Backyard Orchards – Planning and Planting
espalier pear in fruit against wood fence

Here in the California Bay Area, we are blessed with a Mediterranean climate capable of supporting a wide range of fruiting trees.  From citrus to pomes, the ability to grow our favorite fruit in our own backyards is a unique feature of California outdoor living.  Introducing fruit trees to the landscape is easy, and Autumn is an excellent time to plant an orchard of any scale.  With the right planning, foresight, and attention to maintenance, you can enjoy fruitful harvests for many years to come!

Draw It Out

As with any designed landscape, the first step of a backyard orchard is a layout plan.  Based on the amount of space you have and what you would like to grow, you can make decisions that will determine the end design of your landscape. Ensure that your trees will have enough space and sunlight to thrive, and that care and harvesting will be made easy.  You may consider integrating fruit trees into the landscape as ornamentals, or creating rows or groupings for a more formal look.

sketch of orchard landscape plan layout

Designing an orchard is best done by mapping it out before planting

orange trees decorate garden path in J. Montgomery landscape

Fruit trees can be beautifully integrated into the landscape.  Evergreen citrus trees are attractive in the garden all year round.  Keep the fruit easy-to-reach by pruning trees to stay small, or by choosing dwarf cultivars.


Know your planting zone and your potential for success.  Fruit trees can be very particular when it comes to climate.  Citrus need short and mild winters, while many stone fruits such as peaches and cherries require longer and colder winters in order to bear fruit.  If you live on the coast, figs, lemons, and apples will be more successful.  If you live inland and get harsher frosts, you may have great success with peaches!  Take the time to do a little research on your zone before planting.  It will be worth it in the long run!

ripe black mission fig ready to harvest

Black mission figs are productive in most parts of the greater Bay Area

If you don’t have much space to work with, consider espaliers (trees grown on a trellis), dwarf cultivars, or trees that continue to fruit well with heavy pruning.  Citrus are particularly well-suited to growing in containers if you are really strapped for space, and make a lovely accent to a patio area individually or in a group.  If you live in an area prone to frost, a potted citrus may require covering on the occasional very cold night.

espalier pear in fruit against wood fence

Espaliered Pear – Photographed by NZ Life Magazine.

Pick Your Favorites

Of course, the most important part of planning your orchard is deciding what you want to harvest year after year!  Countless varieties of apples and plums make choosing your trees a delight!

gala apples in an orchard ready to harvest

Gala Apples are a favorite variety that do beautifully in the Bay Area.

Finding Your Trees

Buy fruit trees from reliable sources that will ensure that they are free of pests and diseases.  A landscape contractor can help you source trees from a greater variety of nurseries.  Young trees can be spindly, and depending on age may not bear fruit for years.  Deciding how long you are willing to wait is important!  Sometimes an older, more established tree is worth the money.


Next week we will offer advice on planting and caring for young fruit trees.  This is the perfect time of year to consider planting, so we hope you are inspired to incorporate fruit trees into your landscape.  By next harvest, you’ll be glad you did!