orchard during the first season, with a mature apple tree
in the background
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".