The Home Orchard
Having access to our own fruit is absolutely wonderful. In our orchard we plant not only tree fruit, but berries as well. At the new house, we're working on establishing our orchard. It's still in the early stages and looks rough compared to my "dream garden". But it will get there.
After all, the first apple trees we planted this past fall already have fruit.
After experimenting over the years with many different tree sizes, we have decided that the "semi-dwarf" tree is our favorite. It's big enough to look like a nice tree, but small enough that it is easy to care for and harvest.
In the orchard, we have the following trees: apples, pears, asian pears, cherries, plum, peach, and nectarine. We've purchased most of them online from Stark Brothers. A few of the trees didn't survive the winter, and Stark Brothers replaced them. Overall, we've been very happy with the quality of their trees and their customer service.
We plant berries in both the orchard and the garden. The berries include: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, and elderberries.
All of the trees and berries are planted in a line and like the garden, each line has its own spigot. Each spigot gets a black drip hose and is connected to the timer. Regularly watering fruits and berries really helps them to produce better fruit.
The chickens are allowed the run of the orchard. Not only do they eat all the rotten fruit that falls to the ground, but they really help to keep down the bugs in the garden (e.g. japanese beetles) that really mess with the fruit. This is especially important because we don't spray our trees with any pesticides.
One of the most important things that we have learned about having a home orchard is to purchase trees that are highly disease resistant. We lost several big fruit trees at the old house one year to fire-blight. It was really sad. Now we only purchase trees that are resistant to fire-blight and cedar apple rust (another disease we've had problems with). Having hardy trees makes a big difference and is worth the extra time and investment.
One other thing we plan to do is to start our bee hives again. We had them years ago, but stopped when we started Goat Milk Stuff. I'm hoping to establish a few hives so they can pollinate my fruit trees.
Not to mention that raw honey would be a huge bonus!