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You are thinking of starting your own orchard, but don’t want to make mistakes that will ruin your hard work? Then you are in the right place because these 17 things to know before starting an orchard will help you avoid them.
Some of the most important things to look out for when starting an orchard are: choosing what to grow, location of the orchard, type of land, planning, and planting. There are definitely other stuff you have to consider, and take care of, that I will write about in this article.
So, in this article, I will try to answer as many questions as I can, starting with the purchase of seedlings, chemical soil analysis, fertilization, spacing and more. With the high probability that I will omit something important, I will only list the most important critical points in the job.
What is Orchard?
Orchard is a traditional form of fruit growing. Unlike low-fruit plantations, tall trees of different ages and different species grow in traditional orchards. Traditional orchards are generally maintained without the use of artificial preservatives or fertilizers.
From an environmental point of view, they are an important part of the cultural landscape. Supporting vegetation provides a suitable habitat for many animal species, and thus has a positive impact on the conservation of biodiversity in the environment.
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Traditional orchards are multiple-use agricultural lands: used to produce fruit using grass or meadow for hay production or as pasture.
Old fruit varieties are especially resistant to diseases and pests. Different fruit varieties may be regionally specific. The distribution of some species may be limited to several villages, to so-called “local varieties”.
Selection of varieties
The varieties in the orchard are selected so that something matures constantly: the harvest lasts from May to October, and part of the fruit is suitable for winter. Before planting it is necessary to determine the types and varieties of fruit trees, the direction of rows, the distance in the row and between rows, depending on the lushness of the fruit trees, growing form, soil fertility, application of mechanization.
You should also see if the selected varieties are self-fertilizing or need pollinator varieties. When selecting seedlings, the most important is substrate material.
Background and origin of seedlings
It can be weak, medium or lush. The planting spacing also depends on this, which means that where we have less space, we use low or medium lush rootstocks. On larger areas, attention should be focused on lush generative substrates that are more adaptable and resilient. We also need to watch where the fruit we buy comes from. For example, those grown on a soil that grew by the ocean will be harder to root for due to different weather conditions on the continent.
Good preparation for planting holes is also important. In the loamy terrain, digging is minimized, which is the width of the plow. Only as much soil is excavated from the pit as is necessary for the vaccinated site to be 4 to 6 inches above ground level. Before planting, the root should be thoroughly inspected and all scraped, bruised and torn veins should be removed with sharp shears. After that, the root is dipped into a solution of one part of the fertilizer and two parts of the soil, allowing better growth.
The seedlings are planted in the middle of the pit, small soil is shed on the root and we tread it well. One or two more shovels of fertilizer are added to this, and the pit is completely filled.
We make a bowl around the fruit that serves to retain water and facilitate watering. The seedling is tied to the set pole by a knot in the shape of an eight so that it does not bend and break under the gust of wind. The planted fruit should be well watered, with at least 4 gallons of water, to achieve good contact of the roots with the soil. Before vegetation starts, it is necessary to shorten the aboveground part in order to balance with the roots. And in winter you have to ensure deer protection – wrap the fruit with agro textile “from head to toe.”
17 Things to Know Before Starting an Orchard
1. Think in time
Raising an orchard requires years of preparation. All segments should be considered carefully because it is not said in vain – mistakes made when raising an orchard are difficult or never corrected.
2. Are you raising a professional or amateur orchard?
The continuation of the text is dedicated to those who are thinking of professional fruit growing. When it comes to small family orchards, preference should be given to species and varieties that require reduced chemical protection.
3. Should I use the services of a professional engineer or do I rely on myself?
Increasingly, fruit growers use the services of engineers in nurseries who have sold them seedlings. It can be a double-edged sword. Not to get timely and complete information. The question is whether that person will always have time for you. Maybe the solution is to sign a consultancy contract. You can get advice from counseling services – whether private or public. Lastly, there is an extensive body of literature that you can consult for every single operation.
4. Where to put the fruits?
Perhaps, before raising the orchard, you should ask yourself the question – what about the fruits when the trees come to fruition? Will I process, market or sell to wholesalers and buyers? Much depends on the answers to these questions.
5. Choosing the location of the orchard
Each fruit species has its own specificities. Altitude, latitude, exposure, the slope of the terrain. It depends on these parameters whether or not fruit trees receive more or less light and heat. When will vegetation begin and end (with soil characteristics)? Fruits are generally suited to sloping positions so that water does not stay in depressions and thus suffocates the root and even the entire plant.
Generally, due to the possibility of freezing, it is proposed to raise the orchard to heights above 490 ft, and the ideal altitude is 1300 – 1650 ft. All this should be taken with reserve. For the orchard, you should choose places with sunshine and locations without direct wind gust. A good indicator for the choice of location is the proximity of long-lived and still bearing orchards.
6. Type of land
Fruits generally correspond to poorly acidic, well-permeable soils. Deviations from this may be crucial for some fruit species.
7. A series of organizational issues
Consideration should also be given to how far the orchard will be away from the economic yard, the layout of roads in the orchard, and the provision of labor for harvesting.
8. Seedlings purchase
When deciding which fruit species and which variety to plant, fruit growers should sign a contract with a reputable nursery one year in advance for the production of premium, virus-free fruit seedlings. It is a good business practice to pay one-third of the final price on this occasion. This is good for two reasons. The fruit grower has provided himself with good planting material, and the nursery has a placement for its production.
9. Growing plants for green fertilization
Orchards should not be raised on clearings of old orchards or forests. Also, it would be a good idea to cultivate plants that produce considerable organic matter for a few years before planting, which would increase its soil content by plowing. Preference should be given to leguminous plants that will enrich the soil with nutrients within a few years and only then raise the orchard. During this period, the content of pathogens that invade the root system of fruit trees will also decrease in the soil.
10. Shrinkage of shrubs – reservoirs of pathogens
Undergrowth and wild forms of fruit that can be infected with viruses and other pathogens and diseases should be cleared near the orchard.
11. Chemical analysis and ameliorative fertilization
For several months before planting, it is necessary for the fruit growers to perform a chemical analysis of the soil on which the orchard will be raised. Based on it, in consultation with experts, it is necessary to make ameliorative fertilization. Chemical analysis should show the content of some, above all, macroelements and calcium carbonate. During ameliorative fertilization, large quantities of mineral and organic fertilizers are introduced into the soil, since fruit trees in this area should remain between 15 and 50 years or more, depending on the fruit species. This fertilization should accompany deep plowing, with undercutting, which allows the soil to be well loosened and thus contribute to the easy growth of the fruit roots.
12. Scaling, marking of planting sites, as well as the relationship between the main varieties and pollinators
After the ameliorative fertilization and settling of the soil, it is necessary to level the terrain. Then it is necessary to measure the plot, determine the direction of rows, (most often the north-south direction) and mark the places for planting. Consideration should also be given to the relationship between the main variety and the pollinator. Appropriate fruit pollinators should be selected for apple fruit species. Bone fruit species are in most cases, especially the new variety – self-fertilizing.
However, research shows that in plums, for example, where they are found in addition to the basic two other varieties, yields increase by up to 20%. Measurements can also be made using GPS devices and design software when ordering seedlings from nurseries in the previous year. In this text, we will not address the installation of poles and wire, anti-theft nets, as well as the drilling of wells and the installation of drip irrigation systems. This requires one special article. Attention should be paid to the distance between the end rows and the boundaries of the plot so that it can be easily traversed by mechanization.
13. The enclosure of the plot
Young fruit trees are an ideal treat for rodents, especially rabbits. In the event of their attack, they can starve entire young orchards in a few days. Fruits can be individually protected or should be fenced for now. The fence should be at least 20 inches away from the end of the plot.
14. Planting time
It can be planted in the fall, winter or early spring. It is important not to plant in frozen and too moist soil. Late spring planting is not recommended.
15. Digging pits with planting
The pits are dug where markers are placed when measuring. The earth from the top of the pits is laid to one side and from the bottom to the other. After planting it returns in reverse order.
16. Preparation of seedlings for planting
Planting seedlings are prepared on the day of planting. They are reviewed first. All damaged and poor quality is discarded. Only the top seedling needs to be planted. On healthy seedlings, we shorten the basic veins. In broken vessels, the sections are restored to a site that is not damaged. The sections must be straight because of the higher the wound, the slower the healing.
It is planted at the same depth at which the seedling was in the nursery. One worker places the seedling in the middle of the pit and checks that it is in the same direction as the seedlings planted. Another worker plows the soil through the roots of the seedling. The easy movement of the seedling allows for better filling of the space between the veins. The earth is slowly trodden to squeeze the air out and make better contact between the ground and the veins. New soil is added to the layers and is stripped. If planted in spring, the seedling should be watered with 2.6 gallons of water. Depending on the ameliorative fertilization, NPK fertilizer and manure are added to the top and covered with loose soil. This completes the planting.
Not for consolation, but in the process of raising orchards, almost, as a rule, new and new problems arise that need to be overcome. This should by no means be an obstacle to raising a new fruit plantation, just a reminder to be careful.