Beginner's Mistakes Establishing Orchards


Maine Homestead Flooded Orchard Area 

First orchard in Maine, flooded.

Establishing our orchard has been trial and tribulation. We've certainly had our problems with orchards and fruiting trees. But in our defense, it hasn't all been our fault. We have gardening down to a science, but the orchard... well, let me lay out my case. Let's chat about beginner's mistakes establishing orchards.

The First Orchard in Maine

I was a naive young man that had ditched the 9 to 5 rat race and was just getting my first homestead started in Maine. This was way back in 1979. The property I chose had an old overgrown road winding through the forest to a small field of about 4 acres. That too was being taken over by nature so one of the first things to do was to hire a bulldozer and clear my patch of heaven.

The whole field was pretty level and I set about laying out where the house, barn garden, orchard, field crops, well and septic system would go. I did fine with everything except choosing the best spot for an orchard. It was the low spot in the field and in spring, had standing, pooled water. Bad news! Of course when I planted all the fruit trees and plants such as raspberries, everything was nice and dry that first year. It wasn't until the ensuing years went by that I became acutely aware my orchard location might as well have been in a lake. A few trees hung on over the years but the ones that did required a second pollinator to make fruit so it was essentially game over.

In addition to choosing a wet site for the orchard location, I made 1 big mistake and didn't read a couple of other signs properly that might have given me a clue if I had been awake. The bulldozer I hired to remove all the young forest that was growing dozed not only the trees but the top soil as well and plopped it in a humongous pile in the middle of the field. That was the mistake! It is quite likely that had the excavator not lowered the level of the ground by at least 6" by removing the topsoil the remaining ground would have drained much better.

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