To cultivate a successful, self-sustaining orchard, you will need craft a strategy that balances interconnecting landscape considerations. The first step is to analyze your property to select the most optimal location for your future orchard. The key ingredient for a successful crop and healthy trees is an ideal microclimate. Of course fruit and nut trees require steady sun exposure, but they also need positive air movement. It is imperative to shape a space for your orchard where cold, moist air will not stagnate and collect.
The layout and individual placement of your trees have much to do with encouraging beneficial air flow. The popular quincunx pattern persists through the ages because the trees are spaced equally apart, allowing each an equal share of soil nutrients while keeping a healthy distance between each individual tree. The aesthetic quality of a quincunx pattern adds to its appeal. It is the quincunx pattern that produces the magical experience of trees repeatedly snapping into perfect geometry as you move through and around an orchard.
You must also consider the fertilization requirements of your selected trees. Some species of fruit trees require a pollination partner within close proximity in order to produce a good crop. Clearly, this information must be folded into the ultimate layout. Portland Nurseries produces useful reference guides that will help with choosing appropriate pollination partners.
To save space, you may choose self-fertile trees that do not require partners. Another strategy is to choose a family tree, which has different varieties grafted onto one rootstock. In Britain, a dedicated horticulturalist has managed to graft 250 different apple varieties onto one single tree!
Finally, think about how you want to choreograph your harvest. Do you want to time your harvest so that you receive a steady stream of fruit throughout the season? Or are you an avid canner or brewer who wants all the harvest to come in at once?
Obviously, this is a lot to wrap your brain around. Keep in mind that we can help with this complex business of orchard planning, especially if your orchard plans become the seed of inspiration for a larger reorganization of your landscape.