By Roger Boddaert
Special to the Village News 

Planning your backyard orchard

 

Last updated 2/8/2019 at 2:49pm



It's the season for putting your thinking caps on and growing your own wholesome and healthy fruits and veggies for the coming season for you, your family and the community, right at home.

With the unknown of just how commercial fruits from foreign lands are grown these days what better way to ensure your family is getting vine-ripened healthy food right from your own garden.

Now is when bare root trees and plants are available at your local hometown nurseries. The bare root plants are grown commercial up in the central valley under strict horticultural guidelines and, when they reach maturity, are dug up, wrapped and transported to nurseries all over California.

The nurseries bring into our area trees with the specific chill hours that fit the local growing conditions, and this is very important. This chill requirement is specific from the coastal areas up to the mountain range and we want to grow trees in our gardens that fit our area for there are many micro-pockets of temperatures in just one community.


In Fallbrook, you can stage your backyard orchard to harvest fresh homegrown fruits 12 months of the year like cherimoya, avocados, loquats, apples, mangos, persimmons, pomegranates, peaches, nectarines, pluots, jujubes, dragon fruits, blueberries, blackberries, sapote, macadamia, tangerines, oranges, kumquats lemons, limes and even bananas, coffee and more.

I ask you, where else in the country is this horticultural bonanza doable? While we hear of subzero climate that has gripped the country recently, we live in a plant diverse Shangri-La environment, so take advantage of this gift by growing and enjoying a variety of sustainable, healthy fruit crops at home .

First, survey your home areas and consider garden spaces and what you envision in your own food-forest and it does not have to be just in the backyard if space is available out in the front of your dwelling as well.

If you have limited space, perhaps the art of square foot gardening might be your solution. This is the technique of knowing the ultimate size of the plantings, be it fruiting trees, berry bushes or edible veggies to do dense, compact plantings. Fruit trees also can be espaliered on a fence.

You should plant your deciduous trees on the south side of your home in order for them to help give you some shade on the home in the summertime.

This is the time to go looking for bare-root fruit trees that might not look like much in the nursery but are a good way to begin your family orchard with strong, healthy trees.

When planting bare-root trees, take them home and plunge them into a bucket of water to re-hydrate them and allow some water uptake, for they are in need of a drink at this time.

Spread out the bare root system to see just how large of a planting hole is required. I like to fill the hole with water to see how it percolates and drains, and this is important before setting the tree in the hole.

Be sure to note the graft line from the scion wood and don't cover the graft below the soil line. You might add some organic worm castings and a little fruit tree fertilizer (and follow the instructions on the label for the proper amount).

Plant the tree and backfill with the native soil you have just dug out and don't use any pre-made potting soil, or amendments. You want the new tree to get adjusted to its new soil environment and be a happy tree. Perhaps a tree stake might give it support for the first few years.


After the tree is in its new home, give it a good drink, and I also like to build an earthen berm around the outside of the planting hole to ensure a large enough basin to capture either rainwater or a drip system and make sure you have the appropriate drip or bubbler head for adequate watering. Apply a good clean 3-4 inches of mulch in the basin and don't get mulch on the trunk of any tree when applying for this could lead to potential fungus on tree trunks.


At this time it is important to do some juvenile pruning to create the proper budding of new flower branch structure for future fruit. An excellent pruning book to have in your garden library is "How to Prune Fruit Trees and Roses" by Sanford Martin, considered a gardener's fruit tree pruning bible in its 25th edition.

Mid-winter is the season to give your mature fruit trees a proper pruning to encourage low branches and stimulate their branch fruit production. Each type of fruit tree requires a different way of pruning and there are lots of online tutorials to view as well.

This is also the time of year to spray your fruit trees to avoid leaf curl, fire blight, downy mildew, and other fruit tree problems in spring and summer, so treat them now. Each product has its own schedule of application, so follow all label directions and check with your local nursery and farm supply stores if you have any questions.

On your established stone fruit trees, you can fertilize now with a low-nitrogen organic fertilizer that also contains some micro-nutrient trace elements for the trees.

When you're out in the garden now is a good time to review your complete irrigation system, making sure you have no broken lines and malfunctioning irrigation heads for when warm weather returns you want to make sure the water is delivered properly for all plantings out in the landscape.

Consider growing home-grown yummy blueberries like "Sunshine Blue," "O'Neal," "Jubilee" and "Sharpblue" in full sun, in a large wooden tub. Blueberries enjoy an acidic type of soils, so add some peat moss or use acidic potting soils. Always make sure that there is proper drainage with container gardening for this is critical that pots drain well and the health of the plants.

Now is a great time to capture the spirit of growing your own fresh fruits and veggies all around your home-site and to enjoy the fruits of your labor and remember that gardening is very therapeutic for body and soul.

Earth is home for all living creatures and she deserves to be taken better care of, so set your lifestyle to be in a calm harmony with nature.

"He who plants trees believes in all the tomorrows to come."

Roger Boddaert Maker of Natural Gardens and a Certified Arborist can be reached for landscape designs and professional tree care at (760)-728-4297.

 

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