Front Yard Fruiting
September 1, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Have any MeFis turned their front yards into orchards?

I've always loved having fruit trees. The backyard of our new house is heavily shaded, and thus not amenable to planting any fruiting trees (though it does have a lovely fig tree). The front yard, however, is very sunny, wide, and, thanks to a brutally hot and dry Central Texas (Austin) summer, the grass (a mix of Bermuda and St Augustine) is all pretty much dead or dying, so it is nearly a blank slate.

I've gotten the idea that I would turn the front yard of our house (the entire yard) into an orchard, with 6-8 trees. I have experience planting and raising fruit trees (mainly citrus) so my concern is more about aesthetics. The house is in a suburban feeling neighborhood, ranch-style houses, without HOA restrictions. While the neighborhood is fairly liberal, the predominant style is still St. Augustine grass lawns, reflecting the 50s-60s era. I'm considering planting 2-3 plum trees [as I think of them as attractive trees] closest to the street, then planting a peach tree, Meyer lemon, and something else (probably a pear) closer to the house.

Question is, have any of you done something like this? I'm interested in your own experiences and recommendations in terms of arranging the trees, changing the rest of the front yard to work with the landscape, and the reactions of your neighbors. Did you just put the trees in rows? Did you keep the existing lawn or resurface with something else, like mulch or decomposed granite?
posted by seventyfour to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We have four fruit trees in our front yard: two peach and two apple. We arranged them in a diamond shape with respect to the curb (i.e. a square rotated about 40ยบ from the perspective of the curb). This gives the mini-orchard a less regimented feel. We would have scattered the trees in the front yard but the water and sewer lines significantly restricted where we could plant.

If you plant trees on semi-dwarf stock (or keep them pruned), I don't think it will be a problem, especially after people see the trees laden with fruit.
posted by jedicus at 3:26 PM on September 1, 2011

In regards to keeping the neighbors happy, make sure to keep maintenance up on the trees. Don't let them get overgrown, keep the yard looking nice, etc. Keep in mind that you may need to clean up the fallen fruit to prevent that rotting citrus aroma from annoying the closest neighbors.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:42 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey. In Austin, have one of those peach/nectarine/apricot trees and a santa rosa plum in my front yard. And a Mexican Lime in a pot.

Ok so your big concerns are: a) watering. It's a drought (like the worst ever), and Austin's on Stage 2 restrictions. So I'd hold off on planting anything new until the drought abates (my cite-free thought is that I read something somewhere that they're expecting it to continue through 2012).

b) chill hours. Consider what the requirements for fruiting are for your trees vs. what they are in central Texas, and choose accordingly (haven't gotten fruit from the Santa Rosa because of insufficient chill hours, I suspect). That being said, I wouldn't plant citrus in the ground b/c it gets too cold in winter (I think, it seems like winter hasn't been here in 15 years), but you're an expert on citrus planting so you probably know more than I do.

Fruit trees also don't get that big. And you have to prune them. One of my trees made an apricot last year. That was cool. I like them better for their flowers than anything else.
posted by mckenney at 3:45 PM on September 1, 2011

I had a line of cherry trees in my front yard for many years before they were stricken with a blight and were not able to be saved. The only issue I had was a recurring issue with overly aggressive passersby who helped themselves to the fruit: I certainly don't mind sharing but I did mind that they would often break branches and in several incidents, entire limbs off the trees in the process of pulling the fruit down in reach not to mention trample the hell out of the ground cover. I'd like to say it was just kids but I caught a grandma up in my trees too, in a very suburban neighborhood no less.

I ended up redoing the front yard in a xeriscape (with lots of pointy shrubs) but if I were to re-landscape again, I'd plant the trees closer to the house than the street.
posted by jamaro at 4:06 PM on September 1, 2011

When buying the trees make sure you see whether they're cross-pollinating or self pollinating. This will influence the setup. If you need to cross-pollinate you'll want to put them in rows or make sure they're close to each other.

Make sure the trees are friendly w/ each other i.e. apple trees won't grow around pear trees.

Growing fruit trees, if you really want them to bear fruit, can be a lot of work. Spraying for different blights and fungi, watering etc.

Check the root stock of the tree!! Don't just go buy any random citrus tree. There are different roots stocks, some will be more drought resistant than others.

Don't water frequently, water deeply.

Not sure if this is exactly the type of answers you were looking for but just some issues I've come across w/ my fruit trees.
posted by no bueno at 7:34 AM on September 2, 2011

There are neighborhoods in Phoenix which used to be orchards. It looks like they just cut down 2 rows of trees to insert houses, leaving all the remaining rows in both the front and back yards. You seem worried about the aesthetic - I have heard people complain about the yard with all the rusted junk but never about the yard with all the trees.
posted by CathyG at 9:58 AM on September 2, 2011

As No Bueno pointed out, you may need to spray them to control blight and whatnot. The spray I got from Agway smells terrible. You should only have to do it a couple of times, especially in your Texas frying pan, but it really stinks!
posted by Camofrog at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2011

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