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Create a Mini Urban Orchard

Fig trees can be grown successfully by espaliering them in a small space.

Fig trees can be grown successfully by espaliering them in a small space.

Many people think that it is not possible to have an orchard in the city but there are many cleaver ways of cramming fruit bearing trees into a small space. My personal tree philosophy is don’t just choose a tree on its looks but choose a tree which will produce an edible crop for you as well.

The secret to creating an orchard in a small space is to choose dwarf varieties. These types only grow to about 2 metres, depending on variety and species. Always grow grafted, named varieties, rather than grow your own trees from pips. Seedlings can be unreliable and may never bear fruit successfully. Choose organic old fashioned varieties as they generally grow better in the home garden and don’t require such a rigorous spray programme as some of the commercial varieties. It is very important to choose varieties that are suited to your climate. If your winters do not get cold don’t try and grow apricots, for example, as they require a cold winter to develop fruit. Keep the plant labels on the tree so in future you can remember what they are.

To save money purchase bare-rooted fruit trees in winter. They are cost effective because you don’t pay for the transportation and handling of heavy pots. Dwarf varieties also save, not only space but, cost less to spray, water and fertilise. Buy multigrafted trees. These trees have several varieties on one plant. This means they can pollinate each other, and you can enjoy fruit that are early season and late season on one tree.

When purchasing your trees, check if they are self-fertile or do they require another variety to pollinate its flowers. When you are planting for pollination, plant the pollinator no more than 30 metres away so the bees don’t have too far to travel. Look over the fence and around your neighbourhood, your neighbour may have a pollinator in their garden.

The ideal area for a home-orchard is a sunny, well drained position which gets full sun during the summer. Most fruit trees take at least two years to begin cropping. Remember not to plant your trees too close together as they will start competing for sunlight and nutrients. If this happens trees will become stressed.

Group trees of similar varieties together. For example plant all pip fruit trees together and all stone fruit trees together, along with a citrus grove in another area. The idea behind this is, it allows you to manage your similar trees together whether spraying, pruning or fertilizing.

Encourage bees to visit by planting bee attracting flowers or even setting up a hive within the orchard space.

Training an apple as an espalier

Training an apple as an espalier

Use walls or fences to espalier fruit trees. This is the ultimate in space saving. Espaliered fruit trees crop heavily due to the hard pruning they endure. Their form can make a real feature in your garden.

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