(First, please excuse the mess. My entire yard has been and will continue to be in overhaul mode for the next couple years as we turn this place into our own version of paradise. Right now, there are shrubs that still need to be pulled out, flags on each sprinkler, sprays of orange marker on the lawn, piles of dug out turf, and general disorder: the dirty laundry of gardening.)
Here are a few pictures of the very front part of yard, where I've planted my apricots, peaches, nectarines, and cherries.
As you can see, with the exception of one planting, there are two trees planted together about 20-24" apart. I've cut the trees down to just above knee height to encourage low branching, and if there were any branches on the side of the tree facing the other tree, I removed them. I'll continue to prune the branches on the insides away so that, looking down on the trees, each will become a semi-circular tree. Eventually, as they grow, they should look like one large bush, rather than two separate plants. I plan to keep the trees at around 8' tall, which will require both winter and summer pruning. Right now the "beds" for each pairing are small, but I'll build them up as the trees grow in order to match the trees' expanding root systems. Each bed is approximately 10' away from the next.
Some things I kept in mind when planting:
- I built a chicken wire bucket for each planting to protect the central root balls from the scourge of gophers.
- When possible, I paired trees that were grafted on to the same kind of rootstock.
- However, cross-pollination trumped rootstock, so if the trees were likely to bloom at the same time and pollinate each other, I paired them.
- I planted trees on an east-west axis so that no tree would be stuck on the north side and overly shaded.
- I did not amend the soil in the holes as trees have a better long-term success rate if planted in native soil; the tree won't reach a wall as it grows beyond rich amended soil in the planting hole and shockingly meets the "real world." Instead, I mulched the area with well-rotted manure, protecting and fertilizing the whole area from above.
Last year, in another part of the front yard, I planted apples individually. These trees are approximately 8' apart. I'm carefully training these trees to be small and horizontally branched so that the fruit will be reachable. This is a view from above of the Golden Russet.
As you can see, the tree is small, but has branches radiating in all directions. When there have been too many small branches in one direction, I've pruned them off. Following this guideline, I'll probably need to prune off one of the branches that is growing toward the top of this picture this summer. I've also (as you may see in the picture) weighed branches down with rocks to help train the branches to be more horizontal than vertical. This should help produce more even fruit-set, and, according to some literature, help apple trees grow more healthily in this warm climate.
And finally, a tree in Plumville, a third area of my front yard. (It's a really big front yard, folks. There's a rose garden too!)
This is a Bavay's Green Gage, and it is the center tree in a line of three trees, each approximately 10' apart. These trees have a little more space, so I didn't make their initial cut quite as low when I planted them. The crotch (hee hee, I just wrote crotch) of the tree is about 2 1/2' high. As I mentioned in the previous post, two of the three trees are Asian plums and can pollinate each other, but one is a European plum and will have better fruit set if I can provide another variety for cross-pollination. Below, you can see a close-up of one of the branches on which I've tried a cleft graft of an Italian prune.
I cut one branch and split it, pared the scionwood down to a wedge shape, and stuck the wedge in the split, trying to line up the cambium layers as well as I could. I then tightly, tightly wound the whole thing with parafilm, including the entire piece of scionwood, and used a rubber band to wind around and hold everything in place. I tried this on three different branches. I hope at least one takes.
I hope this answers the questions that people have asked. Please feel free to fire more questions away.
A few annotated resources on pruning, grafting, and home orchards:
Grafting Dormant Deciduous Fruit Scions, Idell Weydemeyer, Golden Gate CRFG: This is a practical handout explaining what trees are able to be grafted to each other. While the actual process of grafting receives scanty explanation here, the other information is very helpful.
How to Prune Fruit Trees, by R. Sanford Martin: I love this little book, first published in 1944. It explains how to prune everything, and it's easy to use and personable.
Fruitwise apple grafting videos: Many thanks to Patrick from Bifurcated Carrots for leading me to this excellent collection of podcasts on heirloom apple culture, including how-tos on many types of grafting.