New orchard layout - dos and donts

I am starting a new orchard and in the planning stages now. This is my first orchard and will be both fruit and nuts on 6 acres, with the idea to generally follow permaculture principles to the extent they work. There’s a fair amount of discussion about what plants should go together as guilds. But I have found much less about is what NOT to put together. For example, Stephan Sobkowiak from Miracle Farms in Canada discusses the concept of separating the same species by planting a different species in between so pests will have a harder time getting from one fruit they like to the next easily. But I dont find any orchardists discussing what fruits should NOT be near each other, for whatever reason. Other than the allelopathic relationships which walnuts are known for, are there any fruits or nuts that just cant be close to another for any reason? And related, are there any fruits or nuts that simply do very well together and are recommended? Would like to hear from growers with experience in the dos and donts. Thanks.

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The reason you don’t find many orchardists discussing companion planting is as follows:

Although there are several references about beneficial [and harmful] relationships between plants, the science of companion planting is often anecdotal. There appears to be no research proven reproducible companion planting recommendations.

That being said, this is article from Cornell University is pretty much exactly what you are looking for (under the Plants Harming Other Plants section): http://chemung.cce.cornell.edu/resources/companion-planting

Full disclosure: I planted marigolds under my tomatoes to try and ward off squirrels, not sure if it works, but it looks good and doesn’t really get in the way so why not.

I’m also a big fan of planting fruit bushes under (or in between) fruit trees. Currants, gooseberries, low-bush blueberries and strawberries work well for this and tolerate the partial shade.

EDIT: On second thought, with regards to spraying and being able to pick up dropped fruit its better plant slightly off to the side, in between two canopies. You might still need to cover the plants with some kind of light tarp or poly when spraying.

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I’ll start by saying I cannot answer your question directly however I can say that I am doing something similar to you but in Middle Tennessee with Stephan Sobkowiak as my inspiration.

As @dimitri_7a quoted the advice given is often anecdotal and that is likely due to the fact what works for one person will probably not work for another person. I think Sobkowiak’s approach ‘makes sense’ however I can tell you planting trios of apple, pear, nitrogen fixer (either Black Locust or Redbud (debate exists on nitrogen fixability)) there are plenty of pests that attack both apple and pear which is going to be location dependent. That being said it seems there is a preference for Apples over Pears at least at my site where every single pear I have planted looks pretty good to great whereas the apples are meh to pretty good.

I have only planted one acre of my orchard and it is over half the apple/pear/n-fixer trio but three rows of it have pawpaws or jujubes substituted for one or both of the fruiting species of the trio. Nothing has offered to attack or infect either pawpaw nor jujube after three years on my site. I have also interplanted elderberry and aronia berry bettween the trees in my orchard and nothing has bother the elderberry at all but the same pests have attached my aronia that have attacked the apples and pears.
I also have several mulberries and one medlar in my nursery with the mulberries looking just fantastic and the medlar is getting hit pretty hard by Junebugs (fairly certain) right now.

From the evidence I have seen on my site of the pests and diseases present there is a clear preference for the Rosaceae family of plants. Going forward I will still plant some pears and apples but they will not be the primary focus of my orchard as I had hoped/intended. I will instead focus on what works for me on my site. In addition I will replicate what a couple of other people have mentioned regarding the trio approach of Sobkowiak. My trios will alternate families rather than just species or genus. For instance apple, mulberry, and pawpaw could be one of the trios as they are from different families plus mulberry and pawpaw are native to my area so it stands to reason they are better adapted to survive here. I also will most likely no longer plant nitrogen fixing trees as after having done further research nitrogen fixers are not as much a necessity in temperature climates as they are in the tropics or subtropics.

Anecdotal evidence is the majority of the evidence likely because there really are no hard and fast rules so you will most likely have to determine what does and does not work for you on your site. There are plenty of people here that can give testimony of plant X growing next to or under black walnut while others say it kills everything around it. It sucks from the stand point no one wants to waste time nor money but if you are trying to work with nature then you (speaking generally not specifically) have to work within the context nature provides.

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I planted blueberries under apple trees, which works fine at first, but eventually you start getting apples, which need spraying, but the blueberries will be blooming at that time, since they bloom later than the apples. Even if you choose to bag the apples, you need to be able to walk around, and the bushes get in the way. I found that even bagging requires some sprays until the fruit is big enough to bag, too. So I eventually dug up and moved most of my blueberries, which was a lot of extra work. I guess it boils down to how much room you have to work with and what you are willing to put up with. I suppose you could tarp the berries while you spray the apples, but it would be extra bother.

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That’s exactly the problem I’ve had with my mixed planting - if you spray. Stone fruit usually needs a curculio spray right when the pome fruits are blooming. And I don’t like to spray sulfur where it could hit my apricots.

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Great feedback, thanks. Im in NH, aka apple country where most orchards are apples with a little of something else, often pears or peaches, and traditionally more monoculture. I’m going to plant very few apples and pears with heavy focus on the lesser seen fruits. Your idea of using different families is very interesting. I know Stephan did start using nuts between fruits which is also what I plan to do. I’m lucky in that I have many mature old nut trees growing wild (black walnut, oak, butternut and hickory- I think) that I will keep when I am installing the orchard. Ive had mature black walnuts and although I never tried ti grow anything near them, it was pretty obvious nothing that tried succeeded. The entire area out to the dripline was bare, including the grass and weeds. But as soon as anything was beyond the dripline, there were plenty of plants and trees growing there. These were wild 50 year old +/- black walnuts as far as I know. There are plenty of plants that will grow in the presence of juglans if you need to plant next to a black walnut.

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Thanks. I strongly suspect this is why some of the commercial fruit and nut orchards that refer to themselves as polyculture are planting out full rows of the same fruit, then a different fruit row and a different fruit row, etc rather than attempting to go full-out permaculture. Seems impossible to me if you needed to spray to try to spray every, for example, 7th tree, which is an apple without also spraying the other non-apple trees. In a commercial orchard this just doesnt seem to make sense from a labor perspective alone. If I remember correctly, Stephan’s approach is to just let nature take its course and follows the survival of the fittest method where if it doesnt live, he just replaces it. I suspect that’s also a very challenging business model if trees that fail take many years to replace. Anyone have any feedback on how well the polyculture model does with reducing pests and diseases?

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Yeah I agree, and I wouldn’t recommend planting directly underneath (and have updated my prior post). But I don’t have a lot of space in my backyard so I plant in-between the canopies. You wouldn’t want to plant directly underneath because the lack of light would produce inferior fruit any way.

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i have begun planting strawberries and arctic raspberries in between my bushes and trees. so far its been successful. they are starting to fill in those areas. my strawberries are starting to fruit.

I have planted rows of raspberries between my rows of plum trees. The thinking was to use the raspberries to trap more snow so the plums would wake up a little bit later in the spring. This has been successful. But everything is a little bit tight. To this point I have not had to spray. If I were to do it again I would give my plum trees 2 or 3 years to establish before planting the rows of raspberries. Some of the floricane varieties grow to 6 feet tall which competes with where I would like to have plum branches. In that regard the primocane are shorter and better suited for this purpose. Elsewhere I have haskaps planted and I wonder if some of the shorter varieties would work in this scenario as well.

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