Early Spring and late Fall are the best times to plant most perennials, and that includes fruit trees. When our family was looking at properties to purchase to start our farm, one of the main requirements was that there would be an area to start an orchard of various fruit trees and other edible fruits.
I have wanted to implement the “Permaculture Orchard” as shown by Stefan Sobkowiak as our method for getting started. This method can be summarized with the acronym “NAP”, which stands for “Nitrogen Fixer”, “Apple”, and “Pear/Plum”. Each row of the orchard includes trees grown in that order, repeating until the available space is consumed. The method behind the madness is to spread out the similar varieties so pests have a harder time infesting the entire orchard. Also, a nitrogen fixing tree is placed in between fruit trees to act as an “in-place” fertilizer. Pretty cool, huh?
The plan is for three rows, one row for early, middle, and late season fruit varieties. We started this year with the “early” row, which for us in MN/Zone 4 means varieties that will be harvestable in mid to late August.
Some people have asked on Facebook and YouTube about the varieties that we planted and how much the first row cost. I didn’t include that in the video, so here you go:
Early Season (First Row) Varieties:
2 – “Kindercrisp” apple @ $49.99/each
2 – “Mount Royal” plum @ $49.99/each
1 – “Zestar” apple @$49.99 (received for free for purchasing two other trees – Fall sale)
1 – “State Fair” apple @ $49.99 (received for free for purchasing two other trees – Fall sale)
1 – “Parker” pear @ $30
1 – “Summercrisp” pear @ $30
Total spent: $292 (with taxes and some tree trunk wrap)
That doesn’t include the nitrogen fixing trees, which will probably be a few honey locusts. I was not able to find those for a reasonable price. The only ones that I could find for sale had at least 1.5″ diameter trunks, and those are meant for satisfying HOA tree planting requirements (and were also upwards of $175 per tree). I plan on purchasing these as bare root trees in the Spring, where I can get them for $20 or so.
This is a little more than I wanted to spend, but as Justin Rhodes says, you need to “Just Plant” sometimes. In the Spring, I will purchase bare root fruit trees as well, which I can get at local nurseries for less than $25 each (at least for apples). I have planted all semi-dwarf trees. I don’t want full size trees and dwarf trees seem pretty hard to come by.
And yes, I will be planting the jewel of the Minnesota apple development program, the Honeycrisp. It just isn’t an early season apple, so I will wait until next year to get it and plant it (it is a mid-season tree).
If you want to see the process of planting the first row with me and kids, check out the video below (and don’t forget to like/comment/subscribe)!