Self-Guided Orchard Tour
Begin your orchard tour just through the orchard gate.
STOP 1: Fruit Bushes
Look around you. Most of the trees in the front and central area of the orchard are kept below 7 feet tall. These are called “fruit bushes”. Here are benefits of keeping trees this small:
- Less need to climb ladders
- Keeps fruit reachable from the ground
- Grow a wider variety of fruit
- Have a longer harvest season
Fruit bush trees can be grown singly, two or three in a hole, four in a hole, in a hedgerow, or on a trellis. The key to fruit bush training is pruning in early May and again after harvest. Vigorous trees may need a third pruning in late summer.
STOP 2: Single fruit bushes
The two trees along the left of the center aisle are an example of fruit bushes planted singly. The first tree is a four-way grafted pluot (plum-apricot hybrid) on a mound. Buying a tree with multiple grafts is another way to grow more varieties of fruit in a small space!
STOP 4: Three in a hole
Walk down the center aisle to the next group of trees on your right. Peaches and nectarines are planted on a mound, 3-in-a-hole.
STOP 5: In the back right corner of the orchard is a cluster of three fig trees. Figs have two crops a year! Tiny figs begin forming by fall, can be seen during winter, and ripen early the next summer. A larger crop forms on current season’s growth and ripens late August thru October.
STOP 6: To the right of the figs and past the small gate is a cluster of half wine barrels. In one barrel is a Kaffir lime tree to show how a small citrus tree in a container can be part of a landscape.
The other barrels contain landscape plants that attract beneficial insects to the yard. Some beneficial insects help pollinate fruit trees; others help kill or control “bad bugs” in the yard.
STOP 7: 4-in-a-hole To you right notice the grouping of pears and apple trees planted 4-in-a-hole. Notice that the center is somewhat open, and that each tree takes up one fourth the space!
STOP 8: Espaliers Turn back to the row of espaliered trees. Espaliers are useful where you have a narrow space, such as along a fence or house. Walk along the row and notice how the apple and pear trees are trained. Shoots can be trained along wires or spread out in a fan shape, with fruiting spurs carefully selected and maintained. Or shoots can simply be tied up and the tree clipped like a hedge, with periodic thinning of branches. Apples, pears, and citrus have traditionally been espaliered. At the end of the espalier row a dwarf pomegranate is being trained in a fan shape.
STOP 9: Hedgerow At the end of the espalier row, turn right and observe two trees along the south fence. Originally, there were seven trees in this row planted 3 feet apart. In our densely planted orchard, those trees received too little sunlight to produce quality fruit, and it was difficult to prune the trees that close together and close to a fence. A few years ago we removed every other tree leaving the trees spaced 6 feet apart. Fruit production has improved and the trees are easier to maintain. In 2009 we removed two more trees, leaving only two in the row. This hedgerow section includes an “aprium” (apricot-plum hybrid).
Continue along the row, past the orchard gate to the next hedgerow of trees.
STOP 10: 4 feet apart hedgerow Originally eight trees were planted 2 feet apart. We found this planting much too close and removed the entire row. We planted three new pluot trees 4 feet apart. A installed a raised bed for better drainage. From our experience, we recommend that trees planted in a hedgerow be planted at least 4 feet apart.
STOP 11: Genetic dwarf citrus At the end of the hedgerow and along the west side of the orchard is a row of genetic dwarf citrus. With little pruning, these trees grow no more than 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. Standard sized citrus can reach 20 to 25 feet, although they can be kept smaller by pruning. Common citrus varieties are available as genetic dwarfs. See more citrus varieties--13 dwarf citrus are growing outside the orchard along the west fence beyond the pond and vegetables.
STOP 12: Genetic dwarf peaches and nectarines Opposite the citrus is a short row of three genetic dwarf peaches and nectarines. Look at how short the internodes are--the section of stem between two leaf buds (nodes). This results in compact branches and dense foliage. Standard varieties of peaches and nectarines are not available in genetic dwarf, but some delicious and productive genetic dwarf varieties are available at nurseries.
STOP 13: Perpendicular “V” peaches and nectarines At the end of the citrus row begins a row of peach and nectarine trees that have only two main scaffold branches forming a “V” perpendicular to the row, and planted only 5 to 6 feet apart. Some times of the year you can see through the center of the V straight through the row! This training system results in early fruit production and high yields. These trees are usually allowed to grow up to about 8 to 10 feet, and do require the use of a ladder.
STOP 14: Peach trees with disease resistance Look at the group of three trees to the right side of the V row. These hybridized peach varieties are resistant to peach leaf curl.
Peach leaf curl is a very common fungal disease on peach and nectarine trees in the Sacramento area. Products commonly used in the past to control this disease are no longer available to the homeowner. Liquid copper sprays are still available.
STOP 15: Grafted tall apple Notice the tall apple near the back fence. Apples naturally grow in a central leader shape, although they can be trained in the open center or espalier methods. A central leader tree should be shaped like a Christmas tree, like the one in front of you. Notice all the white plastic tags on the branches. Each of the 16 tags designates a different apple variety that was bud grafted onto the Fuji apple tree. This is yet another way to get many varieties in a small space.
STOP 16: Grafted cherry The big tree to the right of the tall apple is a cherry. Six cherry varieties were grafted onto a Lapins cherry tree. Most cherry varieties need a second cherry tree to cross pollinate, but not here! This is another good reason to learn bud grafting. Or buy a multi-variety grafted cherry tree!
STOP 17: Brown Rot resistance A special nectarine tree is to the right of the cherry along the back fence. This nectarine variety is resistant to brown rot disease. Brown rot can occur in most stone fruit, although susceptibility varies among species and their varieties.
Brown rot appears as light brown soft areas on the ripening fruit, followed by powdery looking spores. At harvest, picked fruit may appear healthy, but then develop brown rot shortly after.
STOP 18: Open center training Turn back toward the center aisle and head back toward the orchard entrance gate, but pause at the Asian pear on the right.
Many of our trees have been trained in the open center method, and this Asian pear is a good example. The center should be kept fairly open to promote sunlight penetration onto lower fruiting spurs, which increases fruit production and helps shade major scaffold branches.
Tap for more information about the orchard or go to ucanr.org/orchard.
Thank you for visiting the orchard at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. Please let us know if this guide was helpful by mentioning it to a Master Gardener.