fructivores FTW
July 6, 2010 9:31 PM   Subscribe

What fruit trees should I plant in my new orchard?

I'm taking possession of a property in coming months, and I have a blank canvas regarding the garden. I would like some inspiration from fellow mefites for the orchard and what I should plant there.

It's a flat site, pretty heavy soils but fertile and well drained. Temperate climate, a few frosts a year but not too extreme (never below -5), about 1000 mm rainfall a year, fairly hot and dry summers. Nothing too limiting, I think, apart from the frosts.

I could feasibly put in as many trees as I want to, fifty or more, but I wont do that because while I love fruit, there are limits, and pruning and other maintenance isn't that high a priority for me.

So thinking a dozen to twenty trees, not more than one of any sort. At minimum I'll have two apples (1 cooking, 1 eating), a buerre bosc pear, a lemon, an apricot, beyond that, what do you suggest, and why? Looking for the odd avant garde suggestions as well, if they can be found in Australia, which may not be the case.
posted by wilful to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dunno, how they'd do where you are, but my local favorites (in a much colder climate) are chokecherry, juneberry, and plum. Why? Because they make excellent jams/jellies/pies why else?
posted by hannahelastic at 9:34 PM on July 6, 2010

If at all possible, get dwarf trees! I live on property which has both dwarf and full-size. SO much easier to pick apples when they're all within reach without even the use of a ladder!
posted by ErikaB at 9:34 PM on July 6, 2010

posted by k8t at 9:41 PM on July 6, 2010

How do figs fare there? If you have lemons why not clementines as well? Not sure if you're read this about tree planting yet, but you're best served by digging a hole that's 3 times wider than it is deep. Here's a search on the subject.
posted by Gilbert at 9:43 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Paw Paw Trees
posted by cinemafiend at 9:44 PM on July 6, 2010

Response by poster: I have plenty of space, obviously, I thought dwarf trees were more for small gardens. Do they have the same productivity?

Figs would survive, I reckon.

Paw paw, I would have been sure were frost tender. But it seems not. I'd tend to prefer self-fertile plants, but that's not an absolute.
posted by wilful at 9:58 PM on July 6, 2010

Response by poster: I have never heard of chokecherry or juneberry. Which is cool, I like discovering new things. Highly unlikely to be found in Australia, I think. Actually I can get juneberry seeds (should we call them decemberberry?).
posted by wilful at 10:03 PM on July 6, 2010

Magenta Cherry - "Frost hardy once established."
posted by unliteral at 10:10 PM on July 6, 2010

Palestine lime (sweet lime)
posted by hortense at 10:10 PM on July 6, 2010

Response by poster: A lime wouldn't handle the frosts, I'm sure. Maybe if I can find a wall to put it against. But even then, only maybe.
posted by wilful at 10:20 PM on July 6, 2010

If you can support peaches, then peaches! I love peaches so much. Send me some when you have too many. Nectarines are also good if you are not a fan of fur.

Kosrae tangerines are almost certainly not frost-hardy and probably are illegal to export/import due to various and sundry international restrictions on plants and plant matter. But delicious, and they practically peel themselves!

12-20 trees sounds like a whole lot of fruit unless you're planning to sell some. One well-fruiting tree is generally way too much even for a family unless you're really into canning and preserves. Not that I'm not horribly jealous of your ability to have these fruit trees (I would probably be a fruitivore if it was possible)--just making sure that you know what you might be getting yourself into. If you're aware, then feel free to go ahead with your grand (and awesome) plans!
posted by that girl at 10:39 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I thought dwarf trees were more for small gardens.

A standard sized fruit tree can get +30' tall. Dwarf trees are a lot easier to pick from if you don't plan on investing in a mechanical harvester or a cherry picker.

Do they have the same productivity?

Yes because it's the rootstock/trunk that's from a dwarf cultivar; the fruit bearing upper half of the tree is normal sized.
posted by jamaro at 10:52 PM on July 6, 2010

Twenty trees? That's a farm!

Anyway. Persimmon, either variety. But one tree will produce far, far more fruit than your family can eat, and the trees are about 30 feet tall. Co-workers bring grocery sacks of persimmons into work in the fall, because their families can't eat them all!
posted by rtha at 10:58 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well it's only two hectares, and I want to fit a few ponies and a beehive there as well.
posted by wilful at 11:21 PM on July 6, 2010

You want this YouTube channel. The varieties are UK-centric, but the techniques have global application. I'd say you might be well set up climate-wise for damsons if you can get hold of a seedling. Persimmons look like they'd work, and perhaps quinces. Think about the kind of fruit that either doesn't make it into shops, or isn't properly ripe when packed up for sale.

Dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock is definitely the way to go. Less wasted fruit, less pruning, less hassle at harvest. We have an apple tree that was almost certainly grown from seed in our garden: it's a 10 metre monster of a thing, and most of its fruit goes to the birds.
posted by holgate at 12:29 AM on July 7, 2010

12 to 20 trees sounds like an enormous amount to me, unless you have plans for canning/selling the excess fruit. Far better to start small and decide how much time you like to spend maintaining fruit trees before you commit to a lot of them. Unmaintained fruit trees are disease vectors for other trees, and it is a pain to have to do extra work to combat pathogens and pests because a neighbor lets all his fruit rot on the ground or doesn't spray for fungus. If pruning and other maintenance isn't a high priority for you, fruit trees, particularly pomes and stone fruit in the rose family (apples, cherries, plums, &c.) are going to possibly be very frustrating. Plan to prune once a year minimum. Preventative spraying is three times for most pomes and stone fruits. You'll have to put out nets for birds, most likely. You may have to bait and spray for fruit fly, depending on where you live. You'll need to pick up all deadfalls regularly.

I think you can have a lot of fun with small orchards with multi budded trees (an example, I doubt they ship to Australia. There is other good information on their site though), particularly if you learn to graft yourself and get into scion sharing with other orchardists.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:17 AM on July 7, 2010

Response by poster: oneirodynia, I'm not looking for a gardening lesson or lecture in my responsibilities. Ta!
posted by wilful at 5:14 AM on July 7, 2010

Pluots. They're a luscious cross between plums and apricots. We got two trees via mail order from California -- a dinosaur egg and a dapple dandy, I think -- and planted them in the front yard this spring. Cherries are of course lovely as well, though you really have to net them if you want to save the fruit from the birds.
posted by libraryhead at 5:23 AM on July 7, 2010

My parents have a mini-orchard like this in the Adelaide Hills, which sounds like it has a similar climate including occasional mild frosts. They don't spray much if at all and I don't remember them pruning very often, but they do use bird nets for some of the trees. This is what I can remember:
- Quince: excellent crops, not too troubled by birds;
- Mulberry: great crops, amazingly delicious straight from the tree, sadly birds love them too and the tree needs to be covered in netting as soon as the berries start to ripen;
- Morello (sour) cherries: plentiful, good for cooking, and too sour for birds to enjoy;
- Pomegranate: grew poorly, maybe produced 3 small pomegranates over about 15 years;
- Apples and pears: they haven't had a lot of luck with these - too many problems with birds and parasites, plus kangaroos seem to enjoy them;
- Oranges: these grow well and produce a lot of fruit, but require plenty of water for the fruit to be juicy. It helps that SA is fruitfly free; not sure about your part of Victoria;
- Hazelnut: okay, this isn't a fruit tree but it grew well and produces lots of nuts;
- Walnut: the one they just planted in the ground didn't do so well. Then my dad spent weeks digging several cubic metres of earth out of the ground then literally sieving it back in (with a kitchen sieve) along with fertiliser and planted a new walnut tree in the middle of that - it's doing really well;
- White sapote (a.k.a. "ice-cream fruit"): kind of a really sweet, creamy avocado - like no other fruit I've ever tasted. The one they planted grew very slowly;
- Strawberry guava: more of a bush than a tree, produces large amounts of really delicious fruit.

And they don't have a persimmon tree, but I can remember another family nearby did and it produced a *lot* of awesome persimmons. Actually a persimmon tree is part of my plan for the house I'm about to move into.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:32 AM on July 7, 2010

Try to select a tree combination that has staggered fruiting times, that way you can avoid spending a month gathering more fruit than you can eat, and 11 months wishing you had fruit from your garden.
By selecting apple varieties alone, you could harvest fruit 6 months of the year. Some of those apples will keep for up to 6 weeks if kept cool and dark, so that might give you fresh apples for up to 7 months. You could also plant a tree of cider apples, if you want to make cider.

Australia is the home of permaculture and those guys are all about forest gardens and low maintenance production of food from the garden, that might be a resource to use locally.

You're right about limes not being at all tolerant of frost, but -5C is still warm enough for some other citrus fruits. Kumquats, Meyer lemons, (maybe grapefruits, depending on the duration of frost). Hybrids like Cirangequats can take much lower temperatures.

Also consider nut trees like walnut, nuts keep much longer so you could eat from them year round.

If you could tell us which Australian hardiness zone your land is in, it might help us give more specific answers.
posted by atrazine at 6:49 AM on July 7, 2010

My wife's family has a sour cherry tree in Brooklyn. It produces around two to seven gallons of fruit every year, plus probably a couple of gallons that are too high to reach with our equipment. Birds don't touch it. It is delicious. If we had a second one, we would find a way to use twice the cherries, no problem.
posted by novalis_dt at 6:57 AM on July 7, 2010

Blueberries? I love blueberries, and picking them is kind of fun. That's my vote, a blueberry tree.
posted by elder18 at 9:04 AM on July 7, 2010

Seconding sour cherries. They make the most amazing pies.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:53 AM on July 7, 2010

Have you considered a grape arbor? Depending on the variety, the fruit can be eaten straight or made into wine; the leaves are useful for dolmas and for keeping pickles crisp; and the vine cuttings are good for grilling, and all of it together makes a great place for your dinner table in the shade of the arbor.
posted by crunchland at 11:21 AM on July 7, 2010

You know you have to try a couple of olive bushes. Kalamata, for preference.
posted by pompomtom at 4:11 PM on July 7, 2010

Response by poster: thanks for further suggestions folks. Yes I should have also asked for nut tree advice as well. I don't like walnuts, but an almond tree is definitely on the list. Maybe a chestnut out the back, down the hill.

atrazine, (eponyhumourous), I'm influenced by the common-sense aspects of "permaculture" (well except I was learning this stuff from my folks before Bill Mollison ever started writing), I wont be spraying several times a year as someone suggested, chooks will look after codlin moth etc,

hardiness is only part of the issue in SE australia, summer water stress is as big an issue here (or bigger) as winter chill. I have looked at a few websites for this data, it's a bit of a mess, but it seems that I'm in zone 3, which would translate to US zone 9.

crunchland, grapes go on the verandah, not in the orchard.

Blueberries are a shrub, not the aesthetic I'll want there, but I'll see if I can put one in elsewhere.

pompomtom, kalamatas are too hard to pickle, I'll probably go manzanillo. You really only need one olive tree for more than enough olives.

To sum up the things that have caught my interest so far:
  • fig
  • pawpaw
  • persimmon
  • plum/damson
  • pluot/plumcot
  • sour cherry
Add that to the apples, pear, apricot, peach, grapefruit, oranges, lemon, I'm starting to get there! Thanks all.

Any further suggestions certainly welcomed...
posted by wilful at 5:11 PM on July 7, 2010

I should add more information for you then :" This lime cultivar also happens to be extremely hardy. As a result, many citrus growers use the Palestine sweet lime as rootstock, grafting more delicate citrus varieties onto an established Palestine sweet lime trunk."
posted by hortense at 8:07 PM on July 7, 2010

Be aware that apricots require a lot of water around fruiting unless you want mealy, flowery apricots.

I don't think where you are would be conducive to paws paws at all. They're very much a tropical plant, and you will struggle to get good ones even as far south as sydney.

I don't know if it's the look you're after, but you *might* just be able to get away with Hass avocados - others won't work.

Pecans are relatively fast growers and I think would be okay. It will be too cold for macadamias, unfortunately.

I don't know if you homebrew, but that climate is fairly congenial to hops. Also I think redcurrants and the like would be okay, though managing them can be a problem.
posted by smoke at 1:51 AM on July 8, 2010

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