Apples are an all time favorite fruit, yet only a very ambitious gardener can toy with the idea of having an apple orchard of his own. Plenty of planning and even more research are required to be able to start out on an apple orchard.
One needs to choose various factors like what to grow, size of trees, placement, water system and protection from pests and disease. The choices you make will decide how well will your orchard thrive.
The first step would be to identify the types of apples that thrive in your part of the country. This information can be had from your local County Extension Office or from USDA plant hardiness web page.
The next thing to work on is pollination. You need to find about pollinators, for each tree type that you grow. You could look for varieties that can easily cross pollinate or you could choose self pollinating varieties too.
Apple trees can be grown from seeds or from grafts, the former being a very difficult option. You can choose from a dwarf, semi-dwarf or normal tree. They all bear fruits of normal size.
The root stock will decide the size of the tree and the cultivar will decide the apple type you have chosen. The two need to be carefully grafted.
The layout of your orchard needs to be planned to perfection before you go about purchasing trees. Study the space available, and decide how many trees and pollinators can you accommodate or simply go for self pollinating trees to save on space.
Also the size of your tree will determine how far you need to plant them. Dwarf trees need 12’, semi dwarfs 20’ and full size trees need 30’ between them. Prepare the exact layout before you start planting.
Your soil should have optimum nutrients and pH balance. Apple trees though tough are susceptible to diseases and pests, so study about the causes, symptoms and treatments required.
Plan and install a good watering system that provides adequate water. Drip irrigation works well and it is economical too.
You can expect your orchard to give you a profit harvest in about five years, so arm yourself with patience.