Creating & nurturing a ‘fruitful’ community orchard

Buying fruit trees and bushes

  • Winter is the time to research, order and plant ‘bare root’ fruit, before the spring.
  • It’s cheaper to buy ‘bare root’ fruit trees and bushes this way, they come to you directly from the field, saving the cost of a pot and compost.
  • Planning and ordering should be done in advance. It is worth carefully considering your plant choices for your situation. For example, apples and pears come in different sizes and need to be near other apples and pears to ensure pollination. There are a wide range of Scottish grown fruit bushes, including blackcurrants and raspberries. Research the different varieties for your situation and needs and think about extending your flowering and fruiting season by choosing a combination of mid and late season varieties. Buy as soon you are ready as suppliers do run out of favourite varieties.

Choosing where to plant

  • For most fruit growing, choose a relatively sunny and fertile site, protected from wind. Some bush fruit, blackcurrants and raspberries, will tolerate a bit of shade.
  • Trees benefit from staking in the early years, particularly in a windy site.
  • Are you planting trees in an area that might be prone to rabbits, deer, or grass cutting machinery? If there is any risk of these attach a tree guard to the stake. Old bicycle inner tubes and tights make great tree ties. Remove the turf from an area of about 1m2 around the tree, and cover with a layer of woodchip mulch so the young tree isn’t competing with grass in its first couple of years.


  • If you are planting bare root fruit you need to get plants into the ground before they come into leaf in the spring and begin drying out.
  • Always check your planting depth is correct, too deep and your tree will produce suckers, too shallow and it will dry out.Add recommended amount of peat free compost.

Growing and maintenance

  • Young fruit trees of all kinds require some watering in the first few years, particularly in dry spells. Give the trees a good soak when you water. As they grow and put their roots down, they also find their own source of water.
  • Fruit trees and bushes do require some maintenance over the year: checking ties are supportive though not tight, keeping the tree free of diseased or damaged material, and pruning in winter to encourage the tree to take on an open goblet shape to allow for good air circulation. See The Orchard Project specialist advice on fruit tree pruning and maintenance.
  • Netting on bush fruit helps keep the birds off if they are a problem.


  • Often the fruit looks ready when it isn’t- so don’t be tempted to pick too early. Let the fruit ripen to when it comes away easily in your hand when you pick it. Pears should be picked before they are fully ripe though and ripened indoors for about a week.
  • Some fruits just keep coming, for cropping right up until the first frost ‘Raspberry Autumn Bliss’ is infallible.

Using the fruit

  • Why are you planting apples or other fruit? You can encourage people to pick something tasty and crunchy off the tree, use and share the bounty for making or cooking fruit dishes and preserves, juices, and cider.
  • Think it through, research your plants and Get Growing!

Where to get more information on community orchards:

The Orchard Project 

Social Farms & Gardens

Going further and starting a community garden in Scotland?

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