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Growing Fruit In Your Backyard Without Poisons

Growing fruit without poison requires a few basics in order to set yourself up for success.

First, we’ll go over the basics of a healthy ecosystem and what it looks like. And then we will get to the basics of mimicking nature so that you can maintain your backyard orchard with minimal work and achieve maximum fruit production. Lastly, I’ll give a brief overview on why your soil is the key to your tree health and how to obtain it without a ton of work.

What Defines a Healthy Ecosystem?

Using the healthy eco-system as our example, it is:

  • Durable and sustainable: Cut & Grow back model
  • Limited monocultures: Staghorn sumac and pine groves
  • Lots of different plant growth at Forest’s Edge: Biodiversity thrives here
  • Reclamation without intervention
  • Does not need us to water or feed it
  • Always in motion, very dynamic activity

How to Mimic Nature and Incorporate into a Backyard Orchard

  • Diversify your species: Don’t plant only one or two items, plant many!  A healthy forest doesn’t have just one type of tree, it has multiple species of trees, shrubs, vines, plants, ferns, fungi, and lichen which draw in all sorts of birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, and more.
  • Create Symbiotic Relationships: Many plants and animals grow better with each other.  The 3 Sisters method of planting corn, beans and squash are a wonderful example of this.  Companion plantings are beneficial in many ways to each party in the relationship
  • Ensure Balance: In nature if something gets out of balance, another species comes in to take advantage of this.  Currently in Maine, we hear about the Spruce Budworm and White Pine Blister, which kill profitable forests that were planted without the balance of multiple species.  The result of a monoculture is another species can easily move through it to take advantage of this.
  • Resiliency: Simply put, grow many different types of the same species.  If one does not flourish, another may. When it comes to food we ensure a longer season and a good harvest with growing many of the same.
  • Go Vertical: Nature is not one dimension, utilize the variations of height you see in the forest to take advantage of the land you have.  Add trees, vines, shrubs, herbaceous plants, ground cover and fungi.
  • Mimic Nature: Know your soil, shade and moisture levels, find plants that like them, and plants lots of them.
  • Succession: In different seasons you will see different plants growing and taking up space in natural ecologies.  Emulate this by planning to have no dead space at any point in the year. Plant annuals to take up land space where your new perennials are growing.  Plan plants to put in when early, mid, and late season ones are finished. Cover your garden with mulch to mimic the forest floor.
  • Regenerate: Utilize all “waste” product right on your own property.  Compost, animal manure, grass cuttings and tree cuttings are all used to increase fertility and do not need to be thrown out.
  • Stop tilling: Utilize mulching, compost, cover crops, lasagna gardening, and hugelkulture. Lay down organic matter and allow the earth’s own organisms to do the work for you.

Replicate an ecosystem at home

In the orchard, add in as many different types of trees, shrubs, and plants to replicate an edge of woodland system. Then create the underground ecosystem to feed them.

Healthy trees require a good foundation in a balanced system which feeds the tree and provides the ecology, which encourages the holistic health of you orchard.

It is is the horsepower below the ground not the horsepower above that counts

Healthy Orchard Soil = edge of woods style healthy ecosystem with many flowering plants. Soil contains everything your tree needs; however, creating the best environment in the soil will release the nutrients needed . No fertilizers needed!

How to get there:

  • Mulching your trees out to their drip line is a good start toward healthy soil which contributes strongly to their health.  
  • Mulch around your trees with natural wood mulches such as the ones found at landscape suppliers. Stay away from rubber tires, dyed mulches, cedar mulches, or any other synthetic mulches or mulch ingredients.  
  • Include many companion plants. Perennial plants and shrubs of all different types work well. 
  • Prune out broken and/or dead wood allowing the tree to direct energy to fruit producing limbs.
  • Avoid pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or biocides to keep the natural order in balance.

To grow fruit without using poison, you’ll want to 1.) create healthy soil, mimic what you see in nature and 2.) focus on creating a mini-ecosystem right outside your backdoor.