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The Fruit Tree Spacing Primer

Posted on 21 October 2014   Uncategorized

The Fruit Tree Spacing Primer

Fruit trees, even if you just have a couple of them, require a certain spacing between trees to ensure adequate growth and to prevent disease. All of the trees we sell are standard varieties, which means that they are “old school” larger trees. And in the case of apples, pears, and Asian pears, there is very little the gardener can do to keep them small (except by using espalier). With peaches, plums, almonds, and other stone fruits, the trees can be kept pruned to a smaller size – also called “topping” in gardener lingo – and spaced more closely together.

For dwarf trees, the spacing is much closer. Dwarf trees of all kinds can be planted 10 feet apart, with rows 10 feet apart, for a 10’x 10’ spacing. Dwarf trees can also be planted as a hedge, with trees spaced 3-6’ apart in a line. The lateral branches can be pruned back to shape the hedge.

semi-dwarf spacing

The trees we sell are standard-sized, and in most cases standard-sized trees should be planted about 20’ apart. The exception to this is in settings where the height and width of the trees is controlled by the gardener. This takes extra work and intense pruning. We have a small apple orchard of standard-sized trees planted 15-17’ apart, with rows about 18’ apart. As a general rule, when you plant trees from us, plant them spaced 18-20’ apart, with rows of equal distance…unless you plan to keep the trees intensely pruned.

Standard trees with this spacing require intense pruning in winter to control lateral branches, but this spacing allows us to have more trees per acre and therefore more apple production.

For peaches, nectarines, plums, and almonds, the tree height can be pruned to whatever height is convenient for the gardener. In many commercial orchards, standard peach trees are pruned to 10-15’ in height and spaced about the same distance. It’s important to begin pruning these stone fruit trees when they are young and newly-planted.

Fig and pomegranate trees are unique when it comes to spacing. Most fig and pomegranate trees grow to a height and width of 15-20′, but both types of trees can be pruned to whatever shape, width, and height the gardener desires. Both can also be planted intensely as a hedge, with a 3-6′ spacing between trees and about 10′ between rows. And both can also be planted at a 15-20′ spacing and left alone, without pruning.

On a larger scale planting, you can calculate how many trees per acres you need using the following info (assuming the spacing between rows and trees is the same):

Spacing (ft.) Trees per acre

10 x 10 436
11 x 11 360
12 x 12 303
13 x 13 258
14 x 14 222
15 x 15 194
16 x 16 170
17 x 17 151
18 x 18 134
19 x 19 121
20 x 20 109
Other useful calculations of tree per acre:

Spacing (trees x rows) Trees per acre
15 x 20 145
16 x 20 136
17 x 20 128
18 x 20 121
15 x 18 161
15 x 19 153

In most suburban yards, there is usually room for 2-3 standard-sized fruit trees, though more trees can be crowded in a yard if the trees are pruned to be kept small. Disease can be an issue when fruit trees branches grow into each other.

Thanks for reading and happy growing!



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