They range in height from ten to fifteen feet tall and will need to be pruned every year to keep their shape, as well as their height. These are very productive trees, rivaling the production levels of the standard trees.
Which size you get should depend on how much you need per season as well as how much room you have to dedicate to the growth of the tree. Keep in mind that many types of fruit trees require a pollinator and so you will need two trees for fruit production.
If you are living in a suburban neighborhood you may want to consider keeping the fruit trees in the back yard. Fruit has a way of disappearing when it grows in the more easily accessible front yard. Or, plant your dwarf tree in a large container. The mini sizes adn true dwarfs work well in container gardens.
Dwarf Fruit Trees
There are other things to keep in mind besides keeping your fruit safe from marauding neighbors. Whether your home orchard is made up of two trees or ten you need to plan your location carefully.
Some things to consider are:
- Well drained soil
- Full sunlight
- Easy access
- Won't interfere with daily activities, for example, mulberries stain things badly. You would not want to locate a mulberry tree by a walkway.
- Access to water source, can you get a hose out there?
How to Decide Which Fruit Variety to Plant
Now that you have got your location you need to decide on the varieties of fruit trees you want to plant. In order to do this you will need to know what hardiness zone you live in. A fantastic hardiness map for the United States is available at HGTV. You just type in your zip code and it will tell you what zone you are in and the specific conditions of that zone.
There are other things besides temperature that will affect the production of fruit. You must choose a variety that will grow well in your location, that will be able to thrive on the type of soil that you have, as well as other things. The best way to find out what fruit trees grow best in your locality is to call your Agricultural Extension office and talk to them.
Here is a list of links to apple varieties by state and location: Apple Varieties. You will find this very helpful in choosing the apple variety that will be just right for your area.
For other types of fruit check with your Ag extension or local nursery. Don't ask the local Wal-Mart or Home Depot because those people are not specialists in gardens and plants. Go to a small, local nursery, that has been around for a long time and strike up a conversation with the owner. That is absolutely the best way to find out more than you ever wanted to know!
Planting the Trees
For best results plant the fruit trees the recommended distance apart but not further than twenty feet apart to insure proper pollination.
- Test the area you have chosen for drainage.
- Dig a one foot hole and fill with water.
- Time how long it takes to drain the water out. It should not take more than three hours total.
- Dig the hole for your fruit tree about 18" deep.
- Loosen the soil on the sides and bottom with the shovel or a pitchfork.
- Put a 1"-2" layer of compost in the bottom of the hole.
- Mound dirt up in the center of the hole to support the tree.
- Set the tree in the hole with the root ball on top of the mound and the graft line no more than 3" above the ground.
- Gently spread the roots.
- Shovel the dirt back into the hole until the hole is full.
- Water thoroughly and allow the dirt to settle in around the roots.
- Add more dirt if necessary.
- Water again.
- Mulch with several inches of organic mulch but not so much that the graft line is covered.
- Keep your new fruit orchard well watered for the first year so that the roots have a chance to grow well.
It is better to deep water a couple of times a week than shallow water on a daily basis. Water once a week with a manure tea made by soaking well rotted manure and water in a 1:3 ratio.
Varieties to Consider
Always, when choosing vegetables and fruits for the home garden, try to find the heirloom plants and trees. Overall the products from these will have a more intense taste, be easier to grow, and hardier than other plants that may be modern hybrids, and/or have genetically altered DNA.
Not all heirlooms are available on dwarf rootstock;however many are. One of the only places that heirloom fruit trees are available is Trees of Antiquity.
Some fruit that has been grown for generations and are generally good for most areas are:
- Violette de Bordeaux
- Black Mission Brown Turkey
- Pippin Anna (good for southwest)
- Duchess of Oldenburg
- Northern Spy
- Blue Damson
- Bavay's Green Gage
Others to consider-
- Chocolate persimmon
- Whitney Crabapple
Your trees will need to be pruned regularly.
All pruning should be done in late winter or very early in the spring when the trees are fully dormant. The first few years you will be pruning to create the ultimate shape of the tree. Make sure that you leave good support branches. Each type of tree is pruned in a different way. You can get a chart at your local nursery.
The economy continues to worsen. At this writing gasoline is projected to hit all time highs. Food costs are sky rocketing.
By growing your own fruits you can be sure that your family will have a source of healthy fruit for years to come. Taking the time to prepare and plant now is just smart planning for the future!
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