Orchard Design Ideas

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Daniel.Mav, Jan 28, 2018.

  1. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Ok ladies and gents, orchard design ideas.
    I want to squeeze as many dewarf fruit trees in as I can. I'll have larger nut and fruit trees in another area so mainly citrus and other dewarf trees.

    My idea was to have 8m long rows that were 1m wide with a path of 1.5m inbetween. The trees in each row would have 1.5m spacing between.

    I am leaning towards having a continuous raised bed for each row instead of individual trees. I would plant flowers and herbs in the garden bed underneath the trees.
    I've attached images to show the design
    Looking forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts.
     

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  2. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I can see your wish to get the most from your area of land but I fear you will find that spacing is too close even for dwarf trees.

    When planning the spacings for your orchard you need to think how big the trees will grow to in around 5-7yrs time even with a bit of pruning. Don't take any notice of what is written on the label on the young tree. Its all rubbish!

    Dwarf citrus trees can still attain an overall size of 3.5m wide & high. If you squeeze them in they will fail to fruit & have a heavy infestation of pests & diseases.

    I have citrus & mangoes on dwarf root stock & they are not that small. They also generally have branches that want to be closer to the ground than might be wise so require some judicious early pruning to shape the young tree. Afterall you need to get in under the tree to mow, mulch, spray for pests & disease.

    I think a good spacing between the outer edges of mature trees is 1.5m which allows good air flow between trees, pollination & beneficial insect circulation. So if your trees are likely to grow to 3m across, then your spacings will be (3m wide + inter spacing of 1.5m) = minimum 4.5m between trunks.

    Your rows will therefore need to end up being 3m wide plus inter-row of your 1.5m to drive the mower along.

    I understand those spacings will reduce your tree numbers by more than 50% but I think you will have far better trees as a result.

    As far as caring for your rows of trees as they grow, your idea of the long raised beds is good. So you will make a long mound or raised bed, plant trees at 4.5m spacings then mulch right along the row. At that point the row only needs to be a maximum of 750ml wide & the remainder of the inter-row is mowed.

    Its not a good idea to cultivate immediately under & near the trees as it disturbs the roots which will be quite near the surface. However your idea to have interplantings of flowers & herbs is still doable, just not right up to the trees. As the trees grow you will have less space for the interplantings because you don't want to do any cultivation inside the drip line.

    Each spring when you replace your mulch & fertilize your trees with compost etc, you just make the row a little wider to the new drip line. You don't need to dig or cultivate the soil, just lay the compost etc on top of the mown grass & thickly lay the mulch over the top. The grass will compost underneath the mulch & keep the soil moist as well. That composting of the grass on the non-cultivated soil will aid fungal & bacterial growth in the soil when your new fertilizer & compost is added. You will mow right up to the new mulch edge.

    Progressively over 4-5yrs your rows will widen to the full 3m width as the trees grow to full size, with the inter-row narrowing down to 1.5m as you planned.

    If you google commercial orchard design you will see they have far wider spacings & inter-rows. There are many very good reasons for that.
     
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  3. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Wow thanks for all your detailed information. I will have to reconsider my whole desin now :( leave it with me and I'll repost :).
     
  4. DarrenP

    DarrenP Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    When we moved into our current home, our garden design was "let's put the veg beds there and there" and there's a free spot, put a fruit tree there". Funny enough, we have few regrets how it's worked out, except we're running out of room for more trees.
     
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  5. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member

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    ClissAT is right about the spacing. Occasionally you might plant two trees in the same hole for ease of pollination but this does increase maintenance work. More space means maximisation and ease of fruit picking. All the best with that.
     
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  6. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    @Daniel.Mav it does depend on the fruit tree and how you intend to grow them eg standard wine glass apple trees need more space than ballerina apples, however, I do "cram" our trees in and keep them a manageable size regardless of dwarf variety.

    My average spacing between trees in our orchard is 3 metres (so double what you are considering) but I might have some trees 5 metres apart or around 2.5 depending on the type of growth expected and what I want eg I let some trees get bigger than others to fill a gap or because it's a key performer (such as our lime which produces all year and we use the fruit nearly every day).

    I consider 3m apart (on average) as pretty close but if most of them are pruned to a similar size and the orchard is in full sun giving most trees even access to light regardless of position then it should work well.

    Growing up in raised beds and planting under the canopy is a good idea. You might find some trees (like citrus) may fill out the base around the tree with lots of feeder roots close to the surface making it difficult to underplant other crops but I think it would work pretty well overall and be a good use of space.
     
  7. Nycolette

    Nycolette Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for all of this information on orchard layout. My husband and I are planning on adding an orchard to our property this year, and this is great to know. I would have planted them too close together. After all, they look so small when you first get them...
     
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  8. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Wow I really did underestimate the distance :( looks like I'll only get around 20-30 fruit trees in the area now :(
     
  9. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    So after reading all the adivce. I've changed it to on 4 trees per row and extended the rows to 12m instead of 8m to accommodate for the 3m spacing between trees. That means I'll get roughly 24-28 fruit trees in the designated area.
    That will leave me with around 10m behind the orchard where I want to plant dewarf macadamia and two mulberry trees. Behind that (maybe under aswell) I want to have all my berry plants, bananas, pawpaws, passion fruit, ginger, tumeric etc. All the 'messy' stuff which will take up 6mx by 40m (whole back fence) as a buff from the neighbors. I'll try and draw the design to post. With this system I'm hoping to maximize my space between the orchard and 'food forest'. I will also have chickens, ducks, vegetable garden and herd garden.
     
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  10. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I just drew a very quick design. It isn't to scale but I will do one to scale eventually. It just keeps changing. So my block is 40x90. The front yard is only 10m the backyard grass area will be 20m and then I have 42m for all the 'farm' stuff. It has a 1m slope from right to left and there is a stormwater pit in the back left corner. Just a rubble oit for the water to soak into. After drawing it I've realised the avocado tree would need to be on the high side cause of drainage. Behind the vegetable garden is blank I haven't really planned anything there. Might be too waterlogged (though it is infront of the stormpit).
     

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  11. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I would like to eventually include goats. Perhaps the pen could be on the lwft side behind the vegetables. Or the duck pen could go there because it may be boggy and the goat pen could go where I planned for the ducks. Or perhaps I could incorporate it amongst where the nut trees are. So many decisions.
     
  12. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Planning is certainly the first stage of any good garden & your aims are admirable, Daniel.
    Its like when you want to build a shed or a house.
    You have this grand vision so you start with a castle drawn on your piece of paper.
    Then finance, space, capacity, time & reality all take their toll.
    You end up with a modest 3bed home or a 3bay shed.
    The same applies to garden design.

    So when I look at your new plans Daniel, I can see you are back to your old tricks! ;)
    Trying to fit too much into a given space.
    Expecting too much from the given piece of land & air volume.
    However you have to start somewhere & you are on the right track.

    Recently I have been involved with 3 'food forests', each in a completely different area of SE Qld. Each began life after the land owner did their Permaculture Design Course so they should have had the right tools to do an intelligent design.

    However all 3 had one thing in common after several years of growth.

    They'd all failed.

    The trees, vines, etc were crammed in too close, got too big & scraggily for the allocated space, so they had to fight for light, air & soil volume. Admittedly they didn't have the advantage of the most advanced versions of dwarf trees as you have, Daniel. However, dwarf trees doesn't mean more trees.

    None were bearing fruit, all had disease. The animals living under those trees that were supposed to be helping with the health of the food forests were not fairing any better.

    One forest was very coastal on a town block, one was further inland but still on a town block & the other was wedged into a corner of a small acreage to make room for a cow & some goats on the remaining paddock space.

    All forests have now been cut back to bare trunks, many trees have been removed completely, all animals are gone from all forests & needless to say each owner is stunned. They put in so much hard work, tried valiantly to stave off the growing disease problems & in the end had to admit defeat.

    Most of the remaining trees will survive but it will be several years before they reach full bearing capacity again. Whether their owners learn the lesson is anyone's guess.

    People have a tendency to see a space & want to stick some plant in it.
    They don't see that empty air space as a conduit for the air & light to travel to their plants & animals.
    Nor do they see that empty bit of soil as a receptacle for plant food, a place where the sunlight strikes the ground to warm it in winter or aid in the health of the soil.

    Again all I can do is refer you to the spacings used by commercial growers. Afterall, if they could plant closer they would, so they could get more production off a given space.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
  13. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Sigh. Back to the drawing board. I'll try make one to scale and see what I can do. shame I couldn't afford 2 acres :)
     
  14. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I feel your pain Daniel! For many years I struggled to afford larger land area.
    But to pay for it I had to work away.
    So the land was neglected.
    Now I can afford the land space but I am old & incapacitated so again the land is being neglected.
    Pity you don't live near me.
    You could use my land to put your designs into practise.
     
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  15. DarrenP

    DarrenP Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Just a suggestion for your ducks, Daniel. When your fruit orchard is established, let the ducks run free in it, as long as it's fenced off from the rest of your garden. The ducks will eat any bugs, provide fertiliser, and won't damage the trees. You just need to provide a decent water area for them.
     
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  16. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Great Idea Darren. I was thinking about putting up electric netting during the those times. Here's a picture to scale. I have 42mx40m to work with. I already know that I have put some things too close but stay with me on this. I'm mainly trying to work out placements first and then I'll fine tune the measurements. Seems too overwhelming to cut down everything right away :(.
    So let's work out where things should go.
     

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  17. Daniel.Mav

    Daniel.Mav Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    So as you can see I have some space left over. I dont have anything else to add (nothing I can think of haha) so just looking to rearrange things. I will definitely need to add more space to the animal runs - don't know what I was thinging there. 5 vegetable beds should be enough? Herbs and salad will be at the house. Will 6m beds be long enough for the grapes and berries? Sorry to be sucj a pain with these designs. Just want it clear before I start building it all.
     
  18. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    You certainly are not being a pain Daniel, you are learning, & making well considered decisions about your future food. You are doing it right!

    In a 6m bed you should get 2 grape vines or 2 berry vines planted about 2m in from each end. Or if you build really strong tall trellises you could squeeze in 3 vines so long as the orientation is correct (I go into that further down).

    Remember that some berries fruit on 1 or sometimes 2yr old wood so they need to be allowed to grow their canes as long as required. They ramble all over the place. The canes are folded back over themselves at the end of the trellis. Canes can end up 10m long, all folded back over themselves repeatedly which is why the plant spacings are so wide.
    Other berries fruit on fresh canes so spend a good portion of the year with little to no growth. Then in their short season they grow like crazy all over the shop & make a huge mess of canes which you tie back onto very strong trellises so they don't grasp & imprison you as you walk past.
    You need to make room for those habits or you wont get any fruit off either type. Your inter rows need to be around 2m wide at least. Commercial crops are around 3-4m inter rows.

    Your grapes are quite tame by comparison although they hate to be shaded by their neighbouring row or trellis. They just need to be tied to their trellis & have the extra leafy growth snipped off periodically to allow air into the guts of the vine so pollination can occur & the fruit doesn't go mouldy. Then after fruiting the whole grape vine is pruned back to the main trunk & left to go dormant for several months.

    One thing to keep in mind about all those vine crops is that over a couple years they will get quite tall. Their trellises need to be built at least 2m tall (2.5m is better) with a T-bar across the top of every post. So a 6m trellis will have 7posts & probably 6 horizontal running wires plus 2 wires running through the T-bars over the top to tie the vines to. These trellises will then shade any garden bed in winter that is too close.

    Also you need to think about the orientation. The best orientation for vines is north south or actually slightly east of north to slightly west of south in this end of Queensland. That way each side get aprox the sae amount of sunlight every day through winter & summer. If you run them east west you will have a cold side that wont grow anything & the whole plant will keep straying out to the east side of the trellis & become lop-sided.

    That is also a good orientation for garden beds too & you plant your plants so the tallest are at the southern end of the bed while the shortest plants are at the northern end of the bed. That way the taller growing plants don't shade out shorter plants through the important winter months.

    Or another very good way to do it is if you can divide your 6m long bed into 3x 2m sections with a short gap to allow for shading. Using that technique you would plant the short plants at the beginning or northern end of each 2m section & put the taller plants in the following rows, then a short gap just left mulched or a place to store a bale of mulch hay. Then start the next 2m section again with short plants then tall plants, etc.

    That way you could do successive plantings (called 'succession planting')of each type of veg. You would start the new season's plantings in the most southerly 2m section of the 6m long bed. Then after 4wks you repeat the same plantings in the middle section, then 4wks later again you would plant up the last northern end of the bed. That way the young plants are not shaded by the more mature plants.

    Doing what's called 'crop rotation' is a very good idea as it keeps the soil very healthy & one type of plant provides the soil growing conditions for the next crop, etc. However for that process you need 4 or 6 beds as there are 2 methods, one is a 4 bed rotation, while the better version is a 6bed rotation. It takes into consideration things like remaining pH for the follow-up crop; amount of available fertility so that, eg, root crops don't have too much fertilizer so they don't fork; brassicas don't follow similar as that promotes root nematodes.

    I wrote about those methods somewhere in this section of the forum on growing vegetables.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  19. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    remember what I wrote about that apparently empty space? Its essential for goof plant & soil health. Just because there is a bit of ground with nothing planted doesn't mean you have to plant something in it. Its not wasted space.
     
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  20. DarrenP

    DarrenP Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    The hardest part is not just looking at where everything goes, but imagining everything fully grown.
    Given our garden layout I described above, I might have to either move some beds, or keep a couple of trees pruned. So what you are doing is to be commended.
     
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