In the hopes to produce some of our own food, we decided this year we would be planting an orchard at Callaway Farm. After a ton of research, we found a place in Michigan that ships bare root trees and purchased seven fruit trees including 5 apple, one peach, and one pear. We meant to order an 8th tree but somehow it was left off the order so we are getting that one shipped soon.
But before the trees arrived, I had some work to do to make sure the area was ready for the orchard.
The first step to plant an orchard is to choose the appropriate area. We have 2 1/2 acres of mostly flat land. There is a slight slope that splays out away from the house, but overall the area is pretty uniformly flat. There are a few areas that have had drainage problems in the past, so I avoided those. It is important to test the soil ahead of time to ensure it is in the 6.0 to 7.0 pH range.
My soil test showed that the pH was near 7.5, a bit high but easily reduced with organic compost.
Spacing is important to the orchard to allow the trees room to grow and leave space to mow in between. The recommendations we went with were to have two east-west rows of 4 trees, each spaced 15 feet apart with the rows about 22 feet apart.
One important factor we had to consider before planting an orchard was the adjacent crop field next to our property. Now, the farmer is my brother-in-law so I know when and how he sprays the crops, but I still wanted a buffer of 25-30 feet away from the field edge.
The other recommendation was to use Roundup to remove the grass in a circle around where the trees were to be planted. I opted to instead remove the sod, a much more labor-intensive endeavor, but one I am happy with considering I avoided using chemicals. It took me several hours to remove eight circles of grass, but it was a nice, clean workout.
With the grass removed, I needed to add some more dirt and compost to make up for the loss. We have a local company that we buy our dirt, mulch, and compost from and have been happy with them since we started using them two years ago.
Planting an orchard involved a lot of upfront time, mostly in the preparation of the ground. But as long as these trees grow quickly and start producing, we should be enjoying some apples, pears, and peaches in a few short years. I’ll continue to track the progress right here.