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Fruit Orchard questions

So my partner has some horse grazing pastures and ive decided to make a smallish fruit orchard in a fenced off section of land running between a couple of fields. 

The land has drainage ditches either side and I thought this would make an ideal spot as the ground seems to have a lot of heavy clay about a foot under the surface which means a lot of the land in the area gets waterlogged through the winter.

Over the next year im planning on planting quite a variety of trees and soft fruits and just wanted some opinions especially due to the heavy clay ground. 

Were thinking of 2 apple trees, 2 cherry trees, a plum and a green gage. Then we would like a row of raspberries some strawberrys (planted in tyres as planters), red currants and black currants. 

I've spent the past week getting rid of carpets of brambles and thistles and the area is starting to look much better. I will get photos as soon as I can. It seems to get all day sun but has a row of trees sheltering from wind one side and an embankment the otherside of the ditch so stays really calm.

We're lucky enough to have a great local nursery/wholesale grower that stocks some 6-7 foot tall potted apples, pears and cherries on all sorts of rootstocks and varieties all looking really healthy and full of fruit for between £22-£25. My question is I know ideally I should wait until winter and get bare roots but I'm not sure if I can hold out that long and was just thinking of getting a couple of apples in the ground now.
Or would it be better to wait until the height of summer is out of the way before planting them?

Was also thinking of setting up the raspberry fence and getting some of the cheap ones from wilkos and planting them out?

Look forward to your advice.


  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,531
    Now is not a good time to plant anything, with the ground so dry.  An orchard is a long term project, it would be a pity not to give it the best possible start just because you were impatient!  Spend the next few weeks reading up about different varieties, and thinking about pollination partners, preparing the site by digging in compost or manure and, as you suggest, erecting supports.
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 16,537
    I wouldn't plant anything at the moment, unless you really want to give each one a bucket of water every other day.  Invest in some good bare roots from a good fruit nursery such as Pomona fruits, Chris Bowers , or Ken Muir. Plant in October, and they will have a fighting chance. You will still need to water regularly if we have a prolonged dry spell next year.  If you can get a fork in, spend the next couple of months preparing your ground for planting.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,695
    I brought that size apple and plum trees and planted in October. They do need a little care for the first couple of years and it's this third year that the fruit are coming. You need to decide how tall you want your trees( mine are on petite stock but are still six foot tall after pruning ) how easy it will be to get at your trees,  are you wanting to climb or not to pick. Access to fruit bushes, they always grow bigger than you expect.😁 You now have a window of time to decide what you want, lucky you.
  • Thanks for all the advice. Have looked at the sites mentioned and quite suprised the bare roots seem to be the same price if not more expensive than the potted ones at our local grower.

    I'm wondering whether buying an egremont russet and a spartan from the local grower knowing they are very healthy and producing well and keeping them potted up until late September before planting out would be a viable option?
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    edited July 2018
    Yes, that would work and it may be easier keeping a potted tree watered than it would be one planted in the ground right now.  In theory you can plant potted trees at any time the ground isn't frozen or waterlogged but most experienced gardeners would add "or in drought conditions" to that adage, as mentioned by previous posters.
    Edit: plus you'll be helping to support local nurseries. :)
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • for the heavy clay soil you have add gypsum, the white chalk like substance in between the paper on wall boards , you can buy it in powder form quite cheap from garden shop, generally I add one bag gypsum and one bag garden lime (also beneficial for clay soils) to one bag compost and mix together in a wheelbarrow . the compost just makes a good mixing agent , I would use these once trees are planted , little bit in the hole then the rest on ground around the hole , to soften the clay and encourage roots. you can go put a good amount of both Lime and gypsum on the soil , both are fairly gentle . I would do one bag every two to three trees, for at least three years. Makes a huge difference, particularly if you compost heavily , as the worms will dig it into the clay . Gypsum breaks the clay up, and gets it reacting with other things in your soil, the lime aids aeration and stabilizes PH . Clay is good soil if you can get it reacting, has good water retention . try a few pears many seem to do well in clay. Lastly learn to graft trees , it is easy and you can attach all sorts of wonderful varieties and have all sorts of fun, amazing what to will take to what . Sounds a great project and have fun with it .  
    Grow it yourself, it's worth it in the end. . . 
  • So I decided to go up today to try digging in some manure around the potential plant sites for the apple trees.

    So here is a picture of the site. The trees on the left are planted on the other side of a drainage ditch as are the brambles on the right. The photo is taken south facing.

    This hole is roughly 2 foot diameter and 1.5 foot deep. It took me so long to dig as you can see the ground is solid clay. 

    As you can see the 2nd hole is actually bigger than the 1st and took me no time at all as it seems to be a more loamy mix of clay. 

    My initial thoughts were I would plant my trees along a more cental area as it is more banked and would be less likely to be waterlogged in the winter. However now seeing the soil I am more inclined to plant closer to the drainage ditches as the soil seems better. 

    Having spoken to my partner she told me the ditches had been dug in the last 3-4 years meaning a lot of top soil and cultivated clay has been moved to the banks hence the better soil. Just wondering what your opinions are from the images?
  • Forgot to add obviously not planning to plant anything until late september at the earliest 
  • Anybody want to throw their 50 pence worth in  :D
  • looked at the photos, gypsum definitely , and lime , will make a huge difference, just spread it onto the grass that is there get it working into the soil  . . . great spot for trees by the way  
    Grow it yourself, it's worth it in the end. . . 
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