Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 7, Issue 7
   October 2012
 
   A Labor Of Love: My Own Orchard
 
 
OrchardOrchard
The orchard during the first season, with a mature apple tree in the background

I'm not sure when the idea first surfaced, but it was a dream of mine to grow an orchard in my urban backyard (Canadian zone 5a, American zone 4). I did so in 2011, starting with six trees, five of which remained healthy throughout the first season. The sixth was girdled, perhaps by a rabbit, even though I had protected it up to 18". Nonetheless, I attribute the success of the other trees to the site we chose. It receives full sun for much of the day, and a nearby hedge provides wind protection but is far enough away that it doesn't compete with the trees.

I created the plot using the lasagna-gardening technique. It's a no-dig method in which you cover the area with damp newspapers that smother the grass, weeds, etc., and then add layers of organic matter to create a garden bed. After I laid the newspaper, I added a layer of coarse material (shrub clippings from pruning), followed by a thick layer of rich loam from three old composters that contained a lot of good material. The first season, we used the bed as a vegetable garden and it provided excellent crops. The second season, when we planted the orchard in it, some fairly vigorous digging was required because of the heavy clay soil. The site is on a slight incline, so I started at the top with a 3' x 18' trench perpendicular to the slope. I excavated to a depth of 12" and loosened an additional 6".

 
 
             
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