The Salinas Valley is an excellent place to produce fruit in your very own backyard orchard. I’ve done it for years and have mastered it in my own backyard in South Salinas. The purpose of this article is to share some tips on how you can save money and eat well by producing your own fruit utilizing very little space.

The concept I raise was developed by a gentleman named Ed Laivo at Dave Wilson Nurseries. That is the idea of “Backyard Orchard Culture.” This is the idea that backyard gardeners have much different objectives introducing fruit than those with hundreds of acres in the Central Valley. As I see it, there are three goals to producing delicious tree-ripe fruit. These are:

· Prolonged harvest of tree-ripe fruit in a small space

· As many varieties over as long as season as possible

· Trees that are easy to harvest from.

Backyard Orchard Culture captures these three concepts. You see, for a long time, most of the ideas guiding fruit growing came from commercial orchard practices. That is maximum yield and size for fruit trees. The only challenge with that is they required ladders, pruning, thinning and picking with big trees. Not to mention the land and equipment necessary.

I have several recommendations that fall in line with the “Backyard Orchard Culture” concept. The first is to consider multiple varieties of fruit trees in one hole. This can be achieve by either purchasing a fruit tree with several varieties “grafted” onto one tree or by planting several trees in the same hole.

I am a huge advocate of planting multiple – grafted fruit trees. This is a no brainer for me. Every tree in my backyard features multiple grafts, except one. Multiple varieties in the same hole offer more consistent pollination and the ability to control the amount of fruit you get over a long time. You can actually stretch your season months!

The second recommendation I have is to consider planting your trees closer together. As “backyard” gardeners, we have limited space. By planting trees close, they are kept smaller, produce smaller amounts of fruit and we end up diversifying our bounty from the garden.

My final recommendation is to prune aggressively. Pruning fruit trees is critical. It is as critical as fertilizing, watering and thinning fruit. By pruning trees to keep them small, we keep the fruit accessible for years to come. We also save ourselves labor and the danger of having to use ladders to harvest.

When selecting a fruit tree for purchase, look for open structure. The fall is an excellent time to plant because often you can find a great deal too. Even better is the jump you get by planting a tree that is one more year mature than trees you’d purchase in the winter. Finally, mother nature’s rain will aid in getting the tree established.

Remember to always plant as instructed using stakes, starter fertilizer, B-1 and a high quality planting mix. If planted right and properly cared for, you and your family will enjoy the benefits of home grown fruit year after year.

Should you have questions, seek out the advice of a professional at your local nursery. Successful fruit trees for the area vary by location and you’ll want professional advice on what to plant.

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