Orchard design for the new apple orchard
Designing the orchard requires decisions on where the rows will be and what tree spacing is best. Remember to leave enough space to turn orchard equipment including tractor with sprayer, as well as bin trailer, and possibly platforms in the future. Consider the location of tile drainage and the source of irrigation and spray water. Larger orchards may also require a location to store bins and load trucks at harvest.
Row direction: A north-south row orientation is preferred so that trees intercept the maximum amount of sunlight through the growing season. This becomes more important as rows are narrower and trees are taller. Some sites may have limitations from air movement, prevailing winds, field shape, or slopes that make this impractical or unsafe. However, rows that run north-south will produce higher yields and better quality fruit.
Tree spacing: The optimum tree density is approximately 1000 trees/acre (range is 900-1300 trees/acre). Research has shown that this density provides the most profitable production in our climate. This tree density can be achieved at several popular row spacings as this chart illustrates:
Tree density per acre at various spacings
Most growers choose a row spacing that suits their machinery, and vary the in-row spacing to adjust for the expected vigour of the scion/rootstock combination.
Ontario growers who have experimented with higher densities tend to continue to plant each orchard at a closer spacing, as they become comfortable with the required management. There are some successful plantings at more than 2000 trees/acre, but this system requires much more management.
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