The New Fruit Grower
Dedicated to helping new
and beginning fruit growers succeed!
Orchard Planning Basics
Don't read this section until you have read the "You Need a Plan" section! Answering most of the basic questions there and determining your market niche, management capabilities, equipment needs, and capital investment needs is really a prerequisite to planning the first orchard.
Your "Market Niche" should be one of the biggest determinants in the varieties you choose and the planting systems you can employ.
Higher quality fruit is generally produced on smaller trees than larger ones.
Current equipment holdings often drives planting distances and densities, unless you feel you can justify smaller equipment.
Capital resources and your relationship with your banker can limit your choices. Fewer dollars mean that you probably will plant fewer trees, in lesser densities than if you had a bottomless bucket on money.
Management capabilities are critical. If you really pay attention to detail in all your current crops, then you stand a better chance of succeeding at higher densities. If you have a lot of different crops to produce and not a lot of time, then lower densities are generally more forgiving.
Once you have your figured out your target market, figured out how to deal with particular equipment needs, determined that you have sufficient capital resources, and know your management capabilities, then you can decide on how intense you want to grow fruit and what kinds of orchard systems are for your operation.
A few common sense rules of thumb:
Pick the best site you can!
Prepare your site before planting. Make sure you have adjusted your soil to a proper pH--- usually in the 6.5-7.0 range if possible. Poor drainage issues should be resolved. Increasing the organic matter in the soil prior to planting always helps. Once you plant you don't have the options to make corrections as easily as when it was a raw piece of ground. Often your next chance in 10-20 years down the road, when you replant.
Choose the highest density system you feel comfortable with for your initial planting. After some experience, you can plant more or less intense systems based on your experience and past success. I often recommend moderate density systems for "newbies" as I feel there is more allowance for making mistakes that aren't "terminal". If you are a meticulous manager and plan to stay on top of the game all the time, then high density systems might make more sense for you. If you are very time constrained and not devoted to the game, then moderate density systems offer more allowance for mistakes.
If possible, orient your tree rows north and south for best light interception, unless there is a factor limiting like grade, field size and orientation, prevailing high winds, etc.
Plan on investing significant time the first season to get the orchard off to the best start possible. Major screw ups in the first year will almost always limit the production and profitability in future years. Your second and subsequent seasons until production starts usually require less intense management. If you are in an area with lots of deer population, plan on some way of protecting your new orchard from the very day of planting! Deer browsing, feeding, and pressure can be relentless, and ruin a new planting literally overnight!
Plan for the unexpected! High winds, critters, 100 year record rains, you name it! Murphy's Law is almost always in effect in the orchard business. For example, 2012 was noted for drought across the country, hurricane in the Northeast, killing freezes in Michigan not seen since the 1940s, etc.
Copyright © 2012 Moser Fruit Tree Sales, Inc.