How Much Space Do Your Fruit Trees Need?

One of the cool things about my job, is popping round to your place to nut you out a garden plan. As well as planning and sketching, I do a bit of trouble shooting.

And there’s this one bit of trouble that comes up at nearly every one of these visits. This one thing I’m saying to pretty much all of you ” You need to move that plum/ fejoa/ lemon – it doesn’t have enough space.”

Lets sort this out, my gardening friends, today! because planting season is upon us. Let’s talk about how much space your fruit trees need.

What’s The Space For?

apples summer

  • Light. Wood bathed in light is productive wood, fruit bathed in light is, well, ripe!
  • Airflow. Makes such a big difference to the health of your trees, especially in high rainfall areas.
  • For the joy that ease of use brings – being able to harvest or prune or show your mum around without getting tangled in branches.

Climate Makes A Big Difference

In my high rainfall, cooler climate these considered spacing’s are important to capture as much light as possible and prevent fungal disease. Take your climate into consideration here. There are places in the world that need to jungle it up in order to shade fruit and soil from too much sun – imagine it!

Get The Spacing Right

Rootstock determines size so pay special attention to this info when choosing trees. For example an MM102 apple rootstock will produce a 3 – 4m tree. With pruning, a 3m space is perfect here. Without pruning (and loads of people aren’t into pruning?!), you’ll need a 4m space for that same MM102 rootstock. A garden that works with the gardener and is future proofed = a beautiful thing.

Now we need to add access. I add 1m – which takes our MM102 apple out to a 4m space. It’ll seem like alot when the trees are new, but between full grown trees it’s a comfortable work space that gives you freedom of movement minus the eye poking and hair pulling. In 4 years time you’ll thank me!

Here’s how I space my trees (1m extra included)

  • Apples on MM102 – a 4m space. Apples on MM106 a 5m space.
  • Pears on Quince – a 3.5m space
  • Plums or Apricots on plum rootstock – a 5m space
  • Peach seedling trees – a 5m space
  • Fejoas – a 3m space
  • Citrus on Trifoliata rootstock – a 4m space, and on Flying Dragon rootstock – 2.5m.

3 Steps To Failsafe Spacing

pre plant marinade

  1. Decide where the new tree will go and step or measure out the space
  2. Bang a labelled stake in the centre of the space. For good measure re check your spacing. A 4m space means 2m either side of the stake.
  3. Live with it a bit. Walk around it and ponder what other traffic needs to get by here – feet, mower, car, tractor…. Is there enough room between the fence or hedge, footpath or driveway? Be sure it works. A stake is easily moved.

It’s so awesome to have this sorted before your trees arrive.

(If the thought of working this all out has you in a panic, sing out –  I’m here for you. )


  1. Glen Elliott says

    Great advice, Kath. The feijoas have been moved!!