The High Density Orchard

Indus Valley Sustainable Living Institute

Recently I visited the Indus Valley Sustainable Living Institute run by my friend Priyanka.  It was wonderful to see all the amazing things that they do there and learn about recycling and reusing on a bigger scale.  One of their tag lines is “eco-logical design.”  I love it.  What a perfect phrase and concept for living sustainably and in harmony with our environment.

While I was there I was able to see the high density orchard.  It’s amazing to see all the different fruit trees that are planted in a very small space.   They can be grown closer together in part because there is no need to plant them wide enough for commercial machinery to get through for harvesting.  There’s also no need to prune/thin to maximize production.  The trees will be shaped to make getting through the orchard and around the trees easier, but they will produce enough to be sustainable.

I was very happy to see the way the orchard was laid out.  Priyanka shared that they have 6 citrus, 3 figs, 3 persimmons, an avocado, 2 apples, 4 bananas, an olive, two pomegranates a loquat, black berries, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, and “a few more growing around here.”  Their combined orchard and vegetable garden is all in within a 1/6 acre piece of the 1.25 acres that encompass the property.

It made me realize that what we are doing with our little 1/4 acre property is just right, at least for us.  It also made me realize that yes I can have an avocado if I simply move the butterfly ginger just a pinch to the right.  Another interesting concept was that in the orchard squashes were growing in between the trees.  Priyanka told me that many times vines are encouraged to grow up the tree trunks as a means of support.  I think that’s great and plan to figure out how I can protect baby squash from the ravages of my little terrier-mix puppy and try to put some in there.

Having your own vegetables and fruit is a great way to connect with your food.  On a very basic level there is just something fabulous about picking tomatoes and basil from your own garden to toss into the pan and make a meal.

I have been using Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening for years.  It’s been great and allows me to grow a large number of vegetables in a relatively small space.  For those who don’t have a yard, container gardening can be the way to go.  There is quite a lot that can actually be grown in containers and a well done container garden is very attractive.  From Container to Kitchen, The Vegetables Gardener’s Container Bible, and Bountiful Container are all good choices to help you get started with container food and herb gardening.

Another good book is Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping.  With a lot of great information about incorporating food plants into the garden in an aesthetic and pleasing way it’s a good resource and has a lot of useful ideas for those of us (okay mostly me) who aren’t good at landscape design.

While there isn’t a similar book that is specifically focussed on growing fruit trees and bushes there are a number of books related to small scale homesteading.  These include The Backyard Homestead, Mini Farming, and The Practical Homestead. I’m going to check them out and see if there is information there that I can pass along.

In the meantime if you garden, in the yard, in a container, on your windowsill, I’d love to hear about it.

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at