We began our orchard the spring of 2015. We planted three varieties of apples, two of them were suppose to be cedar-rust resistant apples. We also planted two varieties of pears, three cherry trees, two plum trees and an apricot tree. What we have learned is that the abundant deer activity in our area results in the destruction of fruit trees, gardens and even bird feeders!
We lost the cherry trees the first year within a week after we planted them. The trees looked fine one day and the next morning, all of the leaves and the branches had been eaten off of the trunk. Needless to say, our three cherry trees could not survive that kind of damage.
The deer had nibbled a bit on the apple trees but not to the degree of the cherry trees. The next spring one of the apple trees had not survived.
We quickly realized that growing anything here was going to take a lot of fencing and strategy to deal with the over abundance of wildlife we have in our area not to mention an abundance of cedar trees on the property and in our area that is responsible for the cedar apple rust disease.
None of our original fruit trees have done great because as soon as they begin to produce, the deer come through. Without fencing, it's a lost cause!
We've decided not to plant anymore trees in the original area we chose to plant the fruit trees. Since we've been here and watched the patterns of travel, we realize that we planted the orchard right in a deer highway. We will be planting another orchard once we have fencing in place in another area up by our house.
Until that time, we hope the fruit trees we've planted will be able to continue to grow in spite of the heavy deer traffic. Who knows, maybe we will one day get some fruit from those trees!
When we planted the fruit trees, we amended the soil with a mixture of topsoil, compost, peat and sand before planting. In order to ensure the weeds would not crowd the plants at the trunk, we cut out weed cloth around the base about 3" from the trunk and added wood chips. The first year we watered the trees weekly to help them get established. We were sure to plant them in an area that offers year-round full sun from the south.
As for treating for pests, we use an organic Neem Oil based spray. We apply the spray after rain in order to keep the fruit and leaves pest free. We were hopeful that the deer would find the Neem Oil spray distasteful but it has not seemed to have an effect on the deer population from devouring the growing fruit and leaves. Again, short of installing a deer fence to prohibit access to our trees, nothing we have used so far has deterred the deer from eating our fruit trees in the un-protected area of the orchard.
We have numerous Mulberry Trees, Shaggy Bark Hickory Nut Trees, Black Walnut Trees, a few Crab Apple Trees, Elderberry bushes and Hawthorn Trees on our property that are mature. They were here well before we were so there are some fruit and nut producing trees here as well as blackberry bushes and wild grapes we can enjoy.
The Blackberry Bushes were very invasive on the property. We are still trying to contain them in a couple of areas. We give the leaves to the goats periodically.
Goats love eating the woody, picky branches as do the deer
population in the area. The wild turkeys enjoy the fruit along
with the other birds.
There is a learning curve for sure when it comes to establishing
new edibles on a once over-grown, wild tract of land.