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How to Plan an Orchard

Gardens can be stunningly beautiful, but aesthetics aren’t everything. Sometimes you want to gain something tangible from your investment, and there are few better (or more delicious) places to start than producing your own, home-grown fruit.

If you’re going to plan an orchard you’ll want to make sure you do so correctly. Several factors combine to decide the health of your trees and their potential yield. We’ve gathered below a few pointers to set you in the right direction, and ensure you have all the necessary information to plan effectively.

Tree Choice

First things first, ask what will benefit you the most. What fruit do you like to eat, and what varieties can you not find easily in the shops? There are dozens of common fruit trees and unusual fruit trees to choose from, so take the time to browse.

It is a good idea to research predicted yield and ultimate dimensions to make the most of your space. A single apple tree of a good size can provide enough fruit for a family of four, if
you’re working with a compact garden. Alternatively if you wish to freeze, bottle, give away to friends or even sell fruit you may want a whole orchard of trees.


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Planting Site

Some thought about siting your fruit trees will help establishment, and maximise yield. Find a well-drained site with protection from strong winds, for which you could always plant a windbreak of deciduous shrubs or trees to filter it, or fencing for tighter spaces. Ideally the tree will have good sun exposure for most of the day, and trained fruit should be planted against a south or south-westerly wall or fence.

Pollination De-Mystified

As a part of reproduction, fruit production relies on the pollination of flowers earlier in the year. This is usually done by bees and other flying insects, and attracting bees to your garden aids this process.

Certain trees are self-fertile, meaning the flowers can be pollinated by other flowers on the same tree, whereas others will require another variety of the same fruit grown somewhere nearby. Braeburn apples, for instance, will need an alternate variety like Golden delicious nearby to pollinate for successful fruit development. Place inter-pollinating varieties within 18m (or 55ft) of each other, if possible. Bees can fly up to a couple of miles, but this distance offers the greatest chance of success.

There are a few exceptions, such as Bramley and Bleinheim Orange cooking apples, which we sell. They are triploid cultivars with sterile pollen and will need two extra varieties of apple to pollinate successfully, totalling a sum of three.

Also, many self-fertile trees will still benefit from a second plant. Unlike other self-fertile species such as plums and cherries, nuts within the hazel family stand out by being wind pollinated, so planting as a group is a good idea. Growing a group vastly increases your chances of a good harvest for any species, though particularly for wind-pollinated species like hazel-family nuts.


Fruit trees didn’t evolve with your needs in mind, and as such they’ll often be grafted onto a different rootstock to improve results. This controls the growth and development of the tree, helping maximise yield while making the most of available space, and even offering a degree of disease resistance, depending on the rootstock being employed.

By grafting to a variety of rootstocks wildly different results can be achieved.  Apples can be grown from dwarf to full-sized orchard trees, for instance. We generally supply apple trees on a semi-vigorous rootstock (MM106), ideal for average gardens subject to average conditions, and producing trees with an ultimate height of 4-5m (14-18ft).

Other rootstocks may be available, if you need a plant for a patio, talk to us about availability.

Planting Distance

Your main consideration should firstly be having enough room to work. Once the tree is mature you’ll need to pick fruit, mow, strim, mulch, feed, and even spray if necessary. A cramped collection of trees can lead to unnecessarily difficult maintenance.

For a semi-vigorous rootstock we’d usually recommend a circumference of 3.5-4m (12-14ft) around the tree for planting distance. This will provide you with plenty of room to work, while also ensuring trees don’t compete for nutrients.

Fruit Trees

While this post is geared towards effective planting and cropping, don’t forget that fruit trees can be immensely attractive ornaments in any garden. Apple and pears are awash with blossoms in spring, while quince and medlar blossom is downright stunning. Pears and cherries display good autumn colour, and the hazel family produces pleasant winter catkins.

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