Case Study: Fruit Tree Circles For Small Space Temperate Gardens

The image above was a simple illustration that I drew to explain the concept to a client. This fruit tree ring is a variation on the idea of a banana circle, and is a concept used most frequently to incorporate fruit trees in areas with an arid climate. It is an idea, however, that is adaptable for many regions and climate zones.

This is an idea which allows 5 small fruit trees or 5 bananas to be grown in a ring in a space just 3m x 3m. This was part of a design I previously shared for a design in Somalia. But I wanted to use it to illustrate my point.

In temperate climates, we would usually leave far more space between trees. Sunlight being in shorter supply, forest gardens in temperate climates usually have a far more open canopy, with glades between the trees.

But if we choose fruit trees which are on dwarfing rootstock, this is also a concept that we could potentially consider in our climate zones. I recently had a client with a typical domestic garden, who was enthusiastic to grow as many different fruit trees as possible. But she did not have fences or walls suitable for espaliered trees. I came up with a concept using apples and other fruits on dwarfing rootstocks placed in a ring, in a concept similar to the above.

The idea is that with a rich source of organic matter and water in the central basin, the usual spacing requirements can be ‘bent’ to allow the inclusion of more trees in a smaller space. More shade tolerant trees are to be placed to the north of the circle, and those that need most sun to the south.

We are in experimental territory here, but dwarfing trees can also be grown in pots, so I believe that this might be an alternative to growing patio trees in containers that will use less water. It can also help make sure trees are more resilient over time since it will also allow the inclusion of guild planting.

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