Fruit Orchards


Being as food self-sufficient as possible is one of our main goals at Toad Hollow. Harvesting fruit from trees is one of the most important ways we can work towards that goal. For instance a mature apple tree can produce 400-800 pounds of fruit per year. Although there were already some fruit trees on the property (1 pear, 4 apple, 1 plum, and 1 apricot), we knew we needed many more. But as with many of our other projects we had to prepare the orchard sites for several years before we would be ready to plant. Plus some trees such as apples can take 8 or more years to start bearing fruit. So we had no time to waste! There were two main areas where we decided to establish the orchards: 1.) a hillside on the west side of the property and 2.) in the flat area in-between the swales on the south end of the property.

Hillside Orchard

The benefit of this hillside was that because it faces north and east, it does not warm up as quickly in the spring as an area that faces south in full sun would. Ironically this is good for early blooming fruit trees such as plums, cherries, and apricots because their flowers could be killed by a warm spell followed by frost (which happens frequently in South Dakota). And no flowers equals no fruit. This is what happens to the existing apricot tree planted in the open and that has most of its flowers killed each year. By planting these trees in the micro-climate of the hillside we are hoping to ensure harvests in the harsh climate of South Dakota.

The downside is that the hillside was forested and steep. That meant we had to haul all of our materials up a hill. There were many times over the next few years that we cursed ourselves while moving those materials which included woods chips, compost, rocks, logs, and cardboard. First we had to remove several pine and juniper trees to make more room and create more sun for the fruit trees. Next we created terraces/pads where we could plant the fruit trees. Then we had to sheet mulch the terraces/pads to build up the soil. After all of that we could finally plant the fruit trees. We started all of this work in 2018. We did not plant the trees until 2021.

I wish we had more pictures of all the work that went into creating the orchard in this area. Unfortunately we were so focused those first few years that we didn’t do a good job of visually documenting that work. However we do have a few photos of the system we eventually used to haul materials up the hill. After a year of walking up and down the hill wheelbarrow and buckets full of heavy materials we knew it wasn’t going to be sustainable in the long run. We figured out (i.e. Kristy and Les figured out) a pulley system by which we could pull buckets up a wire attached to trees at the top and bottom of the hill. Someone at the bottom of the hill would load a bucket full of materials (compost, wood chips, etc.) and attach it to the wire. Someone at the top of the hill would pull the bucket up the wire, hand the bucket off to someone else to dump the materials, and then send the empty bucket down the hill to be refilled and start the process all over again. It was a ton of hard work, but still easier than hiking up the hill carrying heavy buckets.

We also don’t have any before photos. But thankfully we have photos of the transformation.

Want to learn more about our methods?
Want to know more about sheet mulching? Click here.

Swale Orchard

The orchard in the swale was much easier to construct than the one on the hillside. We could drive a pickup truck full of materials to the edge of the swales and then unload them into wheel barrows. As such the site prep process went much quicker. We started working on this orchard in 2020 and planted it in 2021. We decided to plant apple and pear trees in this area.


In April of 2021 we were finally ready to plant the fruit trees. We determined the varieities of fruit that we thought would be best adapted to the Black Hills and ordered from several wholesale nurseries that specialize in growing fruit trees. All of the trees were delivered via the mail. They were bareroot trees which are easier to transport, establish better, and have fewer issues with their roots than trees grown in containers. Some of them were small while others were quite large.

Spring weather in the Black Hills can be unpredictable so planting conditions weren’t always ideal. And some of the holes we had to dig to fit the roots were ridiculously large.

But eventually we were able to get more than 40 trees in the ground. And now we just have to wait until the trees start producing fruit. Stay tuned!

Apple and Pear Trees in the swale orchard.

Plum trees in the hillside orchard.






Fruit Tree Varieties We Planted

Hillside Orchard

Hybrid Plums

  • South Dakota
  • Black Ice
  • Pembina
  • Toka
  • American Plum Seedling
  • Underwood
  • Lac Crescent
  • Lavina
  • Pamela


  • Mesabi
  • Evans Bali
  • Sweet Cherry Pie


  • Briana
  • Goldcot
  • Sugar Pearls
  • Arctic
  • Perfection
  • Honey Pearls

European Plums

  • Italian
  • Mount Royal
  • President


  • Honeysweet
  • Seckel


  • Smokehouse
  • Hudson’s Goldem Gem
  • Sansa
  • Akane
  • Dolgo Crab


  • Illinois Everbearing

Swale Orchard


  • Kaspar’s Winter
  • Dana Hoevy
  • Comptesse Clara Frijis
  • Luscious
  • Beierschmitt


  • Red Stone Canyon
  • Ashmead’s Kernel
  • Wodarz
  • Sweet 16
  • Honeycrisp
  • Goodland
  • Chestnut Crab