How close to plant trees?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Louis, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. Louis

    Louis Junior Member

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    I have some people on the one hand telling me to plant trees close together so their branches mix up in the canopy - birds get the top fruit and I get the bottom. I have other people telling me that trees need air to flow between them, to not get diseases... How close can I plant trees together?

    What are the different opinions and why?
     
  2. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    How long is your 'piece of string', Louis?

    Plant spacings are going to be dependant upon many factors: Soil type, climate, slope, rainfall, frost, desired outcome, required input, ad infintum...

    Have you done a PDC? What about a plan/design, are you working on one of these?

    For a broader discussion on the topic, see: edible food forest

    Cheerio, Marko.
     
  3. ezylala

    ezylala Junior Member

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    trees are planted greater than 8 feet (3 meters) that allow for a large root system, trunk diameter, and root flare..
     
  4. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    It depends on thee tree, and it depends on the climate. I have very cool summers, so I don't want a lot of shade from a canopy. Fruit trees, even for a forest garden setup need their space of at least 5.5 meters (20 feet) trunk to trunk. If they are on standard rootstock they could grow together if you let them go, but they are usually pruned to have air flow. Also, fruit needs sun directly on it to help with ripening and flavor. Berry vines have better tasting and more berries when the sun gets on them. The root systems of trees are usually a mirror image of the tree, so those roots shouldn't be competing for water and nutrients.

    Even large trees, like eucalyptus and some nitrogen fixing trees that get to be 30 meters (75-100 feet) tall, need that much spacing for the same reasons.
     
  5. aroideana

    aroideana Junior Member

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    Venture into a real rainforest and see how close the trees are there . I have 30 m Quandongs growing 50 cms from large palms and a few m from large mangos and many other spp. Most fruits do not need sun to ripen , it helps with colour . How else would the hundreds of kilos of mango ripen inside the dense crown of foliage ?? Also Jakfruit that grows on the trunk ?
     
  6. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    That might be true for a real tropical rainforest, but not a real temperate one ;-)

    In cooler climates fruit ripens sooner with sunlight, which is an issue if you are staggering harvest times.
     
  7. SueUSA

    SueUSA Junior Member

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    Find out how broad your trees will get when mature, then plant them at least that far apart, although a little more would be better. If you have dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit trees, you would plant them closer together than if they are standard sizes.

    Fruit trees that touch is a good way to provide a nice highway for insects, one tree to the next, to the next...

    Sue
     
  8. kaviare

    kaviare Junior Member

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    This question has been on my mind a lot lately as I would love to squeeze two fruit trees into my suburban front yard. I've just planted two dwarf lemons to make a hedge along the front fence and I've got plans for a pruned avocado hedge to the West.

    The furthest apart I could reasonably plant the bigger fruit trees would be 2m - maybe 3m, but then one would be very close to the lemon hedge. I've been acting very strangely, peering over people's fences and eyeing off their fruit trees for breadth and closeness to each other. I reckon 2m would give the trees a good spread out from each other, and only moderate tangling with each other. I've heard anecdotes about this working well, too, Louis - but then there are so many people telling me that I MUST plant EXACLTY x metres away from each other, etc etc, that I get nervous.

    Given that it's just for personal consumption, I don't mind losing some fruit to slow ripening or birds or anything else, as long as I get SOME from the trees. The variety a second tree would give me is worth more than one full tree load of one fruit. The front yard faces North, so they'll get stacks of sunlight anyway, and given our scorching summer heatwaves recently in Adelaide, come summer I suspect that closer might be better, giving each other some protection. There's lawn there at the moment, but I'm planning on knocking that off and getting in some helpful ground cover like nasturtiums, and maybe some native shrubs and grasses.

    What sayeth the forum?
     
  9. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day kaviare

    As the old adage goes, "Let the site constraints determine the design opportunities".

    Whack 'em in, I say, and see how you go. Your front yard is not a commercial orchard, and if you are happy with a reduced yield due to space limitations, than that is all that really matters. You don't need to justify your planting decisions to anyone, but yourself.

    Johns and Stevenson have a gentle approach to the matter:

    Space limitations can be overcome to some extent by a judicious choice of what fruit to grow; and with some it is possible to obtain examples grafted on to a dwarfing rootstock that will ensure small, compact trees even when mature. Even greater value can be obtained by growing so-called family [multi-graft] trees, mentioned earlier, where several different varieties are grafted on to a single rootstock...

    Source: Johns & Stevenson (1979) The Complete Book of Fruit. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, p. 11.

    Good luck with what ever you decide, Markus.
     
  10. kaviare

    kaviare Junior Member

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    Thanks for the encouragement! I'll check back in three years and let you know how I did :p
     
  11. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    It would just seem a real shame that when it takes 5 years for a fruit tree to actually start to produce fruit that it is fighting in the root zone with another tree, and not producing as much as it could. And one of the still effective ways to add value to property is to have mature producing fruit trees. I'm just not hearing enough acknowledgment on these boards about the root zone. Everyone is paying so much attention to the plant above ground, and there is almost an equivalent "plant" below the soil level. that's what needs the space in order to find enough nutrients to grow. If it's competing with another set of large roots, one of them isn't going to make it. :)

    Temperate zone fruit trees need light to ripen fruit. Even berry vines will have very few berries if they are in the shade. I have 5 acres of blackberries, I have proof in every direction that vines produce more berries and better tasting berries in sunlight. Dappled sunlight can still be effective, and that is happening in a forest situation. Dappling on leaves is a triggering mechanism. But just because a tree is in a forest, doesn't mean it's not getting sun. It may only be a few hours a day through a gap in the upper canopy. But don't we want to get the most out of each tree?

    Here's an snippet from an article about growing apples: https://www.goodfruit.com/issues.php?article=831&issue=29

    "Whether you select or modify an existing orchard system or develop your own unique system will be based on your understanding of three important elements: 1) sunlight interception by all the trees in your orchard, 2) the distribution of sunlight within each tree canopy, and 3) appropriate pruning and training techniques to achieve adequate sunlight interception and distribution."

    Here's another snippet about grape growing, "Not only are the processes of fruit ripening slowed, but fungal diseases such as Botrytis and powdery mildew encouraged in low light levels"

    Aroideana, do you have a citation for your statement fruit doesn't need sunlight, because I'm just not finding any :)
     
  12. kaviare

    kaviare Junior Member

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    Personally, I'd rather get the most out of my garden. And since it's a suburban garden with limited ground space, I'd rather have two trees producing half what they could than one tree and tonnes of fruit all at the same time that I'm going to get sick of eating.

    But that's just my situation, and I suppose the point is to get as much info as you have and make the right decision for your own particular situation. I hadn't given much thought about the root zone, that's definitely putting extra thought into - if I'm setting them up to compete with each other I'd better compensate for that in some way. Will have to do some more reading :) Thanks sweetpea!

    Re: the light. I thought that's what ripening was - when sunlight produces sugars and chemical reactions in the fruit. Ok, so that's a mangeld layman's half remembering, but I don't think I can agree from my own experience that fruit needs no light. Especially in something sweet like blackberries, as you say - I don't know if you've ever put a half ripe blackberry in your mouth - one that looks ripe but is hard and bitter. Usually to be found lurking in low light areas. I don't recommend it.

    Then again, I am constantly annoyed by people telling me that strawberries need full light - whenever I've planted them in full light they've shrivelled and died, whereas those in dappled light have thrived. They are woodland plants after all! Different plants need different things, but just because a rainforest fruit can ripen from low, indirect sunlight, doesn't mean that 'most' can. But then again, I'm not talking about growing my trees in a shed, just close to another tree. In terms of light, since they are in my North-facing front yard, with a suburban road in front of them, they will probably get more than trees in some orchards, since there is nothing to cast any shadows on them at all, they will be in the light from the time the sun nips over the horizon until it sets again.

    I think the point I didn't quite make was that a lot of the tags on plants, etc, reflect recieved wisdom from the Northern hemisphere, where keeping plants warm and bathed in light is vital for ripening and reducing fungal diseases, etc. And the same is true here, it's just that we GET more light and heat, so maybe need to think a bit further about that. And about the individual microclimate where the tree is to be planted.
     
  13. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    keviare, you can espalier fruit trees along a fenceline. So three-fourths of your perimeter could potentially have fruit trees. Keep the lower branches, send them sideways, keep the central leader and as it grows make the branches at the sides go horizontally. they still need to be the generous distance apart, but they are easy to pick and maintain. But if you're not coming back for three years, you won't see this. :(
     
  14. aroideana

    aroideana Junior Member

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    Many tropical fruits do not need sunlight to ripen as they grow on the trunks of the tree , and originate deep in the rainforest . Looking at a Mangosteen tree you cannot see a single fruit , same for durian and most of the Artocarpus . I just mimic nature she does not have a web site .
     
  15. mos6507

    mos6507 Junior Member

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    The elephant in the room here is pollination. So many trees require a 2nd tree for proper pollination. I am having trouble mapping out how to squeeze two chestnuts in my suburban lot, and I am wondering what would happen if I just tried to fuse two trees into one by planting them side by side, or trying to aggressively graft the limbs from one to the other with the donor in a large container. Would a siamese-twin tree have the same yield as a single tree (properly pollinated) in the same space? That would be fine with me.
     
  16. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    mos6507, if the two trees have similar vigour I think it is perfectly reasonable to let them share the same hole. Although I've never done it myself, this has been the advice floating around in nurseries for years. The two trees will basically grow as one tree in terms of how big they get. You will most likely find that one or other variety yields better than the other so in some respects you will have a reduced yield over all. The other thing to check out is whether there are any other trees in the neighbourhood, or to try to encourage neighbours to work with you and plant complementary varieties.
     
  17. Louis

    Louis Junior Member

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    Thanks everyone for the feedback. I think I will stick to giving the trees as much space as they can grow into - after pruning. Maybe I will add some legume trees to chop and drop until the final trees are well established, hopefully short-lived ones.

    Hey on that note - how long does Tagasaste live? And also - I can't get them at my nursery because they have a bad rep for being invasive. But maybe that's another topic for another thread...

    Thanx again
     
  18. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    mos6507, yes pollination is tricky. but when people live in neighborhoods, the odds are there will be another tree that will pollinate, unless it's a really unusual kind of fruit .

    Chestnuts are huge trees, and if you put them too close, one will die. They have a root system that is a mirror image of what's on top, and there just isn't enough space/nutrients if they are too close. I have a lot of pine trees at my place that a previous owner planted too closely. One of them always dies, gets sick, gets invaded with pests. Not to mention, if those roots can invade your septic system pipes, and tank, if you have one, they eventually will.

    Here's some interesting info: https://www.empirechestnut.com/faqplant.htm
     
  19. kaviare

    kaviare Junior Member

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    I've been thinking about espaliering. I don't think I can really do it out the front, because it's one of those semi detached housing trust houses with the knee high fences. I mean, I could put in a higher fence but it somethow seems ruder than a hedge. Plus, if I had it down the side it would be shaded by the two trees I am trying to squeeze in there :p I'm planning on making them multigrafts, to solve the pollination problem, although I'm also thinking about knocking on a couple of doors and asking what the fruit trees I can see over there fence are, for pollination.

    But I've really got more fence out the back than I need. I mean, even with a passionfruit and some blackberries, I've got stacks of room. Relatively speaking. I reckon I can squeeze in one big tree, a couple of dwarfs in pots so I can move them around in and out of the sun, and one espaliered.
     
  20. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Kaviare, remember that pots absorb heat, and even on a day that feels cool but is sunny, those pots can get up a good 20 degrees higher. Roots are looking for the constant cool temps of the soil, around 50 F, and they will stress if it's higher, plus they will start to circle the pot or half barrel, and will have trouble spreading out if you eventually do put it in soil. I put a pot inside a pot with air space in between to keep the roots cool, and then mulch with 2-3 inches of mowed grass or crumbled leaves on top, helps keep it cool, improves the soil.

    Root systems are a mirror image of what's above, even a dwarf tree that is 2 meters high needs that much room for roots Or you could treat it like bonsai, restrain the roots in a pot, clip it into an artful shape that gets a few decorative fruit :)
     

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