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 Help with the design of a small orchard 
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Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:06 pm
Posts: 2
Post Help with the design of a small orchard
Hi there, last summer my wife and cleared our side yard in SE PDX, established a veggie garden and chickens, that was enough for last year but in April we would like to plant a new orchard and are looking for advice (professional/expert or just good) as we want to get this right first time, unlike the layout of the veggie garden which we will change this spring, as we realize that planting trees is not like planting annuals. Can anybody advise us whom to speak to. Obviously the site has some of it's own difficulties which we would like to circumnavigate with advice.

Thanks Michael Alexander

Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:19 pm

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1188
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Help with the design of a small orchard

A Portland Native who rarely gets to town anymore, I’m curious how much space you’ve got? I grew up on a double-lot in SE with 4 full-sized English walnut trees, a massive Royal Ann cherry, a pie cherry and the largest tree on the block - a Black Walnut… What type of fruit trees do you want?

I’m not looking for the job, but it will be easier for someone to consider if they had a bit more information. Without deer, things could be kept quite compact. By specifying ‘an orchard,’ are you including an arbor of fuzzy or hardy kiwi, or grapes? Would figs count … and do you know the wonderful attributes of Asian persimmons?

I never considered those last three, and it took decades to incorporate them into my ‘orchard,’ but they’re now some of my primary producers! If I were starting over with limited space (I’ve had a couple acres to work with) my apples, for example, would go something like this: slightly more vigorous rootstock (pruning is easy and fun) on a base tree with two other varieties grafted as main scaffold limbs immediately upon planting. You could have pollination and production at the same time. I’d do the same with pears (though only one pear tree). I’d have to have an Italian (or European) prune, with both a Petite and maybe a Brooks grafted on for pollination. An Asian (aka Japanese) plum; again, a base tree with two more pollinator / productive varieties…

Length of season would be fun to manipulate, grafting on compatible pollinating varieties whose ripening dates would lengthen the harvest. Cherries are difficult to deal with… I wouldn’t bother; Peaches and Apricots the same… Much would depend on your space, but consistent production would rule my requests. An amazing tasting fruit that only sets well every four years is a waste of space, and the best tasting apple that cracks, sunburns or rarely sets a crop on a feeble tree is also a waste. I’d want production, dependability and variety, in all fruits.

Just some suggestions… for which we’ll all have vastly different answers! But after replacing mistakes, up to 3 times a hole, I do what I can to help :wink:

Temperate Orchard Convservancy:

Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:35 am

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Help with the design of a small orchard
I think you have to think about what kind of fruit you really like, and then how well it can grow here in a small space. For example, I LOVE pie cherries, so I will always grow them, and they are hassle free, but it depends on what you like. You could hire someone for a lot of money, or try to pick it up a little at a time. I would join the Home Orchard Society and then talk to Ted Swensen for about 40 minutes at an event like the Scion Exchange, once you've gotten some ideas together. Lots of other people would help too. You will grow in your ideas and skills and you'll have a lot of fun.
John S

Fri Jan 01, 2010 10:26 pm

Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 9:10 pm
Posts: 1
Post Re: Help with the design of a small orchard

I'm in the Seattle area and started my urban orchard with semi dwarf combination trees that have 3 or 4 different varieties of the same type fruit grafted on to a single root stock. If the space you have is small the combination trees are good because cross pollination occurs on a single tree. The trees come in the traditional tree shape or espalier patterns ( x and y direction) that can be easily planted up against a fence or a house and look terrific when mature. I've had success with the combo Japanese plums, European and Asian pears, apples, cherries and the Frost peach. The cherry and peach trees will require more care because of our wet climate.

A good source of information and tree stock is Raintree Nursery located about an hour and a half north of Portland. This nursery specializes in fruit trees that do well in the Pacific Northwest. I have also found my local fruit tree society to be a great resource. It takes several years for the trees to really start producing but well worth the wait.


Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:03 pm

Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 8:22 am
Posts: 237
Location: SW Portland, Oregon, USA
Post Re: Help with the design of a small orchard
If you're looking for a recommendation on a professional, send me an email and I'll send you a reference.

Otherwise, I'd start with a site map. Pay a lot of attention to summer vs. winter sunlight angles, slope, soil types and water issues. And make a prioritized list of what you all want to grow.

Feel free to post your map here!

zone 8, Portland, Oregon
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Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:03 pm
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Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:24 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Sublimity, OR
Post Re: Help with the design of a small orchard
Viron offers some good advice regarding consideration of figs, grapes, and kiwi, etc. You may have the opportunity to grow produce that may not be as readily available through stores, produce-stands/orchards or u-pick.

There is so so much to learn that I advocate patience and volunteering at the Home Orchard Society's Arboreteum at Clackamas Community College. Working along side other individuals (some as new as you and others with years of experience) is worth every minute of it -- whatever the season, you will learn important "how-to" and when the various fruits ripen, you get to taste which ones really realy excite your taste buds. Off the top of my head, I will guess that the HOC has 75 varieties of grape growing there -- with only a very few available in stores and markets. Some varieties, fresh picked from the vine are so outstanding and flavorful -- you can only say: "WOW -- this is the grape I want to eat forever." Lom Rombough's "The Grape Grower: a guide to organic viticulture" (Chelsea Green Publ) is an excellent reference -- a good starting point and an important text for detailed reference/help.

If you think you know which varieties you really want -- think again. The first time I walked into the HOC Spring Fruit Fair/Scion Exchange my mind was truly blown. When confronted with scion of 150 to 175 +/- varieties of apples and 125+/- of pear, the concept of choices assumes orders of magnitude you never knew existed. Preparatory to that event, go to your local library and obtain a copy of "Fruit, Berry and Nut Inverntory". The bibliography I have is for the 2nd Edition (there may be a 3rd) by Kent Whealy and Steve Demuth (editors) published by Seed Saver Publications (Decorah Iowa) (isbn: 0-882424-50-6 softcover).

Half the fun of gardening is planning. Certainly talk to other knowledgeabe individuals but make your own decisions. It is a humbling and exciting experience.

Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:40 pm
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