Starting A Home Orchard
There are so many choices and considerations when starting a new orchard, it can all seem a little overwhelming! So here's a checklist to help get you started, followed by some simple recommendations for your first trees.
Planning the Home Orchard
- Getting Started
- Varietal Selection
- Site Considerations
What are your orchard goals? Fresh dessert/cooking fruit, preserves, cider, historic replant, beautification? Generational orchard, or fruit asap? This will inform your varietal and rootstock choices.
Management style choices
Management style will affect rootstock selection and varietal selection.
- Somewhere in between
- High Density vs. Free Standing
Rootstock controls the size of the tree at maturity and can confer disease and pest resistance. More information on rootstocks. Apple rootstocks that we offer include:
- Geneva 202
- Geneva 222
- Bud 9
- Geneva 41
How many trees do you want to plant?
.....And how much room do you have to plant them in?
- Plan to plant trees at least as far apart as they will be tall, at maturity- see rootstock descriptions for mature heights
- Leave room for air, sunlight, and you and your equipment!
- Sample Calculation: How many M-111 trees can I plant in one acre?
- M-111 height is 20 ft. Trees should be planted 20 feet apart
- 20 x 20 = 400 ft2 needed per tree.
- An acre has 43,560 ft2.
- 43,560 / 400 = 108.9
- You can plant an average of 109 trees per acre on M-111 rootstock.
This is perhaps the most important question! Choose varieties best suited to your area. And taste, taste, taste...as much as possible.
Varieties recommended for Virginia:
(T = Triploid pollination requirements - See Below)
- Arkansas Black- T
- Ashmead's Kernel- T
- Black Twig
- Cannon Pearmain
- Cripp's Pink (Pink Lady)
- Dolgo Crab
- Grimes Golden
- King David- T
- Old-fashioned Limbertwig
- Stayman- T
- VA Gold
- Wickson Crab
- Winecrisp- T
- Winesap- T
- Diploid, Triploid, etc.: more info on these categories here.
- For the most part, apple trees bloom over four periods: A, B, C, and D. Check the bloom time for most of our varieties on our main website.
- Some varieties that are known to be great general pollinators:
- Grimes Golden
- Crab Apples (in general)
- Tricks and Tips
- Neighboring trees? As long as there is a nearby apple tree flowering at the same time as yours, even an ornamental crab, it can help pollinate your trees. An ideal distance is 50 feet apart, and not more than 100 feet apart. Pollination can happen over longer distances, but may not be robust enough to result in a full crop.
- A bouquet of flowering crab branches can be cut elsewhere and used under the tree(s) you wish to pollinate.
- Less robust pollination can result in a lighter crop load, which can reduce the need for thinning the crop later.
- Pollinators: honey bees are helpful, as are native bees. Follow bee-friendly practices in your orchard to maintain healthy populations of these important pollinators.
- Exposure: Eastern exposure is ideal, or morning sun, late afternoon shade
- Slope and air drainage: Cold air pools at the bottom of a slope, don't plant there, or plant your latest blooming variety in the cold spot.
- Soils- test! Find a local extension office or soil test in your area. http://soiltest.vt.edu/sampling-insttructions.html
- Protection and Irrigation- two oft-overlooked factors/costs
Planting Your Tree(s)
Caring for your trees:
- Weed control is important, especially during early establishment
- Diseases and Insects
- Training & Pruning: check out our Workshop offerings
- Ammendments: use sparingly if at all during early establishment; follow soil test recommendations
- Tree Fruit Field Guide to Insect, Mite, and Disease Pests and Natural Enemies of Eastern North America: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/new_search_engine_for_tree_fruit_diseases_pest_and_beneficial_insects
- Your local extension office
- Local orchards