Planning Your Orchard

Fruit and nut trees are longer term investments than annual vegetables, and deserve more planning.  It's no fun planting a fruit tree and tending it patiently for several years only to find that you planted the wrong variety, or put it on the wrong soil or site, or never planted a pollinizer.  Follow these tips on selecting fruit trees and you'll avoid these pitfalls and ensure an abundant harvest for your efforts.

Soil & Drainage

Most fruit trees prefer a moderately fertile, well-drained soil.  How do you know if your soil is well drained?  Easy: dig a hole large enough to accommodate your tree roots (about 2’ x 2’) and fill it with water.  Let it drain and fill it again.  If you still have water in the hole after 12 – 24 hours you likely have a drainage issue.  If so, your options are 1) find a better draining site for fruit trees 2) plant your trees on a mound  to promote drainage and avoid “wet feet” (i.e. having the tree roots in standing water for long periods of time).  Cherries and Walnuts will not tolerate heavy wet soils.   Fruit trees that tolerate heavy soils include Plum, Apple, Pear, Asian Pear, Persimmon, Currant and Filbert. You can grow fruit trees right in your garden beds if you wish, just be sure to keep overhead water out of the canopy as it can create disease problems.  

Rootstock Determines the Size of the Tree

The rootstock is the lower portion of the tree that you don’t see.  Rootstock selection and pruning determine the size of a tree.  If you have limited space, choose a dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock and keep it well pruned.  If you want a tree to hang a hammock on, or to use as windbreak or shade, go for a semi-standard or standard.  The diagram below shows the relative sizes of different rootstocks.  Rootstock-Chart.jpg

Ripening Times - Spread Your Harvest Through the Year

Be sure to spread your harvest out.  By choosing varieties that ripen over a long period of time you can enjoy fresh fruit for most of the year.  Some varieties are good keepers and will provide you with fresh fruit well into the winter.  Canning, drying and freezing are also great ways to extend your harvest and eat fruit all year.  If you don't know how to can or preserve foods, come to one of our FREE canning  Workshops & Events!



Most fruit trees require pollination to produce fruit.  Some trees are capable of pollinating themselves (self-fertile), others require pollen from another tree (self-sterile).  As a general rule, pollenizers should be no more than 50 feet apart from one another, though trees up to 200 feet apart may cross-pollinize.  The adjacent chart outlines the general requirements for common fruits.  See the variety descriptions for more specific information.  (Note - an insect or critter that spreads pollen from one plant to another is a pollinator, while a plant that produces pollen necessary to fertilize blossoms on another plant is a pollenizer.  


Require a pollenizer.  Some varieties are pollen sterile and will not pollenize other apples.  See descriptions and pollination chart.


Most almonds require a pollenizer.  The "All In One" variety is self fertile.  Titan, a cold hardy almond, is pollenized by most peach trees




Most Berries are self-fertile, see descriptions.  Plant two or more varieties of blueberries.


Most are self-fertile

Cherries, Sweet

Most require a pollenizer, though some varieties are self-fertile (e.g. Stella and Lapins)

Cherries, Sour, or Pie

Most are self-fertile




Require a pollenizer


Self Fertile


Most are self-pollinating, though there are some exceptions, such as JH Hale & Indian Blood, that require a pollenizer


Require a pollenizer

Plums - Japanese

Require a pollenizer

Plums - European

Partly self-fertile, plant a pollenizer for increased production, see variety for specific requirements


Self fertile


Require a pollenizer when young, self fertile when mature


Chilling Requirements

Temperate fruit trees must pass through some cold in order to know that winter is over and it is time to bloom.  The Mid Klamath region has plenty of chill hours, so this is generally not an issue or our area, but some areas of Southern and Coastal California are "low chill", meaning they lack the amount of chill required to stimulate bloom.  Chill hours are listed below for many fruit and nut varieties and a more detailed explanation.

Chill is measured by the amount of hours below 45°F from November to mid February.  Temperate fruits require anywhere from 100 to 1400 chilling hours. Gauging cumulative chill and matching varieties for your area is more of an educated guess than an exact science, as low temperatures vary considerably within a climate zone and from year to year. Chilling requirement is a concern for USDA zones 9B and 10, predominantly southern and coastal regions where chilling hours average 100-600 chilling hours per year.  If you are within this area, take note of the chilling requirements listed for fruits and choose accordingly.   Persimmons, almonds, olives, berries, pomegranates and chestnuts all have low chilling requirements.  Filberts need lots of chill (1200-1500 hours) and should be avoided in low chill areas.  Use the map to see if you are in a low chill area and estimate your amount of winter chill.  The “At a Glance” tables will tell you the chilling requirements of each fruit.  

How Many Trees Should I Plant?

The number of trees you plant will depend, of course, on how much fruit your family consumes.  The “At a Glance” tables on ths website tell you how much fruit you can expect to harvest from each variety on different rootstocks.  Don’t be intimidated by the quantities.  You can spread your harvest throughout the season so that your fruit does not ripen all at once (see below). Some of the fruit will be culls and a lot of weight is lost when processing fruits.   If you intend to preserve your fruit by juicing, canning or drying then you will want to plan accordingly.  Consider the following processing conversions:

20 LB of fresh fruit yields approximately:

  • 1 ½ to 2 LB dried fruit
  • 1 gallon of juice
  • About 5 quarts of fruit preserves

Growing in Containers

If you are short on space, or want to grow varieties that are not quite cold hardy enough for your region then planting in containers is an option.   Wooden wine or whiskey barrels make excellent containers, or you can buy large plant containers from local gardening stores.  Be sure to use a light, well-drained potting mix that is high in organic matter and low in sand or soil that would add unwanted weight to your container.  Keeping containers moist during our hot summers can be a challenge, and setting up a drip or microsprinkler irrigation system is advised if you have more than just a few containers. Water plants often, up to once a day, and be sure to fertilize twice a month during the growing season with a water-soluble fertilizer (there are many good organic seaweed and fish-based products available).  Sometimes people are in a hurry to plant an orchard before they, or the site, is ready, and think that planting the trees early in containers will give them a head start.  Unless your are starting with small trees (i.e. ones that you have grafted and/or started from cuttings) we do not recommend this - there is a lot of labor and costs involved in potting up 10 or more fruit trees and it often does not result in increased growth.  If container plants are not well cared for the trees will be stunted.