Grow good fruit!
I’m excited to give talks on creating a Backyard Orchard this month at Disney Parks ‘Food and Wine Festival’. There’s nothing like the taste of fruit that you have grown yourself ripened to the peak of flavor . Follow these tips to create your own backyard orchard, even if you don’t have a yard! A sunny balcony, patio, or entryway will work too!
WHAT IS A BACKYARD ORCHARD?
- Fruit trees, shrubs, vines, bedding plants that produce fruit in a home environment.
- Size of yard needed? ANY size: suburban backyard, condo/townhouse patio, or apartment balcony.
WHY HAVE A BACKYARD ORCHARD?
- TASTE! Impossible to get tree ripened taste unless you grow it yourself.
- CHOICE! Have a favorite peach? Love to cook with Meyer lemons, but can’t find them in the store?
- WORTHWHILE USE OF WATER! Instead of using precious water to irrigate decorative plants, get some food for the investment.
- BETTER HEALTH! If you grow it, you (and your kids!) will eat it!
HOW TO CREATE A BACKYARD ORCHARD
- SUN: Find a spot with at least 6 hours of sun.
- SPACE: What kind of space can you devote to your orchard?
- Apartment: 1 or 2 potted dwarf trees in a half wine barrel, strawberries in a strawberry pot.
- Condo/Townhouse: Espaliered fruit trees along building or property walls, blueberry shrubs in pots, grapevines on patio cover.
- Suburban size garden: same as condo/townhouse but plant trees in ground, consider planting multiple trees of same family in one hole for extended harvests.
- CHOOSE PLANTS:
- In containers
- LARGE containers for dwarf fruit trees: half wine barrel size 24” wide x 18” deep
- Use good quality potting mix
- Certain plants prefer certain soils. Blueberries – acidic soil, citrus – more mineral content like cactus mix.
- In the ground
- Dig hole twice the diameter of the nursery pot and same depth.
- If soil is not ideal, add compost to excavated soil.
- Both containers and in ground:
- Add fertilizer according to package directions to soil at time of planting.
- Remove plant from nursery pot, loosen the roots, cut off any broken roots.
- Plant root ball at same level it was in the pot (do not plant deeper).
- Water well after planting.
- In containers
CARING FOR YOUR BACKYARD ORCHARD
- In pots – frequently, check moisture with finger
- In ground
- less frequently, but deeply
- water coverage 2 feet beyond drip line
- Consider automatic timers
- At beginning of growth season, check for each type of plant/tree.
- Type of Fertilizer
- Organic vs. synthetic
- NPK – choose one not too high in nitrogen
- FOLLOW PACKAGE DIRECTIONS
- Containers need more frequent feeding than in ground
- In ground, apply at drip line to one foot past drip line
- Keep clean, squirt with hose early in the day
- Visit the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management website: www.ipm.ucdavis.edu, search by plant
- When fully ripe, taste test!
- Early in the day.
- Gently place in basket or harvest bag.
- Avoid ladders, keep tree pruned short.
- On counter for some fruits for few days, citrus for week+
- In refrigerator for weeks.
- In freezer, up to a year.
- Make jam or can. Visit UC Master Food Preserver website: mfp.ucanr.edu.