Orchards are really beautiful places, but not many of us have a field-sized back garden to plant the orchard that dreams are made of! But wait, the good news is you don’t need a field – because the number of trees officially required to make an orchard is just five.
Five trees are a number we can work with no matter how large or, more to the point, how small our space is, because fruit trees grow in plenty of innovative ways. Take stepovers, fan-trained fruit trees, or half standards for example – there are lots of options and these smaller-sized fruit trees are easy to manage.
So fancy growing some tasty fruit?
Let’s take a look at how to create a garden orchard and claim the orchard title for your very own, even if your space is limited.
What Types of Fruit Can I Grow In My Garden?
Lots! There are apples, pears, plums, and cherries plus greengages, mulberries, quinces, crab apples, peaches, citrus fruits, and figs. And not forgetting exotics such as pommegranite trees which will grow in sheltered parts of the UK (e.g. Chelsea Physic Garden).
How To Turn Your Garden Into An Orchard
Forget the traditional straight lines of large fruiting trees. There are lots of ways to grow fruit so it can be incorporated into your existing garden.
Space in the Border
Erect A Screen
Do you have a vegetable garden or maybe a seating area you could screen off?
If so, choose some cordon fruit trees to grow on a wire partition
Cordons are very popular because they maximize fruiting and take up little space. They’re trees trained on a single stem with fruiting side branches. We like Cox’s Orange Pippin which does very well as a cordon.
Wander Up the Garden Path
You could define a garden path with a row of knee-high stepovers. Stepovers are low-growing fruit trees that are trained to grow horizontally close to the ground. Apples grow particularly well as a 50 cm high stepover.
Or how about two matching containers with your fruit of choice marking the start of the path? Half standard cooking apple Manks Codlin could look good there.
Against A Wall
Walls and fence lines are great for espaliered and fan-trained fruit trees because they take up little room.
Espaliers have single vertical stems with right-angled fruiting branches, whereas fan-trained specimens are well – fans! Queen Cox is a splendid Espaliered Apple.
Above The Fenceline
There’s space you probably hadn’t thought of using!
Block out nosy neighbours or traffic noise with a fruiting pleached tree.
We specialise in above fence line pleached trees – that’s the chic looking tree-on-stilts.
Improve a Patio, Deck or Balcony
Our smaller fruit trees love a well-watered container.
Fruit trees suitable for container use have dwarf rootstock to reduce growth, so all their energy goes into fruit production.
Container-grown fruit trees need lots of water – don’t let them dry out or the blossom and fruit will fall off. If you can commit to regular watering, a patio or balcony orchard is a great use of space.
On a balcony, you could also grow gooseberries and white currants which are great plopped on ice cream.
It’s Downhill From Here
Just kidding. The top to the middle area of a slope is a good place to grow fruit because cold air sinks.
Early flowering fruit trees like dessert apple Beauty of Bath can end up with no fruits at all if there’s a late frost, so positioning one at the top of a slope can work out well.
Step-over cordons are also excellent on a slope. They only reach about 50 cms high and the fruit is produced low to the ground so they preserve the soil too.
Do you actually need that lawn? Isn’t it a pain to mow and fertilise all summer?
What about a series of stepover fruit trees or wire cordons with bark walkways – or a couple of full standards dotted throughout? We think lawns are overrated, use that space to grow tasty fruits instead.
Welcome in the Pollinators
Pollinators like nothing better than fruit tree blossom. If you plant fruit trees they will come in droves.
Some fruit trees need a pollinating partner to fertilise their flowers and create fruits, so encouraging bees is important. Plant some buddleia, syringa or lavender around the garden for extra temptation.
How About This Easy Orchard Design?
Buy a full standard or half standard quince and a cherry for the border. Add a row of pleached pears trees above the fence line, and two types of fruit cordons to partition off the patio. Add a fan-trained apple to the wall and line the path with stepover cooking apples.
Container grow a mulberry, cobnut, and plum on the patio and put a half standard crab apple in the front garden.
That’s more than an orchard – it’s a fruit farm!