Unless you have a genuine need for instant shade and a huge budget, plant a relatively small tree. Trees come in all sizes, and costs run from a few dollars to thousands.
A smaller tree will be the fastest-growing and most rewarding way to go. Those big specimen trees are way past the age for travel; their roots are old and set in their ways. In many cases, a big tree sulks, showing little vigor and displaying little growth. But a young tree in, say, a 15-gallon container, will take off and grow like a puppy, rooting vigorously into the soil.
Fruit trees are among the most sustainable plants you can grow. Most fruit-bearing trees require relatively little care and can actually be fun to husband. If you choose varieties with a history of success in your area, you'll be able to harvest organically grown, local food for decades to come.
To develop a home orchard, list the fruits and nuts that you like to eat. Check with local food-growing experts and your neighbors — especially old-timers—to learn which varieties work best in your area. (Nurseries, especially the big chains, often buy whatever's on the market and rely on the ignorance of their customers to make the sale. If you expect to get good yields and tasty fruit, exact varieties matter. Choose carefully.)
Next, plan how to incorporate the trees into your landscaping. Place the most attractive trees (such as persimmons, citrus, apricots, pears, apples, figs, cherries, and many nut crops) in prominent locations, keeping the less charismatic varieties out of sight. (Peaches, for example, can be homely, especially if they get leaf curl.) Make sure that soil conditions are suitable by testing as described in Chapter 16. Plant your trees where they'll get full sun all day long.
You can pack fruit trees in tightly, but avoid doing so if you have plenty of room. Don't forget that many kinds of fruit trees can be espaliered (trained into a flat panel-like shape to save space) against a sunny wall. You can also plant dwarf fruit trees that take up lots less room.
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