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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MACADAMIA SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=MACADAMIA SEEDLINGS" > Macadamia is a beautiful tree, very forgiving; resilient to all weather, accommodative for old
people; they don’t need to work so hard nor climb to pick the nuts but wait for them to fall. The macadamia nut tree is indigenous to Australia but introduced in Kenya in 1945 to 1948. In Kenya, it grows roughly in the same climate suitable for growing coffee.
The grafted seedling takes 3-4 months to be ready for planting out in the farm. Seedlings are planting out in the field at a spacing of 9m x 9m or 10 m x 10 m or more if the trees are
intercropped with coffee or any other crop e.g. maize; however, if they are being planted as pure orchard, the spacing should be 4m x 10 m or 5 m x 10 m.
Kenya is sitting on a gold mine that if properly utilized would reap huge benefits for the country.
For many years, tea and coffee farming has been the major source of income for thousands of
farmers, however they are now changing tides and switching to macadamia nut farming.
Macadamia has become a lucrative produce all over sudden with a kilo of the nuts selling for
more than a hundred and a grafted seedling price shooting up from 300 to 500 Kenya Shillings.
Between1986 to 2002 the price ranged between 7 to 23 Shillings per kg., and in 2005 it averaged
80 Shillings per Kg.
The Kenya macadamia nut industry is currently made of approximately 900,000 trees of varying ages from one year to 20 years, grown by over 100,000 small scale farmers with an average of 6 -12 trees per grower. Annual production is about 4,000 metric tons of nuts-in-shell. These produce about 800 metric tons of marketable kernels, making the main commercial product. Other by products such as oil, are minimal. Producers get from nuts-in-shell Shillings 92 million per year.
Kenya is the third largest macadamia producer and the second largest exporter of macadamias. Many Kenyan farmers are integrating macadamia trees into their coffee and tea plantations. They view macadamia output as insurance against the uncertainties of weather which affect coffee and tea.

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GRAFTED PURPLE PASSION SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=GRAFTED PURPLE PASSION SEEDLINGS" > Passion fruit is a climbing plant of the Passifloraceae family. It is the size of an egg and is yellow or purple. Purple passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) is subtropical, important in some countries, while the more tropical yellow passion fruit excels in others. Both yield delicious juice. The passion fruit vine is a shallow-rooted, woody, perennial, and climbing by means of tendrils. The alternate, evergreen leaves, deeply 3-lobed when mature, are finely toothed, 3 to 8 in (7.5-20 cm) long, deep green and glossy above, paler and dull beneath, and the fruit is purple in color when mature. Commercial farming of purple passion fruit begun in Kenya in 1933 and was expanded in 1960, when the crop was also introduced into Uganda for commercial production. In both countries, the large plantations were devastated several times by easily-spread diseases and pests. The purple passion fruit (passiflora edulis) is the most commonly grown passion for commercial purpose in Kenya. It is mainly grown for fresh and juice extraction.
Passion fruit grows in warm to cool climates within altitude ranging from 1200-2000m. above sea level and minimum rainfall of 900mm per annum. The most suitable soil is medium texture (loamy), which are deep and well drained, with PH ranging from 5.5-7.5.

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PEPINO MELON SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=PEPINO MELON SEEDLINGS" > The fruits is typically a bright green or yellow green and often has some red or purple stations. Mainly grown for its many health benefits and does well in areas where tomaoes can grow, its also profitable to grow in a green house

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APRICOT SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=APRICOT SEEDLINGS" > Apricots must be the most desirable of all the fruit trees to grow and often appear as number 1 one of the wish list. But they are also unquestionably the least hardy of all the fruit trees that may be grown in Kenya so planting Apricot trees requires some thought and planning. Apricots are very early flowering, infact they are the first of all the fruit trees to begin to open their blossoms, by far.
The apricot favors well drained soil but doesn’t like to be too dry especially in the summer. Providing a happy medium between the two will be key to success and it is up to you to judge the type of soil you already have and influence the structure as much as you can. Too light or sandy then pep it up with lots and lots of organic rich material. Too weighty or sluggish then alleviate it with lots of grit, sharp sand and leaf mold.
The soil should be well cultivated and friable; double dig-it over if it has not been cultivated before. Clear away all perennial weeds because the last thing you want is added competition from them when your trees are in settled, and growing.
Prepare a hole large enough to take the roots. Apricots are vigorous growers and you may find the root system larger than that of other trees. Set the tree to the same depth as it was at the nursery previously – examination of the stem should reveal the soil mark still identifiable and this will tell you how deeply it was set in the ground before. In any event the grafting point should sit above the soil level and the roots buried in not less than 2” of soil.

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fruit tree seedlings

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