Planning an orchard

First step is to grab a map and draw out your plans, so when the time comes to plant, you won’t be in any doubt over where everything goes and how many trees to order and be sure that every one of them will bear fruit. Here are some of the things you’ll need to plan for:

Sun

The majority of fruit trees need 6-8 hours of sunlight to grow well and allow fruit to ripen. Cooking varieties will generally need a little less than this. So, it’s useful to know how much sunlight the site receives in the season and whether there is shade.

Trees and man-made structures are a regular source of shade. Take a map along and aim to be at the site around midday to help you to calculate where south is, and how bright the sun is at its highest point. For help with any kind of tree-related matters, contact a Tree Surgeon Essex at a site like https://www.benchmarklandscapeltd.co.uk/

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Soil

Ideal soil for planting an orchard is that which drains well, compacted, and has a pH 6. A good way to find out what soil you’re dealing with is to take gather some random samples. Good soil should be easy to dig up once the top layer of grass is removed. A simple soil test can then be performed for the texture and acidity. The main thing to remember is that most of the soil can be improved over time, and as the trees will grow in the same place for decades to come, the soil can be improved through the addition of sustainable organic material, in the form of mulch, for example.

Soil depth

Ideally there should be at least 2 feet of soil before you hit any solid substrates such as stone, concrete foundations etc. Most of the feeder roots of trees will grow in this two feet of soil. Trees planted in shallower soil may need staking permanently to stop them falling in the wind.

Frost and standing water

Find someone who is familiar with the site and ask if they can remember any areas that become flooded during winter. Most fruit trees do not like being in the water to stand for too long, thus it’s important to avoid areas that flood. Frost pockets occur where cold air cannot escape, usually at the bottom of the slope where there are no walls or fences. The cold air travels down the hill and gathers there, unable to escape, which means that they stay frosty for a long time after other areas have warmed up. It can damage fruit buds and so such areas should be avoided. Keep a look out for the areas that remain cold or covered in snow even after the thaw. Try to avoid planting in these points.

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Water point

It’s important that the site has easy access to a water point. This is a major consideration as regular watering is essential during the first few years of establishment and during periods of drought afterward. The local council or housing authority may be able to install a new pipe stand and press. Hoses from neighbours from their kitchen tap could also be an option, though access could be a problem when they are out or away.