Rainwater Collection Addition for Fruit Tree Orchard

I’ve long had a dream of a small fruit tree orchard where I could grow things and learn more about them.  I used to have two concerns that stopped me.  One concern was watering those fruit trees.  They aren’t like a garden – well, they are, but MUCH bigger and year round so they will require a lot of water.  Since I’ve learned about rainwater collection and gained some experience with it, I decided I could expand my rainwater collection enough to overcome that concern.  The other concern was enough protected space to build a proper orchard space.  Fruit trees need lots of sunlight.  With a recent drought in Texas and the loss of some Cedar Elm trees, I finally had enough open space for an orchard!  No time like the present to get started building my rainwater collection and fruit tree orchard!

Front of House Rainwater Collection

New White PVC and Grey Concrete Rainwater Collector
New Rainwater Collector
My fruit tree orchard is going to need a lot of water.  I currently collect the back half of my house so I needed to add rainwater collection from the front of my house to provide the extra water that the fruit trees will need.  Piping that collected rainwater from the front of the house to the back of the house was a challenge!

Rainwater Collection Sump and Overflow Drainage

White Plastic PVC Rainwater Collection Overflow into Green Rainwater Collection Tank for Orchard
Rainwater Collection Overflow for Orchard
I only have 4000 gallons of rainwater storage and that’s not enough for the fruit tree orchard – especially since I’m going to expand my square foot garden as well.  I don’t have enough room for extra storage under my deck so I’m going to pipe the front of house rainwater collection into my overflow pipe and just let it run down the hill for now.  Later, once I sort out the actual water needs of the fruit tree orchard, I’ll install a much larger rainwater holding tank near the fruit tree orchard.
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Soil Testing for Fruit Tree Orchard

Fruit Tree Orchard Green Soil Testing Kit
Fruit Tree Orchard Soil Testing
Although I now have plenty of open space to plant my fruit tree orchard, I want to make sure that the soil is not terrible.  I’m sure there are better places to plant an orchard but what I have is mine and I want to use it to it’s full capacity.  SO, I ran soil tests at multiple locations throughout the orchard area.  This was actually a LOT of work but very informative.  In most cases, the soil is fine for pH, Phosphorous and Potassium.  It is almost all deficient in Nitrogen but my understanding is that this is typical and not a huge barrier to using the soil.

Soil Nitrogen Test

Pink Nitrogen Deficiency in Fruit Tree Orchard
Nitrogen Deficiency in Fruit Tree Orchard
The soil in my fruit tree orchard is definitely nitrogen deficient.  I have elected NOT to apply any fertilizers until after the first year when I will have a better understanding of how the trees I select will perform in the soil I have.

Clearing and Burning for Fruit Tree Orchard

Burning Brown Stumps in Green and Brown Fruit Tree Orchard
Burning Stumps in Fruit Tree Orchard
The open space for my fruit tree orchard used to look like the dead forest in the background of this picture.  Most of the large Cedar Elm trees had died during the 2008 drought but needed to be cut and then roots dug.  Digging roots is very very hard so I elected to burn mine.  I drilled multiple 1″ holes deep into the trunk and filled them with a potion that consisted of salt peter – Potassium Nitrate.  The Potassium Nitrate combines with the decomposing carbon of the wood fibers to form a very low grade gunpowder.  This low grade gun powder provide oxygen when the fire is burning deep inside the stump and ashes cover the top – this allows the stump to continue burning for longer. It was hard but it was fun – most stumps burned for more than 48 hours!

More Burned Stumps

Borwn Stumps in Green Fruit Tree Orchard are Very Large
Stumps in Fruit Tree Orchard are Very Large
Even after the stumps were burned, a lot of stump still remained in the ground.  At least now, they individual roots were no longer connected together and I could us a tractor with a plow to gently tug them loose.  There was much more stump in the ground that I would have imagined!

Deep Plowing the Fruit Tree Orchard

Red and Yellow Deep Soil Plow in Green and Brown Fruit Tree Orchard
Deep Soil Plow in Fruit Tree Orchard
The soil in my fruit tree orchard is mostly hard clay.  The clay retains and drains water nicely but is very dense.  I used a deep plow very gently right on the rows where I wated to plant fruit trees to loosen the soil as much as 16″ in the ground.  I hope the little fruit trees appreciate this extra touch!

Ready to Plant Fruit Tree Orchard

Green and White Fruit Tree Orchard Cages Ready
Fruit Tree Orchard Cages Ready
Deer are a problem at my house so I needed a way to protect the fruit trees from browsing while they grow and from depredation when the bear fruit.  I also needed the solution to be affordable and easy to work with and clean.  I used some old sheep fence wire, 3 t-posts and a short piece of hog panel wire to rig up cages for each fruit tree.

Bare Root Plants for Fruit Tree Orchard

Brown Bare Root Fruit Trees and Vines Soaking in Orange Buckets
Bare Root Fruit Trees and Vines
I planted bare root plant and that was very interesting.  I planted 15 fruit trees and 15 berry vines.  Each tree was a grafted plant.

Pear Tree Roots

Yellow and Brown Bare Root Pear Tree
Bare Root Pear Tree
This is the detail of my Orient Pear tree as I planted it and a great example of a bare root tree.  I was instructed to remove 1/3 of the roots and 1/3 of the main stem along with any branches.  Man, it was scary when I got through cutting them down to size!

Soaking Vines Before Planting

Brown Bare Root Berry Vines Soaking in Orange Bucket
Bare Root Berry Vines Soaking
I soaked the roots of each fruit tree and berry vine before planting for 24 hours in a solution of root vigorizer.  This stuff smelled terrible!

Fruit Tree Orchard Planted!

Brown and Green Fruit Tree Orchard Planted and Mulched
Fruit Tree Orchard Planted and Mulched
I got the 15 fruit trees and 15 berry vines planted just in time.  It was more work than I expected but I am very proud of how it turned out.

Summary of Rainwater Collection Addition for Fruit Tree Orchard

I’ve always wanted a fruit tree orchard and my growing expertise with rainwater collection finally provided me with an opportunity.  I planted 15 bare root fruit trees and 15 berry vines in a large area I cleared in my lower backyard.  It was much harder than I originally thought but the results have been very pleasing so far – stay tuned for more updates!