Mixed culture is rarely considered in fruit trees, although the trees are next to each other for several decades. Planting the right fruit trees next to each other can have a positive effect on their health and increase yield.
- Within one species of fruit tree, different varieties may have different requirements
- apple, pear and sweet cherry need a pollination partner
- if you plant fruit trees next to each other, you should always choose the same tree shape
- wild fruit trees can form a protection for cultivated varieties
Before proceeding to the selection of varieties, you should determine the conditions at the site. This includes, for example, the available space, how bright the location is or what the quality of the soil is. Especially with trees, it is often costly to subsequently change the soil conditions, as the roots can often grow several meters long. It is therefore much easier to choose varieties suitable for the site than to design the site to suit the variety.
Note: Some fruit trees, like apples, also do not appreciate windy sites. They benefit from a site that is not in the first row, or they should be protected by other measures such as wild fruit hedges.
Within fruit tree groups, the site requirements of individual trees can also vary. For example, the apple variety ‘Baumann’s Renette’ is suited to dry sites, while the ‘Pineapple Renette’ appreciates more moist soils and does better in a lake climate. Some fruit trees are particularly sensitive to late frosts. However, if planted protected within an orchard, the damage can be significantly reduced. These include walnuts and pear trees, for example.
A common mistake made when planting fruit trees in mixed culture is that the growth height is not taken into account. There are several tree forums in fruit tree cultivation, now including cultivars that are suitable for small gardens and do not take up much space or do not grow very tall.
- High trunk (height of crown: 180 – 220 cm)
- Half trunk (crown height: 100 – 160 cm)
- Bush tree (crown height: 40 – 60 cm)
There are several variations of the bush tree, such as the spindle bush or columnar fruit trees. However, within the mixed culture, you should stick to the same height. Otherwise, if you plant fruit trees next to each other, they may not get enough light due to the height difference or pollinators may not like them as much.
When choosing fruit trees in mixed culture for the garden, pollination also plays a role. A common problem with some fruit varieties is their yield, because they do not provide, despite beautiful growth and lush flowers along with many pollinators insects. Within the mixed culture, you should have at least two trees of the same variety of varieties that rely on cross-pollination, or plant a suitable pollinator variety. The trees should also not be in close proximity to each other or have the same genetic material.
Many varieties have a kind of pollination barrier built in, which prevents self-pollination and also excludes varieties in close proximity. However, by doing so, they increase the genetic quality of the following generation and the fruit becomes more beautiful and healthier.
The following woody plants depend on cross-pollination:
- Apple trees
- Pear trees
- Sweet cherry
Fruit trees that are self-fruitful and do not need a pollination partner are suitable as a buffer to the pollination partner. These include the following trees:
- Sour cherries
Note: For plums, whether they are self-fruiting or not depends on the varieties. There are some plum varieties that require a pollinator partner.
Wild fruit trees as protection
Experience shows that those fruit trees that are in mixed culture at the edge of orchards are often less productive and more susceptible to disease than trees in the middle. The reason for this is that the cultivated trees are often not as hardy and would benefit from protection from wild shrubs. These do not have to be ornamental plants, but wild fruit shrubs that can be harvested, but do not have to be. Another advantage of wild fruit shrubs as a buffer zone is that birds will go for the wild fruit first and only then for the fruit.
Selection of suitable wild fruit shrubs:
- Red and black elderberry
- Cornelian cherry
- Cherry plum
Note: If how to plant wild shrubs and fruit trees side by side, also raise the wild shrubs in tree form. This usually allows them to reach half-tree height and can provide better protection compared to shrub form.
Frequently asked questions
Are there other plants for mixed culture with fruit trees?
Not only other trees are suitable as mixed culture partners, but also shrubs, vegetables or flowers. Nasturtium helps rotting parts of the plant and thus brings fertilizer into the soil. Currants repel voles, and garlic or horseradish have an effect against various fungal diseases when planted around trees.
What should be the planting distance for fruit trees?
How big the minimum distance should be depends on the shape of the tree. For the high trunk, the distance is between 8 – 12 m, the half trunk only needs between 4 and 8 m distance. For bush tree forms, even between 1 and 2 m is often sufficient.
Can I replace fruit trees in mixed culture with other varieties?
For example, if a tree dies, you do not have to replace it with the same variety, but you should stick with the same type of fruit. After decades of a tree being in the same place, the environment is attuned to a particular species. If you plant a plum tree on a former site of an apple tree, it will take much longer to develop.
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