Monday, April 22, 2013

how to start a fruit orchard .....

fruit orchards ... everyone dreams of having one.  with trees dripping full of your families favorite fruit.  imagining that when your kids say they're hungry you can just send them out to pick some fresh yummy goodness.

fruit orchards.  so easy to dream about,
hard to implement and no quick solutions.  a combination of
patience, planning and piggies are called for!

our first step was deciding what would be in the orchard vs what would go in our food forest.  not as easy as you might think!  but we decided that the orchard would contain the stuff that we wanted to manage more and be very easy for the kids to get their hands on.   this area will also have a heavy load of citrus ... the kids are huge fans of mandarins and stone fruit... so we are ensuring that this healthy addiction is catered for.  we will also include a few new favorites and trees for the subtropics ...which means a black mulberry, guava, tropical apple and nashi pear will feature as well.

the other thing that we needed to consider in our planning was the fruit bats.  a massive problem in our area.  they can come through and destroy your whole crop overnight.  so to ensure that our investment is well cared for, we are keeping the orchard fairly compact.  this will allow us to put up a framework for netting when this is needed.

bring in the piggies.  i am still in awe of our little kiddo's.  they are half way through completely digging up this massive grassy area and preparing it for planting.  in the midst of this as they get through the grass i am adding a huge load of gypsom .... this will help break down the clay.  and of course there is the amazing goodness that their manure adds to the soil.  currently the piggies have cleared half the orchard area, and have now been released on to the final section.  to say they are enjoying the life of pastured pigs is an understatement!

the final step will be to lay down a thick covering of green manure.  this is a series of seeds / grains/ legumes that are great at enriching the soil and keeping the weeds out.  you grow different things at different times of the year depending on where you live.  our autumn / winter subtropical mix from Eden Seeds will do the treat well.  this will go down with a thick bed of wet straw .... and then we let it rest.  this will do great things for improving the soil.

BUT ....

inspite of that, we still have very heavy clay soil.  it won't be perfect overnight.  so we are going to mound plant, above ground.  so watch this space for our first winter planting ... stone fruit i think.  great to plant over winter as they are dormant.  lets their roots really sink into the soil and get bedded in.  bring it on!


  1. Hi Maggie, all looking great. It is great to read about your soil prep...when we did our orchard we knew nothing and are now going back and adding to the soil . We wish we knew then what we know now - would have been much easier.

    1. Thanks Kim! there are so many lessons to learn! I've taken the time to talk to our immediate neighbors about the soils around us and listen to some old timers who really know their stuff. I reckon listening to people who have done it before is probably some of the best ways to go. One of the things we haven't done, but were told it helps heavy clay is to put in a load of sand with the piggies and let them mix that and the gypsom through. decided not to go that way ... but i could see how it would help with better drainage.