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Nothing better than biting the apple that has ripened in your garden. But the dream of an orchard requires real knowledge, so as not to compromise the harvest which will take place several years after planting. Depending on the characteristics of the chosen future garden, for use as a dominant orchard or mixed garden (the exposure, the geological nature of the soil, the physical limits of the plot, etc.), consideration should be given to the choice of species and their mode. of culture (tree of full wind or preformed subject). It is then up to each one to make the orchard within his reach, to hope for a good harvest and the deserved pleasure that comes from it.
Climatic conditions and the nature of the soil
Most fruit trees withstand cold winters well. On the other hand, spring frosts - if the buds are budded (ready to hatch) - can destroy the flowers and therefore the expected harvest. In the north of France, it will be necessary to choose species and varieties with later flowering. It will be good to reserve, for the southern regions with mild winters, species such as almond and olive trees. Remember also that the full sun and the heat contribute to a good vegetative development of the trees, but that they are fundamental for the ripening of the fruits, like those of the peach and the apricot tree… On the other hand, certain essences with small fruits, like red currants and black currants, will be planted in partial shade in the south, because they do not support the heat wave. We also know that strong regional winds require windbreak hedges to be made, to avoid breakage of branches, early fruit falls, increased cold or drying out of the soil. Hence the advantage of favoring sunny walls for certain plantations ... The water requirements of fruit trees are related to the effects of the climate. Know for example that apple, cherry, plum and raspberry trees need a rainfall of 700 mm per year. On the contrary, almond trees, vines and olive trees tolerate a water deficit.
Fruit trees have varying requirements depending on the nature of the soil. The ideal soil is a clay-sandy soil, neither too acidic nor too calcareous, deep and fertile, cool but not too wet. Drainage is sometimes necessary in case of excess water, to avoid asphyxiation of the roots and to avoid the appearance of fungal diseases (botrytis, powdery mildew). On the other hand, a dry ground does not necessarily need regular watering (except for the rooting of the young tree), but requires more maintenance by hoeing, mulching, and possibly the installation of a drip, during dry summers.
The choice of rootstock
Most fruit trees, to keep their specific qualities, are reproduced by grafting: a graft of the plant to be propagated is united with the sap (vascular system) of a rooted tree called the rootstock. This one is either of the same species or of a close and compatible species. It is also chosen for its recognized characteristics of adaptation to a given soil or because of its resistance to diseases (example of the American rootstock imported for European vines parasitized by the phylloxera insect at the beginning of the 20th century).
Fruit trees generally have male and female organs on the same subject (monoecious tree). Cherry trees, pear trees, plum trees, and to a lesser extent apple trees, need to be pollinated by another subject, to be more abundantly fertilized: this is what is called cross-fertilization. Several subjects are therefore necessary to hope for good fruiting, fertilization being facilitated by the action of insects (bees), even birds and also by the effect of the wind. Peaches, apricots and small fruit shrubs, among others, are self-fertile: a single tree is enough to obtain fertilization. There are also dioecious fruit trees (male and female flowers on separate feet). To obtain fruit, one male plant must be planted for five female subjects. Example of the Chinese Actinidia and its well-known fruits, the kiwis.
The different types of orchards
The surface of the orchard or its grip in a mixed garden, the presence of walls or paths will determine the nature of the trees, their number and their shape. An orchard of more than 1000 m² in the countryside will allow you to choose vigorous trees, full wind, high-stem (graft point at 2 m from the ground) such as apple trees or half-stem (graft point at 1, 20 m from the ground) like peach trees. The branches of these trees will expand freely and require little maintenance. You can also plant bushy trees (hazelnut, chestnut). In all cases, the distance between the subjects will be at least 6 meters on all sides. In a small orchard, in addition to the small fruit shrubs, you can plant, on medium-vigor rootstocks, other highly valued species such as pear and apple trees. It will be necessary to choose forms to train, adapted to the reduced surface. We talk about espalier plantation, the wall along which we plant fruit trees. Cord, single U or double U shapes are common for pome fruits. Pear trees can also be worked in a spindle (distaff), peach trees are often in palmette (fan shape). For very small areas or just a terrace, there are mini-fruit trees, sometimes in columns, which are grown in pots of an adequate size. All of this information on the creation of an orchard will allow many and everyone to know this simple pleasure so special that is the harvest, at home, of its own fruits ... that we have seen grow and ripen!