Last weekend I planted a dozen fruit trees, most of them in my small front yard. They arrived last week, bareroots wrapped in burlap bags. People didn’t believe me when I told them I was planting 10 trees in my little space. In a couple years I’ll start having more fruit than I can eat, so I can share with neighbors and friends.
It all started when I was inspired by the urban farmer, Greg Peterson. I had a tour of his yard in central Phoenix, and was impressed by the 35 or so fruit trees in his front yard, (he had even more in the back!) The idea was to keep them pruned and small. Keeping them under 6-7 feet you never need a ladder, get all the fruit you need, and can get more varieties in a small space.
First thing was to build an underground barrier to prevent the Bermuda grass from getting into my vegetable garden. This underground 12 inch cement wall surrounds the area and will keep any new Bermuda grass from sneaking into my great garden after the irrigation stimulates the grass to start growing again.
6 months ago 9 yards of planting soil was delivered and spread over most of my front yard. Areas for vegetables got the lasagna treatment: cardboard over the grass, then alfalfa, then soil, then alfalfa, then soil. This smothers out any grass underneath the cardboard. Irrigation lines were installed with spaghetti lines (sounds like an Italian yard) so that I could move water lines wherever and whenever I wanted. While attending the first annual heirloom seed expo in Santa Rosa, I picked up some heirloom seeds, and learned about saving seeds. My first small crops are just coming in now: zucchini, lettuce, snow peas, broccoli, beets, kohlrabi, carrots, dill, cilantro.
The caliche soil is hard with a lot of clay so rather than chop with a pickaxe, or soak it and then shovel mud, I rented a gasoline-powered auger from Home Depot. With the help of a friend, we quickly drilled into the hard soil, making 3 close passes for each planting hole. Shoveling the loose soil out of the holes was a breeze. Then I mixed in 20% compost with the soil and back-filled the holes to the proper level for the trees. (Ok, I couldn’t raise my arms above my waist after 2 hours of lifting that auger and shoveling, but some Arnica 200c helped.)
The trees were already pruned for me, so they looked like sticks with roots. I put them in the holes with the graft facing as much NE as possible, do avoid the harsh Arizona sun. It is important to the roots are completely covered without any air pockets. After a good soaking with a couple gallons homeopathic Silica 30C water, some mulch added the final touch.
Peter Honey fig, Brown Turkey fig, 2 varieties of pomegranates, an almond tree, Anna Apple tree, Gold Kist apricot, Santa Rosa plum, Babcock peach, Florida Prince peach, Red Baron and Desert Gold peach, Tropic Snow White peach, and a loquat. There are 2 navel orange trees and one Meyer(of course!) lemon tree left to be delivered after the danger of any frost is past.
With minimal maintenance, shade and the benefit of organic fruits planting fruit trees seemed like the logical thing to plant if you have even a just small space for a fruit tree. Thanks for all the help from friends and workers for advice, and shovel-time!