For this project, we landscaped an apple orchard and enclosed it with renovated traditional New England stone walls.
There were two components: reconstructing stone walls and developing an organic pest and disease control program for the apple trees.
The walls were originally from when it was a working farm. The walls were pulled apart stone by stone and then rebuilt. This type of wall is called a double-stacked wall because it has two separate wall faces connected by tie stones. Rather than use the largest pieces for a cap stone (the top stone), they were used as a tie stone, resulting in a more structurally significant wall. This wall will stand the test of time.
This apple orchard contains approximately 20 trees in an area about the size of an acre. The trees range in age from 1-16 years. The varieties, heirlooms chosen and planted by the client, were selected based on their hardiness and disease and insect resistance. Secondary factors were: varied harvest times, apples that could be used for making cider, cooking or for eating fresh off the branch.
In a conventionally managed orchard, 20 plus sprays of a chemical cocktail (insecticides, fungicides, and miticides) are protocol. This orchard received only one spray with a single conventional insecticide and two sprays with an organic one. The quality of fruit was superb and nearly blemish-free. With proper management (pruning, mulching, and monitoring) most home orchards can have similar results. Hilltown Tree & Garden owner-operator is a licensed Massachusetts pesticide applicator. For more on their organic pest control programs click here.
A well-pruned apple tree will live longer, be more vigorous, and produce better quality fruit. The stone walls give this orchard a level of refinement. The stone wall pictured here uses a tie stone method for the largest pieces instead of as cap stones. This helps create a wall that will stand the test of time.
The ripening apples are plentiful and almost blemish-free. Notice the maintained mulch ring around the trees. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Ripening, blemish-free apples in an apple orchard maintained with organic pest control and with a mulch ring around each tree.
This orchard, because thought and care went into its planning, is easier to maintain than other orchards half its size. A small amount of routine maintenance is superior to many hours of infrequent maintenance. Proper thought and care in planning an apple orchard makes it easier to maintain. Plus, it allows homeowners to decide on the aesthetic dimension of the orchard, like this stonewall:
One problem you have when your orchard produces this well is the need for hand-thinning of the fruit. The weight of the ripening apples can snap small branches. Most of their clients consider this a good problem to have. This half-acre apple orchard contains about 20 trees. Ranging in age from 1-16 years, the trees are heirloom varieties chosen by the client because of their hardiness and resistance to disease and insects.