Having an orchard can be considered a privilege because nothing beats the pleasure of eating home-grown fruit. In addition, owning an orchard is a money-saver and fresh fruit are beneficial to one’s health. Creating an orchard is accessible to anyone. All you need is to love gardening, own a small plot of land and read the tips below. 

An orchard is a field planted with various fruit trees, therefore producing several varieties of fruit depending on the species of trees that are planted there. To be more accurate, orchards are particularly numerous in the countryside, since they are usually part of a diversified plantation and may extend over several acres. There also are fruit tree plantations of industrial scale – the banana for example – but they are very rarely referred to as orchards. In this manner, the word orchard retains a human and intimate dimension and is well suited to domestic orchards. Contrary to popular belief, it takes only a few trees to form an orchard, and maintaining it is truly no rocket science. But first and foremost, take the time to discover the benefits to be derived from having an orchard.

Benefits of having an orchard 

First of all, owning an orchard is the assurance to harvest and enjoy the fruit of your labour.  Each season brings its share of surprises with pears, apples, avocados, apricots, oranges, cherries, figs, dates, lychees, etc. With an orchard at home, no need to ruin yourself at the market to make a pie or jam. Knowing that most fruits are imported from tropical countries and that their cost is increasing over time, having an orchard becomes a sizeable asset. Then, having a garden contributes to environmental protection since it is known that the roots of trees – whatever they are – protect the ground against erosion and that trees can fight against greenhouse emissions by recycling the surrounding air. In a word, if orchards were propagated in urban areas, the air would be a little purer. Finally, having an orchard allows for a different type of gardening since caring for fruit trees has nothing to do with maintaining flowers. In short, the orchard is a plantation that is used to make your life easier and improve your health.

Some tips on choosing orchard trees 

The choice of fruit trees largely depends on taste and preferences. Before deciding which species to select, be aware that certain types of trees can be self-sterile or self-fertile. In the first case, different varieties of compatible trees must be rotated in order for them to fertilize each other through pollination. For example, pear and cherry trees fit into this category. Self-fertile trees can be planted without any particular constraint and this is especially the case of apple and plum trees. Then, select trees in regard to the area of available land. Some trees, such as avocado, are of great scope and require sufficient room while others, like lemon, only need a small space. In addition, the required interval between trees – three to ten feet- must be taken into account. This precautionary measure allows them to thrive without hindering each other’s growth. Finally, take into account the time period between flowering and fruiting, which varies among species. For example, it takes about 120 days after flowering for the ‘Reine des Reinettes’ to produce fruit, while the pear Comte de Paris requires 175.

Cultivating and maintaining an orchard: an art 

Prior to planting seedlings in the ground – from December to March, begin by taking good care of the land because fruit trees do not tolerate soil that is too dry, wet, marshy, or acidic . The land must be unpacked, enriched with some compost and free of any grit that could be included inside. Once the soil is well loosened, lay the seedling into its intended hole after having coated its roots with praline. Reseal the hole ensuring there are no air bubbles, make sure that the graft point of union – if present – is 6 inches above the ground, compact the root ball thoroughly with your foot and then water abundantly. If the young plant is fragile, do not hesitate to stake it. When the tree approaches a steady growth curve, do not forget to maintain it so it does not wither. Depending on species, a fertilizer supply – nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium – may be required at least once a year. The foot of the tree must be constantly free of weeds and mulched in winter for protection against frost. Do not forget to prune the tree from time to time and to thin its fruit to improve their quality. Following all these steps should yield successful results.

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Published in Orchard by Alexander on 04 Jul 2011