Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
I’d like to put in a home orchard this spring. Where do I start to learn how to maximize its productivity?
Growing fruit trees is a long-term investment, and careful planning now will pay dividends for many decades to come. First, you’ll want to determine the best species and varieties of trees for your area — certain varieties of fruits only do well in certain regions. Do not rely on varieties offered by big box stores — they are usually not the best choices for your region. Instead, find a local nursery that has been in business for a long time.
You’ll also need to think about the site and what to do to prepare it for planting fruit trees: Consider soil drainage and fertility, access to sunlight and air, and susceptibility to frost and foraging animals. After your trees have been planted, you’ll need to study pruning, fertilizing, and insect and disease management.
Over time, we think you’ll find that small-scale, sustainable orcharding is as much art as science. Two books on the backyard orchard that we recommend highly are: The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips and Grow Fruit Naturally: A Hands-On Guide to Luscious, Home-Grown Fruit by Lee Reich.
— Vicki Mattern, Contributing Editor
Photo by Fotolia/xalanx
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.