backyard orchard culture: 1

January 27, 2013

backyard orchard culturebackyard orchard culturebackyard orchard culturebackyard orchard culturebackyard orchard culturebackyard orchard culturebackyard orchard culturebackyard orchard cultureWell, we’re stepping into new territory and learning (Ben’s learning) all about how to cultivate a backyard orchard culture. Say what?!! Basically, it’s all about how to grow an orchard in a small space…

We live in your regular suburban neighborhood, in a tract home that we love (and are slowly infusing our own personality into), so while we have a decent size yard for being in Southern California, it’s still not that big. One side of it is already dedicated to our vegetable gardening (this side gets the most sun), but we wanted to venture out and start growing our own fruit trees too. Ben’s the lead on this project and honestly, I just have him tell me what it’s going to cost and what trees are going in, all the other stuff, it’s on him.

He’s been spending hours (and I probably should say days!) of research into this project and even with all his research, we have hit a few snags that has cost us more time (and money) to figure things out. He’s spoken to master gardeners, professionals, emailed people with questions, there’s just so much to learn and know that Ben really tries hard to do all he can to make sure he’s doing things correctly. First things first though, and we had to get all the grass ripped off from the side that was going to hold our mini orchard. Next, we had to go in and remove some dirt so that Ben could amend the soil. Here’s where the first snag came in, after we all have spent a day or so removing dirt, he did a drain test on the dirt and turns out we have really bad drainage even with the amended soil. After going back and forth for a solution that was going to be the most time efficient and cost effective, we decided to dig 2 feet deep and get all that dirt removed. OYE! Of course, that giant hole was going to be filled up with good dirt with better drainage and that’s what happened.

We found a company that came with a little bobcat to dig deep (can you imagine if we had to do that all ourselves?!) and then they hauled all that dirt out (we tried doing it ourselves first, but I’m glad we didn’t finish the job alone). While we were at it, we decided to rip up the rest of the grass in that area since we were doing such a major overhaul. We figured, might as well go all the way at this point and just take out all the grass since we had wanted to do that eventually. We had to buy giant trucks full of soil, which got dumped in our driveway, and Ben (and John, BFF’s husband) with another guy we hired to help, moved all that dirt to the back and filled up the hole. This beginning has been such an ordeal and has taken so much out of us already, but we know that the investment will definitely be worth it.

Now, we have good dirt in and so comes the tree planting. Last I thought, 23 trees were going in. Yes, I said 23!!! Ben informed me today that the number has been upped a little bit. Oh my world! Now, here’s the thing with a backyard orchard culture… you don’t let trees grow more than 5-7 feet tall and some holes have multiple trees in it. Sounds crazy, I know. This is just the beginning of our journey, so you can be sure there will be many posts to come and I will share more info soon. If you want to start reading about it, Dave Wilson has a plethora of information to get you started.

Do you grow any fruit trees in your yard? Any tips for us beginners?

20 comments on “backyard orchard culture: 1”

  • Angela says:

    Wow!! How amazing!! What kind of fruit will they be? I’ve always wanted grapefruit and avocado trees… sadly that’s impossible in Oregon. πŸ™

  • Maria Bryan says:

    Gosh…this looks like such a project…but so exciting!!!!! I use to have lemon trees in our old home and it was awesome to make the kids fresh lemonade all the time. Can’t wait to see the finished project!!!! πŸ™‚ Do you have a gardner you love…we really need new sod put in but have NO ONE to refer us to?


  • val says:

    Wow, this sounds amazing! I will be following your progress πŸ™‚

  • Alma says:

    Wow that sounds like a lot of work but I am sure it will be worth it! I have lots of memories of stuffing my face and belly with avocados from my uncles back yard. HE had a huge avocado tree and lived in S CA as well. Good luck to you guys!

  • Charlotte says:

    This is exciting! The girls are getting a great science lesson on plants! And then another on hard work!

  • Anne says:

    We have a lemon tree and a fig tree. We think the lemon tree is a remnant of when the SF Valley used to be all sunkist orchards. We have a few neighbors like that that have tons of citrus trees. We also had an avocado plant which we planted from the seed (you know the old school stick tooth picks in the pit and watch it grow), but sadly in last summers heat wave it died. Avocado’s are very finicky I’ve learned since then after doing some research on line. But we were so sad as it had grown to 3.5 feet tall after we had grown it for almost 2 years. Now determined to get another one that lives so I now have 5 avocado pits sitting suspended with toothpicks half suspended in water.
    Good luck and cant wait to see what your orchard yields!

  • Milynn says:

    Wow this is an amazing undergoing, good luck with it all. When those trees start blooming, it’s going to be beautiful!

  • mel says:

    I loved growing up with fruit trees (apricot, persimmon, plum) in our backyard, so I think it’s great that you guys are doing this! I can’t imagine putting 23 trees (!!) in one backyard, so it’ll be really interesting to follow your adventure and learn from you guys.

  • cinthya says:

    This is amazing, Rubyellen! Good luck! I’m sure it’s going to turn out beautifully!

  • Allison says:

    Love it! I have spent the last couple weeks doing a ton of research and watching Dave wilson’s videos. This past weekend we added 14 bareroot trees, now making about 30 fruit trees in our northern CA backyard! We experimented with hedge planting, 3 trees in one hole, and did a raised 4×4 bed with 4 apple trees in our poor drainage area. Hope it works! Looking forward to lots of pruning (warning…those first major prune cuts were a little scary but also invigorating!) and eating lots of fresh fruits! Good luck to you! The work will definitely be worth it!

  • Tiffany says:

    i’m so excited to watch this project unfold. we just bought a home in san diego with a 9,000 square foot backyard and i’m already dreaming of the possibilities. i’d love to line the yard with fruit trees, but wouldn’t even know where to begin. thanks for the references and the detail about the project. i’d love to know what fruit trees you are choosing and why? and at what stage of their growth do you buy them to plant them? how long will it be before they are bearing fruit?

    HOW EXCITING. maybe we will take this on next spring. first things first is a veggie garden though! i’m already craving all the tomatoes we are going to have.

    thanks for sharing!

  • claire says:

    rubyellen, have you seen this documentary? it’s pretty fascinating one about cover gardening organically, and the guy is a christian. he quotes a ton of scripture throughout the whole thing. it’s a full length film, but you can watch it in spurts.

  • Ayetwobee says:

    We are putting in a dwarf fruit tree orchard this spring. About 15 trees. We are researching like crazy as well. Best of luck with yours! I will be checking back in to see how its coming πŸ™‚

  • sharyl says:

    when you guys are all done with your orchard, i might need your help to plant, uhm 2-3 trees in my backyard. I really don’t have a green thumb, but my dad insists that i must plant a calamansi tree, or i will bring shame to the family. hahah! but man, having some fruit trees in my backyard would be awesome.

    i wish u guys all the best and hopefully soon get to enjoy the fruits of your labor πŸ˜‰

  • jo says:

    this is very exciting. i can’t wait to follow along with your progress.
    we have a small little orchard here in oz – newly planted. still no fruit yet but it’ll come!
    best wishes.

  • leslie says:

    My folks live on 5 acres and have planted pretty much every kind of fruit and nut tree available. My mom spends long hours canning and I reap the benefits of all the jelly and preserves. (Two words- pomegranate jelly!) Not to mention there’s always something ripe every time I can visit. It’s awesome. My kids love it. And all I have to say is “This came from papa’s tree” and they eat it up.

    Good luck. Can’t wait to see what this mini orchard thing is all about. I’m like you- small backyard with most of it as a garden already.


  • Lis says:

    This sounds amazing! We live in an apartment in NYC. The most we can plant is herbs on our windowsill, and even that I manage to kill. So not a greenthumb. Can’t imagine with a mini orchard, ha. But I love the idea of it. My mom has a few fruit trees in her backyard. Knowing what I know now, I’m sad I never took advantage of them back in the day.

  • Yay for backyard orchards! I live in Sacramento and am about to embark in my own journey into backyard orchard culture myself. Dave Eilson nursery and YouTube have been huge sources of info for me. I don’t have nearly as much space as you so I plan to espalier many of my fruit trees along my back fence. I also plan to grow many of my trees in pots and even some close to my house in the front yard. Alongside the plum we already have I plan to put in pear, apples, figs, pomegranate, nectarine, peach, grapes, kiwi, and lemon. I’m still undecided about the cherry. I can’t wait to see how yours comes together.

  • Annie (NJ) says:

    Hi Rubyellen
    We do have 1 fruit tree (raspberry) and my neighbor (have apple tree) she had to cut it down cuz of the roots is invading her home. Our other neighbor have grape tree.

    Good luck with the orchard. it is a great learning experience. Why don’t you grow some blueberries…isn’t that your wish too??

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