Planning and Creating A Home Orchard in an Urban Setting

Creating a backyard orchard in an urban setting is challenging because of the limited space. However, you can utilize small areas by planting more varieties of fruits and berries and keeping them smaller than they normally grow.

Most fruit trees can grow over 20 feet tall and wide if allowed. However, in high density, compact tree orchards, trees are often maintained to be 8-15 feet tall by 6 – 10 feet wide. When using dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties, height and width are less, but fruit production is more than adequate. By keeping trees compact, and planting in higher density, you can produce as much as needed with various fruits ripening at different times.

Be flexible in design. Not all trees are need to be kept compact. Consider a large mulberry tree adding shade for nearby plants, like avocados, cherries, and persimmons. These varieties prefer afternoon shade, when newly planted in hot, dry climates like Los Angeles. Afternoon shade is good protection for some fruit-bearing trees as it provides lower heat and light levels during the hottest times of day. These trees can grow out of the shade once their roots have grown out.

In home orchards, start with the border, and plant trees along the walls or outside perimeter. Locate evergreen plants like citrus near the home because they’re always green, even in the winter. Deciduous fruit trees that can be kept relatively small go in the middle of the row, like apples, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, pomegranates and nectarine trees.

Plant larger trees like mulberries and figs in the background, so they do not block the view of the yard. Large trees such as these grow in the corner or center of the yard, to keep lawn space open. usually consider planting along backyard walls. Planting by this design assures the year-round greenery is always closest to the house. Try to plant citrus near your grilling area or outdoor kitchen for your convenience. Planting the largest trees furthest from the house keeps the backyard space more open and limits the view of messy dropped fruit

Consider your planting location carefully. Do not plant large trees too close to a building or narrow wall. Years down the line their roots can cause damage. Most trees can be safely planted at least 3 – 4 feet from walls, such as those separating you from your neighbor’s house. Space them around 10 – 12 feet apart. Usually, the neighbors are happy to see fruit and will just pick anything ripe that might grow across the fence. Plant about 6 – 12 feet away from the walls to keep the entire tree on your property, unless you plan on the tree growing even larger.

Plant varieties that produce at different times of the year. Apple, peach, pear, plum, and nectarine are ripe in late summer. Pomegranates, figs, jujube, and persimmons ripen before or during the fall. Some citrus trees like lemons and limes are ever-bearing, producing fruits right after each other, all year round. Although Oranges and Mandarins have seasons but can produce more than once per year.

Also, dwarf citrus grows happily in large containers. Either symmetrically or not, border the driveway or the walk, edge the fence, or use container-grown citrus in any sunny or partially sunny area. Grow them near the house to enjoy their year-round evergreen beauty and to have ripe fruit nearby.

Train climbing plants like grapes, blueberries, and blackberries along a fence, a trellis, or up a wall. Experience the satisfaction of picking your fruit from your own healthy plants.