Factors to consider when starting an orchard enterprise

There’s no place on the farm quite like the orchard. For dew-fresh fruit, but also for picnics in blossom time, watching the bees gather nectar for your honey, and simply enjoying life. Making a detour on your way to feed the chickens in the morning and stopping by the orchard for a night-chilled Transparent apple is a country experience hard to pass up.

The only problem is, unless your land comes with an established orchard, it’s going to take a couple of years’ wait. That’s why starting an orchard should be one of the first things you set out.

To speed up your first yield even further, try a few dwarf trees. You probably won’t bother much with these once your big ones start bearing, but they will give you an initial crop to tide you over the second or third year of waiting.

fruit tree seedlings

Where to Plant an Orchard 

The orchard is going to be around for some time. That’s your first consideration in deciding where to locate it.

As a permanent addition to your homestead, the orchard should have not only good soil, but good air and water drainage as well. Thus, a slope is the best location if you have one. Avoid low-lying sites, since this harbor the cold. The ideal spot is on the small hills surrounding a valley or depression. No trees should be exposed to the windy hilltops and none to the frost-retentive bottom land. Rows of trees planted on hills should, of course, follow the contour system.

The soil in your orchard should be as good as you can make it. If you want to plant fruit trees right away and your soil is hard clay or sand, you’ll have to build it up for each individual tree. It will pay you to fill the excavations in which the trees are to be set with improved soil, compost, rotted manure, ground rock phosphate, and rock potash to a depth of — hold onto the book — about five feet.

Planting Fruit Trees

Agri-business in KenyaEven if your soil is ideal, prepare to spend a bit of time with a pickax and shovel. The minimum size for a tree hole is three times the size of the root ball. In the case of fruit trees, the bigger the better. Usually one no smaller than three or four feet in diameter and two to three feet deep is dug. Pile the topsoil separately, since this is what should go back into the bottom of the hole along with well-aged nitrogen-rich compost and ground rock phosphate and rock potash. Don’t use fresh manure. Spread most of the extra subsurface soil elsewhere and grow a cover crop over it.

If what you’re removing is almost solid clay soil, and you’re replacing it with the ideal light, humus-filled one, the improved area around the tree will act as a sponge. Water retention will be too much. In this case, put a tile drain at the bottom of the hole. This is simply a single row, or a cross, of sections of drainage pipe, usually four inches in diameter, spaced out on top of a layer of gravel across the floor of the hole. It leads the water away from the root area, culvert-fashion, to the surrounding subsoil.

The mechanics of planting fruit trees are important. All injured and broken roots must be pruned back. The roots are then spread out evenly on top of a layer of enriched soil replaced in the hole to raise the tree to its proper level. Make sure you keep the roots moist while you work. It’s a good idea to mix up a bucket of mud slurry from your compost to pour over the roots when they are spread out. The slurry will coat the finer roots, keeping them moist, minimizing air pockets, and helping to settle them in. Fill the rest of the hole, tamp down the soil and give it a heavy dousing of water or light mud slurry. The tree should sit in the center of a slight depression about a foot in diameter. At the same distance out put up a two-foot-high wire mesh “collar” to keep out field mice, rabbits, etc. Outside of this mini-fence cover the ground with an inch of rotted manure extended all the way to eight feet from the tree. Cover the circle in turn with about a foot of hay mulch.

A regular fruit tree should be planted at least twenty feet from its nearest neighbor. Dwarf fruit trees can be spaced as close as ten feet apart. Set the tree straight to ever so slightly leaning in the direction of any prevailing winds. The largest branch, like a weather vane, should point into the prevailing wind. Prune back the branches of a newly planted tree a little more, proportionately, than the root loss. This will give it a chance to build a good strong root system. Give the trunk a pole support to prevent wind whipping from loosening the roots.

One final thought on planting. Science is discovering more and more about the roles bacteria and fungi play in crop growth. There is no doubt some of both interacting with the orchard. An old farmer I know would never plant a new fruit or nut tree without going around to an orchard he particularly admired and, picking the best tree of the kind he was planting, “borrowing” a shovelful of dirt as a “starter” for his own tree. Now I’m not saying this is necessary … the only reason I mention it is because his new trees never failed, and they were always covered in season with the most incredibly delicious fruit.

related Content: Sustainable Fruit Production through Organic Farming

Points to consider when choosing an orchard enterprise

  • Location
  • Costs and returns on investment
  • Complexity of management
  • Markets
  • Labor requirements
  • Water security

The key areas of risk to production include: pollination, pests and diseases, and climatic factors such as, drought, frost, hail, wind and heat. Orchard yield and quality is determined by the integrated management of the soil, irrigation, tree canopy and nutrition. These inputs are dependent on each other as water and nutrients cannot be separated from the soil that supports the root system that in turn dictates the performance of the canopy and therefore the yield.

Key factors for success

  • Growing the right varieties (meeting market demand)
  • Business and orchard management and mechanization
  • Economic return on investment
  • Efficient use of water
  • Shortest lead time to first commercial harvest
  • Consistency of production including yield and quality
  • Choosing the right region, soil type, available water and land aspect

Tree density may range from one hundred to several thousand trees per hectare. The relationship between tree spacing and yield illustrates that the more trees planted on a hectare of land, the higher the initial yield. However, at higher densities, unless trees are trained carefully they will eventually compete for sunlight resulting in a reduction in yield per hectare and quality of fruit and nuts produced. Higher density plantings will have greater establishment costs but there will be earlier economic return on investment.

For more information, visit our offices today. Book your seedlings today and establish an orchard of your choice.

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ORANGE SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=ORANGE SEEDLINGS" > Oranges grows over a wide range of soils but light, well drained (sandy) soils are most ideal. For good production oranges require well distributed rainfall or supplementary irrigation throughout the year. A good source of water is therefore essential in orange farming. Water requirements vary according to weather conditions, but the ideal range is between 450mm – 2,700mm per year.
Oranges can be grown from as low as sea level to 200m above sea level. Areas of low humidity are most ideal. Such a climate is important for reduced disease intensity and for acquiring good orange colour. A dry hot day, cool at night climate also favours good color development. Citrus requires temperature ranges from 13oC-38oC. Optimum temperature is 25oC-35oC. Extremely high temperatures may be harmful especially during flowering or if cool temperatures are followed by a hot period. Damage occurs in the form of flower and leaf drop. Wind can also cause serious damage to orange trees and fruits. Hot dry wind will often scorch trees by drying young leaves. Winds of high speeds will scar fruits and cause fruit drop. Where winds are a problem, wind break shelters should be planted

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PAW PAW SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=PAW PAW SEEDLINGS" > Paw Paw
The ideal spot for a mature pawpaw is in a sunny location protected from the wind and endowed with plenty of rich, well-drained soil. The seedling should be protected from direct sunlight for the first year or two, so filter the sun with an open-ended barrel or some netting. After that, full sun is preferred.
Tree Growing papaya trees is generally done from seed that is extracted from ripe fruit. If you are using a fruit from a grocery store, it is most likely going to be a bisexual plant. You should plant several seeds per pot to ensure germination. Under full sunlight, seedlings may emerge in about two weeks. Plants can be set out after they are a foot tall and spaced 8 to 10 feet apart. The seedlings will flower after five or six months.
Pawpaw also grow best in full sun. Papayas like well-drained soil, and because of shallow roots, growing pawpaw trees will not tolerate wet conditions. In addition to proper pawpaw growing conditions, suitable care of pawpaw fruit trees is also important. For pawpaw trees to thrive, they require some fertilizer. Provide young plants fertilizer every 14 days using ¼ pound of complete fertilizer. Fertilize older trees with 1 to 2 pounds of fertilizer once a month. Also, be sure to take a soil sample and amend as necessary.

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GRAPES SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=GRAPES SEEDLINGS" > Grapes are often ignored in home gardens, and yet are one of the most widely produced fruit in the world—as well as beautifully ornamental plants. We have plenty of tips for growing grapes in your homestead.
Grape vines not only produce sweet and versatile fruits, they add an element of drama to a garden or landscape. They are vigorous growers, and with the proper pruning, they will produce fruit with ease and can last longer than 30 years.
The crop prefers warm to hot temperatures; during fruiting, the weather must be sunny and dry. Warm environmental temperatures during fruit ripening, is important in increasing the sugar content of berries while reducing their acidity. This explains why grapes grown under irrigation in hot deserts or semi deserts are sweeter than those from cold humid areas.
The crop can grow in any soil, from sandy to heavy clays but the soil should be deep and well drained. Where the rainfall is scant, supplement it with an irrigation of 500 mm of water during the cropping season. In Kenya, the cropping season is September to March.
Irrigation should be withheld after the long rains so as to force the crop to go dormant.
In August to September, fruit buds form thus it is important to keep the plant healthy and well manured.
There are plenty of health benefits in consuming grapes for they are a rich source of Vitamins- A, C, K and minerals such as iron, copper, manganese.

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APPLES SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=APPLES SEEDLINGS" > Apples trees can grow in a wide range of soils from medium textured clays to gravelly sands. However, poor soils will produce poor results and the best crops are found on fertile sandy soils and loams.
Soils should be well drained. Wet soils lead to poor aeration and increased incidence of crown rot in apples (Phytophthora cactorum). Generally, rooting tends to be shallow, and wet soils will restrict development, resulting in poor anchorage of the tree and a reduced area of soil from which nutrients can be extracted. Soils with high organic matter contents are normally better structured and allow good rooting.
Irrigation is necessary on dry soils, particularly when establishing and growing young orchards. Trickle irrigation and fertigation are increasingly used. In young orchards fertigation helps increase early tree growth and brings trees into bearing earlier. Sprinkler irrigation can be used to protect the tree buds and fruitlets against frost damage.
Sowing of a grass mulch between the tree rows is common practice, which together with any clippings, helps to increase water holding capacity, infiltration rate, soil aggregation and recycling of nutrients.
Apples prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH between 5.8 and 7.0). Extreme soil pH values result in nutrient tie-up or toxicity and poor tree and fruit development. It is important to amend the pH in acidic soils by incorporating lime before planting

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fruit tree seedlings

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