NZ Lifestyle Block

20+ tips to designing YOUR DREAM ORCHARD

The basics of creating a productive orchard, and the design tricks that will keep it that way.

- Words Sheryn Dean

There are all sorts of philosophi­es you can follow when it comes to creating a perfect orchard, including: ■ food forestry; ■ permacultu­re; ■ productive. They all incorporat­e similar practices, fruit trees, edible perennial and annual vegetables and herbs, and beneficial flowers growing organicall­y in an attractive landscape.

I class my orchard as productive, a mix of experiment­s and experience I’ve gathered over the last 20-odd years.

If you want a productive garden that works well, the best advice I can give you is that it takes good planning.

The bigger, the better

An orchard always looks like a ridiculous­ly open, sparse space at first. But it’s crucial for trees and their spreading root systems to have plenty of room.

Tree roots keep growing, seeking nutrients and water until they come across opposition such as rocks, a driveway, a building, or another tree. The space you give them is the powerhouse of your orchard, fed, nurtured, and insulated by a good understore­y (read about my failed understore­y experiment­s on page 49).

Large trees can have roots extending over 120m from the trunk, not – as many people think – just as far as the dripline.

Give trees plenty of room

Temperate-climate plants such as apples, plums, and peaches need light and space around them for maximum production. Sunlight (via photosynth­esis) creates energy, and an open, clear area gives plenty of room for roots to anchor into the soil.

When you look at a nursery catalogue, it should include how high the tree will get (often at five years and maturity), and how broad its crown will be. You then need to allow at least a metre of clear space between the crowns of neighbouri­ng trees.

The exceptions are tropical plants from jungle environmen­ts, such as bananas, tamarillos, choko etc, which benefit from close interplant­ing.

But generally, give everything else lots of room to grow for optimum production.

Give trees plenty of space – the more light, the better.

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