Planting and caring for my own fruit orchard has been a dream of mine for quite some time. I think I can trace my excitement to one day about eight years ago when I went to the orchard tea rooms at Granchester, just outside Cambridge in England. It was a beautiful sunny day and we sat underneath old Apple trees, in frayed deckchairs and drank tea from clinky china cups. There may have been an amount of cake eaten too but to be honest I can’t remember. The day was and is a complete haze for me. All I could do was sit there and dream of how I was to create my own little Granchester.
It helps my poetic idyll that Rupert Brooke also had an opinion on it. The final lines of one of his most famous poems is about afternoon tea at Granchester, “Stands the church clock at ten-to-three And is there honey still for tea?”
I don’t know what it is that makes orchards so romantic, but they are.
The photo above is the patch of land at the side of our house that was always going to be the orchard. We’ve been living here for a year now and I haven’t really done anything to this part of the garden except let it get hideously overgrown. As you can see I’ve been quite successful at that.
But last month I decided that 2014 would be the year to plant the orchard. And if the trees are coming in the Spring then that only means one thing. The ground needed to be cleared, the stumps removed and the soil improved. I did not do it. We hired a group of guys to come and do the heavy stuff.
They brought a mini-digger in and removed all the larger bushes. They were mostly large Viburnums, Lilacs and very, very big Sword Ferns. I was sad to see the plants go but go they must.
And this is what is left. A frozen wasteland with sticks denoting where the trees will be planted. The trees will all be semi-dwarfing and so with pruning I should be able to keep them between 12 -15 feet. They need to be at least eight foot apart and so with this taken into consideration I can fit 10 fruit trees in.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of research on choosing Apple varieties. These are the trees I have selected and ordered from Raintree Nursery.
Egremont Russet EMLA26 eating
Liberty EMLA 26 eating
Honeycrisp M26 eating
King Edward VII M26 baking
I have grouped them here in pollination groups and will be planting those trees next to each other to maximise pollination. I already have a Crab Apple tree in the garden which I saved because it will be great for pollination too.
I also ordered some soft fruit bushes. White and Red Currants, Black Currants, etc. I’ll wait until the orchard is planted to put in some Raspberry canes. I’m not sure where I’ll have the room yet!
So there you have it. A planned orchard. Obviously I have quite a way to go before I actually harvest any fruit and I’m certain there will be lots of lessons to be learned. But it’s exciting to finally get operation Granchester off the ground.
I enjoy your blog very much. I live and garden in the San Francisco Bay area where our weather is just a little warmer than Portland’s.
Congratulations on starting a home orchard. I am writing to encourage you to carefully research the rootstocks for your trees. I have about 30 fruit trees on my half-acre lot. Most of them are are semi-dwarf and a few of those are even from Raintree, which is a very fine nursery. My goal is to keep them about ten feet high to enable an easy harvest. Even with Summer pruning it is very hard to keep trees that low. They just want to grow much bigger! My best success is with “Ultra Dwarf” trees from this nursery:
Even these trees will exceed ten feet here when they are planted in the ground. However, the rootstocks seem to be less vigorous and they are easier to keep at about ten feet with Summer and Winter pruning.
I’m concerned that your plan to put semi-dwarf trees about (or at least) eight feet apart with result in a very dense orchard that will be very hard to keep even 12-15 feet tall. Perhaps you could find an experienced orchard person in your area and see what their advice is.
Having home-grown fruit is just the best! Good luck with your orchard.
Regards, Keith Silva
P.S. How big is your lot?
Gill, I envy you that wonderful space to have a fruit garden! I’ve managed to tuck 9 fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, cherries) into the community garden here – 5 years on and I’m still waiting for the plums and pears to fruit! There is a compulsion, too, to add soft fruit: redcurrants and red gooseberries should fruit this coming year and I have a quince on order! (I’m so excited by that thought!) I’m really looking forward to seeing how your orchard progresses and how you lay out the trees; I have very fond memories of an orchard at the bottom of my family garden in Weymouth when I was very young.
PS. The crab apples are glorious this year, such a great sight in the winter months. … may have to get one of those, as well!
Sounds like it will be a beautiful and productive orchard!
HI, I ENJOY YOUR BLOG IN SEATTLE. SINCE YOU ARE NEW TO THE NW I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT AN AMAZING ORCHARDIST ON CAMANO ISLAND (ABOUT 50 MILES NW OF SEATTLE). THE PLACE IS CALLED CAMANO ISLAND ORCHARDS, AND IS OWNED BY OTTO (360-387-0725). OTTO IS FROM SWITZERLAND AND HAS 250 TYPES OF APPLES, MOSTLY HEIRLOOMS, PLUS, 50 TYPES OF PEARS, NOT TO MENTION FIGS, GRAPES, KIWI, ON AND ON. OTTO GRAFTS AND SELLS MINI TREES(5 FEET BY 5 FEET). I HAVE 14 OF THESE TREES ON MY CITY LOT IN GREENWOOD SEATTLE. THEY PRODUCE APPLES AFTER 2 YEARS AND I HAD ABOUT 100 APPLES THIS YEAR(AFTER 3 YEARS). OTTO SAID HE ONCE GOT 125 POUNDS ON ONE MIN1 TREE????? OTTO HAS INCREDIBLE KNOWLEDGE OF FRUIT TREES AND MORE. ALAS, HE DOES NOT HAVE A WED SITE, HOWEVER, HE CAN BE REACHED BY PHONE. TELL HIM YOU WERE REFERRED BY SIMONE AND DON.
Growing some fruit requires a lot of care from those insects and flies, good luck though! :)
I’ll echo John’s comments. Cherry fly, apple fly, codling moth, etc. There is a home orchard society based out of Clackamas Community College. They are a good resource.
On the other hand, seed catalogues will be arriving soon. Spring is around the corner…
Sounds like you have done your research. I have been adding in some fruit mostly raspberry varieties and pear trees. I am currently researching everything I can find about mason bees for pollinating fruit crops. I love the research/planning phase! Good luck with your orchard.