One of our top priorities since moving here was getting an apple orchard planted. With orchards, it can take several years before we see the fruit of our labor so we are eager to get started as soon as possible. So I had the owner from a local tree nursery out to our place today to get his advice. No kidding, the guy owns a tree nursery and his name is Leif.
Leif and I walked the orchard site and discussed all the options. When to plant, kinds of root stock, breed of apples, etc. He said I was asking all the right questions which I take as a huge compliment.
We’ve decided to plant in one corner of the property we’ve come to call The Panhandle, due to it being bordered on three sides by property lines and woods. It’s about one acre, gets full sun, and has a gentle slope which is perfect for trees (as Leif confirmed). The only drawback: it’s the furthest possible spot from our house.
The space will easily provide a dozen or so semi-dwarf trees. It doesn’t matter which direction we lay out the rows, just need to space the trees at least 15-feet apart. We love Honeycrisp apples. But Leif recommended a variety of breeds to have ripening apples all season long (early, mid, and late-season). We also need few crabapple trees for cross-polination.
One concern was the bordering 120-acre tract which is mono-cropped and sprayed regularly. A 30 to 60 foot buffer was recommended, plus a phone call to the owner to let him know what we’re up to. The other concern was deer. Someday I might welcome the deer but for now I want the trees to survive. The options are either a huge fence (8 feet) or pruning the trees up 3 to 4 feet where the deer can’t reach. The fence is a non-starter, so we’ll just have to take our chances with the deer until the trees are tall enough.
Leif also recommended aggressive root cutting before transplanting and removing 3/4’s of the apple blossoms in the first year or two to force the trees to establish better roots. He said we can pick the apples when they are about the size of a thumbnail.
Still a few weeks until the ground is thawed enough to plant. But we’ll be starting soon! I’m beginning to think this Spring will fly by.