How to Select your Orchard Site: Five Factors
If you are planting an orchard, knowing how to select your orchard site will greatly affect how well your trees grow. In fact, there are two types of considerations, those aboveground, such as the climate, low temperatures, air drainage, and slope, and those below ground, such as water drainage and and soil type.
1. Rolling or Elevated Land
It is best to plant your orchard on land this is rolling or elevated with a 4-8 percent slope. In this way you can avoid cold and frost pockets because the cold air will drain to lower lying areas. If the site is next to the woods, the woods can trap the air and not allow it to drain to lower places. However, if there are windbreaks and forests nearby, they could also help protect from the wind.
2. Well-Draining Loamy Soil
The best soil to grow fruit trees on is a well-draining loam (could be sandy loam, loam, or silt loam). In fact, loamy soils are best not only because they are drain well but also because they hold moisture well. Loam is a balanced mixture of sand (40%), silt (40%), and clay soil (20%) which also allows it to hold nutrients well. Although there are other considerations such as soil fertility and pH, the most important factor for the soil is that it drains well. For more information on the best soil for fruit trees, see this article.
3. Nutrient Rich Soil with a pH of 6.0-6.5
– Most fruit trees like a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0-6.5. If the soil has a pH that is too high or too low then this can cause nutrient deficiencies. Although the ideal pH range varies depending on the fruit tree (see this article for the ranges of each fruit tree), fruit trees can still grow if the pH is slightly higher or lower than that range. If the soil is too acidic then you can easily correct this by adding lime. However, for alkaline soils, you can correct by adding elemental sulfur, iron sulfate or aluminum sulfate. As for increasing soil fertility, you can add organic matter which can also help improve moisture and nutrient retention in sandy soils and drainage in clay soils.
4. Full-Partial Sun
All fruit trees need a minimum of 6-8 hours of bright, direct sunlight while they are in leaf to bear fruit.
Protection from Strong Winds
If the site has strong winds, it may be good to consider adding barriers to help with wind protection. If strong winds remain then not only will this hamper good spray coverage but also bee activity during pollination time. In order to protect from strong winds, you can not only do proper pruning, but can also plant near buildings, high walls, other trees, or burlap screens.