Orchard at home

In this great orchard country of ours, there is no reason why the home owner who has the room should not grow fruits in his own garden. With normal care in selecting, planting, and growing, their addition to the home garden will provide a happy and delightful source of fresh, plant-ripened fruit for the family table throughout the growing season, and a welcome supply for canning, preserving, or freezing for use at other times of the year.

In almost every part of the country certain fruits which need little or no spraying may be produced in the suburban garden. A proper selection of kinds and varieties is necessary, of course, with a view to hardiness to climatic conditions and to the prevalence of diseases and insects in the respective areas.

Planting available grounds

In large measure, selection will also be governed by the amount of ground available for the home orchard. If it is only a small plot, 500 to 1,500 square feet, it is advisable to limit the planting to berries and grapes. If the home owner is fortunate enough to have half an acre or more for the purpose, fruit and nut trees should go in.

Where to get plants for orchard

Most of the adaptable fruits discussed on this site are propagated vegetatively rather than from seed, with a few exceptions such as papayas, guavas, and a few others. Young plants may be purchased from nurserymen, whose names may be obtained from the state agricultural extension services. The American Nurserymen's Association will also tell you of dependable nurseries in your area.

When to plant in your orchard

Spring planting

Spring planting, as early as the soil can be prepared, is advisable in the northern Great Plains section, the northern Mountain and Intermountain states, eastern Oregon and Washington, the East Central and Middle Atlantic states, the Northeastern and North Central states, and the northern districts of the Central and Southwestern states.

Other seasons

In the northern districts of the Southeastern and Central Southern states, planting may be done in the fall or as early in spring as the ground can be worked. In the southern district of this region and in the southern districts of the Central Southwestern states, late fall or winter planting is advisable, and in Arizona, California, western Oregon and western Washington, trees for your orchard should be planted late in the fall.

Needs for fruit plants

Soil conditions and sunlight

Fruit trees demand full sunlight and should not be planted near shade trees. Soil for an orchard should be well drained, fertile, and somewhat elevated to permit free circulation of air. Prepare the soil as diligently as you would for a vegetable garden. Stable manure is excellent fertilizer for fruit plantings and should be used liberally. If it is not available, use a complete commercial fertilizer, 5-10-5, at the rate of a pound to 100 square feet.

Condition of material

At the time of planting your orchard, plants should be completely dormant, with no buds starting. In the case of strawberries, all fully developed leaves should be removed before the plants are set out. Fruit trees obtained from the nursery as unbranched whips should be cut back to a height Of 3 to 3 1/2 feet, but if there are three or four branches along the trunk they may be left; they should be a foot apart, however, and pointing in different directions. Grapevines usually are cut back to leave only a bud or two, and dewberries and blackberries are pruned to about 6 inches at the time of planting.

Set berries and grapes in ther orchard at the same depth in which they grew in the nursery; fruit and nut trees slightly deeper. Be careful not to let the roots dry out. When you dig the hole, separate the topsoil from the subsoil. In setting a plant, spread the roots, put the topsoil around them, then fill up the hole the rest of the way with subsoil. Firm the soil to keep the moisture in and to support the plant. Cultivation an orchard is similar to that of the vegetable garden, at least for the first part of the season. When to cease cultivation depends on the region. Give your berry plants as clean cultivation as you accord your vegetables, and give your fruit trees and grapevines clean cultivation the first 3 or 4 years.

Pruning in the orchard

As a general rule in pruning after the first year, fruit trees should be pruned only when they are dormant, the best time being in the spring before growth starts but after the danger of hard freezing has passed. Most young fruit trees need little pruning before they begin to bear. If grapevines are weak the first year they should be cut back to one or two buds at the end of the growing season and a strong trunk trained up during the second season. To some measure the climatic conditions of certain areas will influence the pruning requirements of specific plants in your orchard. These should be learned from the nurseryman who supplies them.


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