Fruit Orchard Design for Small Spaces

Following these expert strategies on fruit orchard design, home gardeners will find they can grow fruit they love — and plenty of it — even if their yards are small.

| December 7, 2012

  • Fruit Trees in Small Spaces
    “Fruit Trees in Small Spaces” by Colby Eierman focuses on creating beautiful spaces that produce good things to eat. For the gardener with space limitations, this book puts bountiful fruit trees within arm’s reach. 
    Cover Courtesy Timber Press
  • Front Yard Orchard Plan
    In this front yard, there’s not a day without at least something to anticipate harvesting. 
    Illustration Courtesy Timber Press
  • Hardiness Zone Average
    Learn more information about hardiness zones through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. National Arboretum site or via Sunset climate zone maps which consider a much wider range of climatic factors, such as latitude, elevation, and ocean influence. The Sunset resource has been expanded to encompass the whole of the United States and parts of Canada. Hopefully, this classification will continue to be developed because it is a great resource for the fruit grower. 
    Chart Courtesy Timber Press
  • Dessert Garden
    Spring rain showers blowing in from the west.
    Photo By Erin Kunkel
  • Heritage Orchard Plan
    A primary goal for this orchard design was to include apple varieties that either had regional significance or were heirlooms with an interesting story or special use. Other fruit trees in the mix include pear, peach, nectarine, sweet and sour cherries, and plum. 
    Illustration Courtesy Timber Press
  • Potted Orchard Plan
    One of my favorite things about a garden is that it is never finished. It is always changing, growing and at the same time dying. 
    Illustration Courtesy Timber Press

  • Fruit Trees in Small Spaces
  • Front Yard Orchard Plan
  • Hardiness Zone Average
  • Dessert Garden
  • Heritage Orchard Plan
  • Potted Orchard Plan

You can harvest luscious peaches, crisp apples and sweet plums right off your own tree. Garden designer and fruit expert Colby Eierman’s Fruit Trees In Small Spaces (Timber Press, 2012) shows how trees can easily be tucked into the tiniest spots and still yield a bumper crop of gorgeous fruit. Learn everything a gardener needs to know about choosing and nurturing the most delicious varieties in this excerpt taken from part one, “Designing Your Small Orchard.” 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Fruit Trees in Small Spaces.

Designing Your Small Orchard

You might find it a stretch to call your little slice of fruit-growing heaven a full-blown orchard, but what the heck, it’s your place and you can do what you want. Personally, I like the images that the word orchard conjures up. I like thinking about the orchards that used to (and in some cases still do) dominate the landscapes where we live. I like old wooden fruit boxes and the smell of fermenting cider. I try to seek out the old-timers in my community to tap into their hard-earned knowledge of how to keep critters at bay or to glean an old family recipe for applesauce.

I also want to be part of a different type of agricultural community that is striving to weave some of that not-so-distant past into our modern lives. Some of us are actually going to produce a large amount of what we consume from our own urban or suburban plots. Many of us will only dabble in growing and still find a valuable connection to our sustenance and perhaps our community. That is probably the main appeal for me in writing this book—to enhance someone’s connection to his or her village through food production.

One of my favorite things about a garden is that it is never finished. It is always changing, growing and (not to get too morbid here at the start) at the same time dying. Some plants can thrive for a few years and then outgrow their space or simply stop prospering. Remind yourself of this fact as you begin designing your space and selecting trees. Plants aren’t the Great Pyramids of Giza, after all. A garden is a living, breathing entity, and with simple tools, we can change the things that aren’t working for us. We can provide all the food, water, and shelter a tree could want and it still might die on us. If and when that happens, remember that plenty of worthy candidates are in line right behind it, waiting to fill that space.

This chapter starts with a broad overview of the climatic factors that affect which trees will grow where you live. From here, we move to the finer details of your specific site and explore ways to take advantage of the complexities inherent is most garden plots. You could design your yard and your fruit trees in an infinite number of ways, but you have to choose only one design. A few of my favorite design elements are covered here, followed by three sample designs. 


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