Saturday, July 10, 2010


Is it crazy to have a dwarf antique apple orchard in your tiny south sloping suburban back yard? Maybe. But I went ahead and planted one anyway. In two rows, the front row has four apple trees and the back row has two apple trees in line with a holly bush and something I think is some kind of spirea. Dwarf trees need to be staked but they're great space savers because they can be planted as close as 8 feet apart. I positioned the orchard in the back corner of the yard for two reasons:

1) That's where some of the best sunlight space was for them, and it puts all the fruit together since the blueberry hedge and the raspberry patch are just to the front of the orchard.

2) Perspective, a technique borrowed from Japanese gardens. Smaller trees look like they are farther away creating an illusion of greater distance. Since the orchard trees are dwarf they will grow only 8 to 10 feet tall. Hopefully, when mature, these trees will then appear farther away than they really are making the back yard seem larger. That's the plan anyway.
I planted them late last fall, getting them in the ground just before it froze -- I was planting them during our first snowstorm. This spring they bloomed and most of them tried to set apples.The Grimes Golden and the Arkansas Black didn't bother with trying to fruit in their first year. The Cox Orange Pippin, and Washington Strawberry tried but gave up and dropped their fruit. The Pound was doing well but the tree is still to young for the weight of those big apples and they dropped too.
So all that's left are three small Yellow Transparents clinging tenaciously. Since the Yellow Transparent is an early apple (August) I have great hopes -- I might actually get ripe apples my orchard the first year! Most dwarfing stock helps the apple trees to fruit earlier, but the general rule of thumb is still 2-5 years before you can expect a crop. Though I don't suppose anyone but me would call three apples a "crop" anyway. :D

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