A Guide to Backyard Orchards

backyard orchard

Orchards seem to be dreamy. You see them often on television or in photos. But, don’t be gloomy about the thought that you can’t have an orchard; ideally, you can have one right in your backyard. With a backyard orchard, you can have fresh and delicious fruits. Plus, the organic way of growing them makes them better than any other fruits sold in grocery stores.

Before starting your orchard journey, you first need to plan and decide where in your backyard you are going to put your orchard. With a backyard orchard, you can grow two to five fruit trees. However, there’s no concrete answer on how many trees it takes to make an orchard.

Pears, apples, plums, and peaches are some of the most popular fruit trees you can grow in your backyard orchard. Also, when starting your orchard journey, choose the site smartly and make sure the soil is healthy, has good drainage, and receives lots of sunlight.

In this article, we will reveal how to start a backyard orchard. We will also discuss the fruit trees you can grow in your backyard orchard and the types of orchards that suit your climate and location.


What Is an Orchard?

An orchard is a kind of farm containing a variety of fruit trees, nuts, and shrubs. Some of the popular examples of orchard fruits are pears, apples, oranges, cherries, and bananas. As for orchard nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans are among the most popular ones.

With an orchard, you are expected to prune the trees, check for any insect and pest infestation, replace old trees with new ones, and most excitingly, pick your delicious and fresh fruits and nuts.

Orchard farming is a traditional way of growing fruits and nuts. Compared to low-fruit plantations, traditional orchards grow tall trees of different ages and species. Then, it is maintained without using any insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, and artificial preservatives.

There are different types of orchards, divided into four categories:

1. Fruit Orchards

This category of orchards focuses on trees yielding fruits. Orchards that grow shrubs bearing fruits don’t fall in this category, including berries and other non-tree fruits. Here are some popular options:

  • Apples
  • Dates
  • Olives
  • Plums
  • Pears
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Limes

2. Seed Orchards

Some plantations or orchards don’t grow fruits or nuts, but rather plant trees whose main goal is on getting seedlings. The seedlings are then collected and sold for commercial purposes.

3. Nut Orchards

Growing nuts have recently become popular with local fruit growers. Nut orchards include a large number of trees bearing nuts, mainly walnuts, pecans, cashews, and almonds. Coconut and cocoa, as well as farmers who focus on pine production also fall in this category.

Some of the orchard owners grow pines for edible pine nuts.

4. Other Types of Orchards

Some orchards can’t be classified in the aforementioned categories. These orchards don’t grow fruits, nuts, nor shrubs, as growers only produce trees for holiday and commercial use. Christmas tree farms, maple sugar, syrup production, and coffee-producing orchards fall in this category.

An orchard can supply you with low-cost fresh fruits, help attract pollinators, provide shade, and add natural beauty to your vacant space. Although it can be complicated, especially as a beginner, don’t get discouraged.


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How to Start an Orchard in Your Backyard

Are you dreaming of having a backyard orchard where you can harvest low-cost, organic, and fresh fruits? Now is the time to begin planning a backyard orchard. Most fruit tree growers prefer spring planting, especially in the northern region.

You should consider a few things when planning on having a backyard orchard. One of them is the space you have. It will help you identify what type of plant you are going to grow. Will you pick full-sized trees, dwarf, or semi-dwarf trees?

Identifying the available space helps you avoid common mistakes as an orchard owner, which are overcrowding and not leaving enough space between your crops. It is recommended to leave 30 feet between full-sized trees, and at least 8 feet between dwarf and semi-dwarf trees.

You have to be resourceful and creative when planning a backyard orchard. You can either have a space with full-sized apples in the corner of your backyard, a dwarf cherry tree on the side of your residence, and plum trees in your front yard. Also, don’t forget to have good drainage when planning on building a backyard orchard.

It is ideal to grow fruit trees in a spot that receives sunlight and to consider the conditions of your trees before planting or transplanting them. Full sun on your plants encourages healthy growth and prevents fungi problems that can spoil the fruits and harm the trees.

If you live in a cold climate, avoid low-lying areas where frosts can congregate. Spring frosts can devastate your fruit trees while they are blossoming.

Apart from these considerations, here are other aspects to consider when planning to have a backyard orchard.

Orchard Site, Cost, and Size

Before starting your orchard journey, you need to plan and decide where in your backyard you are going to put up your orchard. Are you doing orchards to get a side income or to provide for your family and friends? What is your goal in having a backyard orchard?

These questions will help you determine the number of trees your space can hold. Since orchards will be around for years, avoid areas near ponds or anywhere that will tear the trees as this would be a waste of your time and money.

When selecting an orchard site, make sure it has these characteristics:

  1. The site must have well-drained fertile soil and full sun exposure.
  2. The site must be away from frost pockets and areas that receive high wind whenever possible.
  3. Never plant early-flowering plants on south-facing slopes for when they bloom too early, they lose their flowers and fruits because of frosts.

Also, a backyard orchard must have enough space for your fruit trees to grow. Fruit trees need no less than 8′ between each tree to grow healthily. Also, some fruit trees are not fertile, so you need to plant two or more trees of different varieties to ensure pollination.

However, there’s no concrete answer as to how many trees it takes to make an orchard. You could perfectly grow two to five fruit trees in your back orchard, or 100 to 400 over an acre of land, if speaking on a larger scale.

A beginner’s budget for a backyard orchard should be between $10 to $50 per tree, plus the soil amendments and organic fertilizers. However, this may vary depending on where you live, your soil condition, and the size of your backyard orchard. If you are planning a backyard orchard for business purposes, prepare to spend for living expenses while waiting for the tree to mature and bear fruits.

Choosing Orchard Trees

When planning on having a backyard orchard, choose trees that adapt well to your climate. You can visit and check your local Cooperative Extension to find out about the varieties of trees that are best suited to your location.

As a beginner, learn more about the agricultural zone you’re in. Local nurseries can provide you with information on the zones where plants will grow. You can purchase seedlings or young trees at your local nursery; just make sure it’s a reputable one. However, avoid buying seeds if your seeds grow bearing fruits of a different variety than those from the mother plant.

There are also ways of planting your fruit trees that find the layout that works best in your backyard. Those options may include single line, square, rectangular, quincunx, triangular, hexagonal, and contour or terrace.

Orchard Planting and Maintenance

In an orchard, plant your trees in early spring, while the trees are still dormant. When growing fruit trees, remember these steps:

  1. Dig holes twice as wide as the growing tree, until the root system is buried deeply.
  2. Add organic compost and soil amendments around the root of the trees.
  3. Keep the roots of the trees from drying out as you put them into the holes.
  4. Water the trees adequately.
  5. Fill the holes and surround organic mulch on the trees.

When your trees are growing, don’t forget to prune them, remove the deadwood, and encourage healthy growth and an accessible shape. Also, prune your trees when they are dormant. All fruit trees are prone to insect and pest infestation and diseases depending on the type of tree and your location.


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Trees You Can Grow in Your Orchard

Choosing the fruit trees you want to grow in your orchard can be quite a decision to make. You can plant different varieties and grow different types of fruits depending on your location and climate. You can also ask some experts, friends, or neighbors about which trees are the best for backyard orchards.

Your local nursery will recommend fruit trees that are native to your locality, best suit the local weather, and have the best resistance against diseases and other problems.

Here is a list of fruit trees you can grow in your backyard orchard.

  • Apples

    Apples are the most popular fruit trees grown in an orchard. Plus, they adapt well to cold climates while other varieties may adapt better to warm climates. Dwarf apple trees must be planted 8’ apart and may bear fruit in their third year.

    Dwarf apple trees can have a harvest of two bushels per tree on a yearly average, compared to four bushels for semi-dwarf trees, which are required to be kept 15 to 18’ apart and start bearing fruits after five or six years. Standard trees need 25 to 30’ spacing and will bear fruit in six to ten years.

    Standards are hardiest to grow but can tolerate drought and poor soil. For a start, you can plant three different types of apple trees, regardless of the size for the best pollination. Summer apples ripen early, while fall apples are multipurpose and winter apples ripen late and can be kept for months in cold storage.

  • Pears

    Pears grow well in most U.S. states. Most trees are hardy to zone 4, some to zone 3, and pear trees bear fruits every other year rather than yearly in colder areas. A standard pear tree needs to be kept about 20 to 25’ from other trees, will bear fruit within six to eight years, and yield roughly three bushes per plant.

    Dwarf to semi-dwarf pear trees should be kept 12 to 25’ apart, will bear fruits within five to eight years, and yield roughly one or two bushels per plant. To be sure, you can plant two different types of pear trees to ensure pollination. Most pears can be stored fresh into mid-winter, although many decay quickly.

  • Cherries

    Cherries grow in the same climate as pears. It takes five to seven years for sweet cherries to mature, while pie or sour cherries take about four years. All aforementioned cherries are self-pollinating. Generally, pie cherries are hardier than sweet cherries. Although, the latter tends to bear more fruits than pie cherries.

    The space needed between each cherry tree is 15 to 25’. You can approximatively harvest 60 to 75 quarts per tree in an average yield. Finally, you can freeze cherries but can’t store them fresh long-term, contrary to pears and apples.

  • Peaches

    Peach trees are well-adapted to the Southern region of the United States. Some varieties of peaches have been developed to be cold-hardy and can grow in Northern regions, but may die in hard winters. The University of Virginia recommends planting standard-sized peach trees for the smaller varieties are still being developed and may encounter significant problems.

    Peach trees require to be kept 15 to 20’ apart. Also, make sure to support the branches of the trees for they can break under the weight of their fruits. The average harvest for peaches is four bushels per tree. When keeping peaches in fresh storage, avoid putting them there for a long time. Besides, you can dry them and put them in a can.

The secret to organic growing is the soil. It is the key to success in backyard orchards. With good soil, you can start planning right away, unless the ground is frozen. Good drainage means a good root system, and the healthier your soil, the more nutrients and organic matter it contains. Therefore, the better your tree will grow and the more delicious fruits it will bear.


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Being able to grow your own food is a very rewarding activity. From simple herbs in your window sill to healthy vegetables in your backyard, these produce will definitely taste better than anything that you can get from the store. If you are a fan of fruits, a backyard orchard is the perfect gardening project for you.  

Maintaining a backyard orchard can be quite difficult, especially if you are just starting. However, you shouldn’t let the starting steps discourage you. Make use of the knowledge given by this article and find out what fruits trees, nuts, or shrubs you want to plant in your backyard orchard. Finally, planning and conceptualizing your new backyard project is the key to success.

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