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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Planning for New Plantings

Many apple growers are looking hard at making the investment in new orchards. With the large investment of money and management required to be successful, it is important to plan well and consider all details. Any mistake made at the beginning about site selection, choice of rootstock or cultivars, pollination needs, soil preparation, training system, etc, may have long term detrimental effects on the orchard’s performance and profitability. This means planning for a new orchard begins well in advance of the actual planting.

There is much talk about new technologies of high density plantings, designing orchards for mechanization, and the latest cultivars and rootstocks. But it is really the horticultural basics that will make or break a new orchard.  Here are the decisions that need to be made:

  1. Choosing the location – near bodies of water, minimum temps of -34C (Figure 1)
  2. Choose the site – consider slope, elevation, wind movement, soil type (Figure 1)  and condition, drainage (Figure 2)
  3. Choosing the cultivars – what will sell (Figure 3)? What will pollinate (Figure 4)?
  4. Choosing the rootstocks – what will grow well on my site? most are planting M9/B9 size
  5. Choosing the tree density and training system – narrow row widths may require change in machinery, see my comments on density below
  6. Choosing the support system – Required in planting year! - trellis is more economical that single stakes at higher densities
    (Figure 5)

Although these seem to be basic questions, they are the first step to making your investment in new orchards successful.  Let’s get these right first, and in future columns, we can talk about site preparation, nursery stock, time of planting, laying out the orchard, and first year care.

Consider the type and condition of the soil. Avoid sites with drainage problems. Choose a cultivar like Honeycrisp that will sell well. Crabapples can be used as an alternative or additional source of pollen for apples. Trellis is more economical that single stakes at higher densities.Click to enlarge