Selecting The Site For An Orchard
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
PROF. H. J. EUSTACE, MICHIGAN AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE.
There is no question but what the selection of the location for an orchard is the most important matter the prospective fruit grower has to decide. If mistakes are made in other matters, as the selection of undesirable variety or too close planting, they can be corrected, though it will mean severe losses and additional expense, but it can be done but a poor site cannot be bettered.
Any traveler in almost any part of Michigan can see thousands of orchards planted in places where it would seem that not one thought has been given to the location by the owner. Orchards that have never produced enough fruit to pay for the trees and never will do so. The big freeze of 1906 taught many Michigan fruit growers a very expensive lesson but already some seem to have forgotten this and others have gone into the business without knowing or informing themselves of very recent horticultural history.
In the selection of the orchard site, several things must be considered together and not simply one or two as is so often done. The soil, the elevation, the drainage both of the soil and air, the facilities for ship-ping and securing sufficient help for harvesting must all be considered together and it would be not very difficult but very unsatisfactory to say which one is the most important.
Fruit is a perishable product and should be handled carefully.
While it is probably better to get a good soil, some distance from the shipping point than to take a very poor soil close to the shipping station, it is always a serious question to haul fruit, especially the tender kinds as peaches and plums, for long distances and over hard roads. For the very tender fruits as berries, it cannot be done at all.
There are in Michigan some very successful growers who have to haul the products of their fruit farms long distances, eight, ten, twelve, fifteen and even twenty miles and even under this handicap, make money but this hauling expense is always with them and always cuts into the profits seriously.
There is not a successful orchard in Michigan or anywhere that is located on low, wet soil and observations in a large number of Michigan orchards always confirms the principle that it is high lands that are the best for fruit growing. This does not mean an immense hill but land that is higher than the surrounding territory. The reason why this is so desirable is quite apparent on a moments thought. Fruit trees cannot stand a great amount of cold. Cold air always settles in low places. Furthermore, frosts during April and May are quite common and about this time of the year, the fruit trees are in bloom. The frosts at that time will destroy very many or all blossoms and thereby ruin the crop for that year. On the high lands, these spring frosts are not nearly as frequent nor as severe so the prospective orchardist should give good heed to the elevation of the future fruit farm or that part of the farm that is to be used for fruit growing.
To plant orchards, upon some of the low' level land that is being offered for sale in Michigan and recommended as good fruit land, is nothing more than a waste of money because a profitable crop of fruit never will be produced upon land of this kind.
The more observation and study that is given to soils in connection with fruit growing will be seen that fruit trees demand quite strong soil. There is some difference in this regard, depending upon the different kinds of fruits. Sour cherries will do well on quite light sandy soil even if it has not a sub-soil. Peaches will do fairly well on comparatively light soil but apples must have a good strong soil with a clay sub-soil. While it is very true that all these kinds of trees will do well on a great variety of soils and that there are orchards in Michigan that are growing on poor soil and producing some fruit, yet to plant an orchard that you expect will take care of you in your old days, you must see that it is planted on good strong soil that would produce a very large crop of oats or corn when it is well taken care of and fertilized with a reasonable amount. The accompanying picture, figure one, will give you an idea of an apple orchard planted on poor, light, sandy soil without a clay sub-soil.. This orchard was planted in 1899 and is therefore, thirteen years old and has been given good care all of that time. The very poor growth has been made. The other picture, figure two, shows a tree seven years old planted on good strong soil and given good care that has already commenced to bear profitable crops.
To summarize, get first a good site as regards air drainage. Then see that the soil is a good one that will produce good farm crops. Secure it if possible near a good shipping point and on a good wagon road to the shipping point. Also consider the matter of securing sufficient help to pick and pack the fruit and pay an extra price for these things rather than try to do without them.