Planning a New Hillside Orchard (maybe, probably)

Last spring we bought a 14 acre parcel at auction, it was originally part of a 102 acre farm in the Appalachian foothills. Only 50 minutes from my house, but a very different landscape from the rest of northeast Ohio where I live, which is much flatter. It’s a nice area, very rural. I believe there are no 4 lanes roads in the entire county. Lots of Amish, some roads don’t even have electric, but ours does. We’ve got about 8 acres of tillable land including a large hill (60 ft elevation difference from road to hilltop) and 6 acres of marshy woods bordered by a creek. The road runs downhill to our property, which is appx 400’ wide directly across the street from the house shown with the fence. The road continues downhill for a few hundred feet before it flattens. Frost might settle at the lower front of our property, but I think at least a 400’ x 400’ square at the top of the hill should be high enough to escape frost on those marginally cold mornings that often zap blossoms in low lying areas. The best soil is the Greenford silt loam about 1/4 of the way up the hill, but it probably isn’t high enough. Next is the Westmoreland silt loam. It is higher, and there is an apple/peach orchard nearby with lots of trees on that soil type. The top of the hill is the Berks series soil. Moderately fertile but shaly (small rocks), and only 2 feet or so to bedrock. I’m excited because my present orchard area is low lying and somewhat poorly drained heavy soil. The new parcel’s soil is well drained but will need irrigated, I’ll have to get a well drilled soon.

So, I’m trying to plan what I want to do with it. Eventually I’d like to have a loft/garage with plumbing and heating to work out of. It will only be a hobby orchard, but I’d like to make a little money. There is a farmers market weekly at the park next to our present house where I’d like sell our stuff. It is a 50 or so minute drive to get to the property, I love going out there but the distance will be an obstacle. I want to focus at least 2/3 of the operation on no/low spray trees for obvious practical reasons. These are what I’m considering, followed by my assumptions for each one:

Cider apples. My assumptions: Lower spray, plus there is not an already saturated market like there is for dessert apples. Not immediately perishable. Might have to promote diy hard cider making in order to have a market.
Dolgo crabapples. My assumptions: Lower spray. Not immediately perishable. Unique to local market. Makes delicious jelly, but we would have to educate people about that. I think people would be interested in the simple process of making their own “heirloom” jelly, but can’t say for sure.
Quince. My assumptions: Medium spray. Not immediately perishable. Would be unique to our local market. Same assumptions as crabapple jelly.
Gooseberries. My assumptions: low spray, medium maintenance. Unique to area market. Great for pies and jellies, also good fresh. Would have to educate public on uses, similar to crabapple and quince. Might have to shade from late afternoon sun. I would like to try making serious gooseberry wine.
Improved Mulberries. My assumptions: No spray. Perishable. Not well known, but similar enough to blackberries that I think people would buy them fresh.
American persimmons. My assumptions: No spray, low maintenance, low risk. Probably could plant them lower in the more frost prone area with good soil. Not well known, farmers markets likely finished when ripe. Would probably lean towards Prok and Early Golden.
Hardy Kiwi. My assumptions: Low/No spray. Would benefit being at the top of the hill. Unique and tasty but might not have enough growing season. If they ripen in time, I think they would be a hit.
Paw Paw. My assumptions: No spray, low maintenance. Very perishable. I really like them. People seem to be interested in them. Would benefit from being planted at the top frost-wise, but probably would need watered more than most trees on well draining soil. I’m a little worried that the “moderate organic matter” and “low available water capacity” of the Berks series soil will be harder on paw paws than on other trees.
Labrusca grapes. My assumptions: medium spray. Perishable. I love these fresh, just about my favorite fruit. Nearby Amish population might be interested in earlier varieities other than standard Concord for juice and jelly. Ex. Bluebell, King of the North, Early Campbell. I have some Lorelei which are not as common but delicious for fresh eating and early. NY Muscat also a possibility. The new seedless Everest variety might also be a hit.
Damson plums. My assumptions: high spray, high maintenance, medium perishable. Possible cracking issues. I have a very productive, delicious Damson tree that I could benchgraft a dozen trees or more from. Unique fruit for the area. Being a culinary fruit, I might have to inform public of it’s use.
Green Gage, Rosy Gage, Empress, Superior, Toka plums. My assumptions: high spray, high maintenance. Cracking issues. Very perishable. All 5 have done fairly well at my location, should do even better at new location. Delicious, unique fruit for our local market, Very marketable, but very high maintenance. Could benchgraft dozens of trees from my existing trees.
Tart Cherries. My assumptions: low to medium spray. would probably thrive at top of hill, especially Carmine Jewel. I like these, but many farm stores around here sell 10 lb tubs of Michigan pitted tart cherries every summer for around $35. Those are very popular. Ours would be earlier , but not pitted. Hard to compete.
Heirloom Sweet Cherries My assumptions: I have Gov Wood, Coe’s Transparent and Black Tartarian and could benchgraft more of those. Sweet cherries are not widely grown around here, let alone “guigne” and heirloom varieites, but I’ve had little success at my old site so far. Very perishable. Would probably set fruit regularly at the top of the hill, but might have cracking issues often.
Peaches. My assumptions: High spray, high maintenance. I love peaches. They do OK for me at my marginal site, might thrive at the new site, but there are many other established orchards in the general area. Could focus on canning peaches, which aren’t as common, but I have no experience with them.
Apricots. My assumptions: High spray, high maintenance. Nobody grows them around here. Later bloomers like Zard or Alfred, combined with location at top of the hill, might yield results. Would be the only game in town, but might not escape frost even with the advantages. Very perishable.
Zaiger Pluots/Asian Plums. My assumptions: Similar to apricots at the top of the hill, but would probably stand a slightly better chance.
Blueberries. My assumptions: probably would do well, but very common around here, plus SWD issues.
Haskap. My assumptions: long lived. would need afternoon shade. Early. Unique but public probably prefers blueberries, which are sold everywhere. Maybe could sell these based on perceived health benefits. Probably a lot of work to pick.
Asian pears. My assumptions: medium spray. These have done well for me, but they have to be picked individually at the right stage of ripeness. For this reason, very high maintenance. Truly delicious but too many people have tried bland ones, so there might be a bias against these.
Seckle pears. My assumptions: probably low spray/low maintenance. Some grown locally but hard to find every year. Tasty. Somewhat perishable, but not too bad.
WPBR Resistant Blackcurrants. My assumptions: I love these, but they’re not well known. Probably low maintenance to grow, but high maintenance to harvest.
Chinese Chestnuts, Hicans, Hazelnuts. All show promise but I have no experience. Keep well, probably very marketable and easy to sell. Some chestnuts sold locally, but not many. No hazelnuts or Hicans in the local market.

Also would consider selling some of the above fruits frozen as smoothie ingredients, but that’s a long shot.

Feel free to let me know which of my assumptions are off, as well as anything I have overlooked.

My biggest questions are:

1) Is there really a market for American Persimmons like Prok, or is astringency/proper ripening too much of a wild card?
2) Has anyone seen crabapples like Dolgo for sale at farmers markets?
3) I’ve heard that gooseberries are the 2nd best fruit to make wine from other than grapes Gooseberry Wine Recipe: Homebrew winemaking, has anyone actually tried gooseberry wine?
4) Does anyone have first hand experience with juice or jelly made from Bluebell, King of the North, Beta or other cold hardy grapes other than Concord? Do they taste like Concord when processed, maybe better?




I am planning my own orchard, but not to your size and scope.

Things to consider- How will all of those fruits pollenate?

How will you stop deer from eating everything?

I would try to consider disease resistant varieties of everything… if you want to collect some other varities save those for later and give them trials.

Here is what i am doing- just as a thought-

Peaches- Contender and O’Henry
Apples- Golden Grimes and GoldRush
Pear- Harrow Sweet and Harrow Delight
Plum- Mount Royal
Hazelnut- Hybrids
Blackberries- I have 15 varieties or more
Raspberries- I have 10 varieties
Black Rasps- I have 2 varieties.
Grape- Somerset
Mulberry- I have 5 varieties

I am in Zone 6B and as far as i can tell those all work for me… most if not all are disease resistant… but nothing is fool proof.

Other thoughts to consider are irrigation and soil health.

If you are in it for the money, hard to beat strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Easy stuff like ciders and freezer jam and freshly made prunes would have you standing out at the market.


I forgot about Somerset, that is a good choice. Blackberries, strawberries and raspberries would be high on my list, however all but the earliest varieties get hit hard by SWD at my present site. That is one pest I really haven’t been able to deal with well. As far as deer, I’d probably go with an electric fence but maybe a traditional deer fence if I keep the orchard size below 150’x150’.


Sounds like you’ve thought this out pretty well! Regarding persimmons, I think the market for fresh virginiana fruits is limited at best. There’s barely a market for non-astringent Asian persimmons. I think the real market is going to be in value-added products like dried fruit, pulp, and baked goods. Also, I think there could be a good market for firm-ripe hybrid persimmons of the varieties that are known to respond to astringency removal techniques. I think @KYnuttrees sells fruit and pulp in season, so he’d be the one to ask.

As for honeyberry, there are some good ways to harvest that I’ve seen like @Viktor 's modified reciprocating saw:

Mulberries might be tricky to market. They’re the sort of thing you could probably develop a small and loyal following for, but people aren’t likely to seek them out. Value-added processing might be the ticket here, too.

Another thing to note is that especially for your more unusual stuff, your market may be more in the cities. Some towns might even have winter markets where you can bring stuff like storage apples or dried persimmons.

Lastly, I’m a big fan of variety, but you don’t want to spread yourself too thin, either. It may be beneficial to focus on a smaller set at first, maybe things with a more sure market, and expand from there.



Any chance you have room for a small pond? Why install a well when you could have fish to eat as well? It may just be my way of thinking but that hill looks steep. If it was me I would be tempted to stair step several hills with Ponds between them going down that hill. Then you solved your water problem and fish are a bonus. The reason why not may be money since you just purchased the land or maybe you don’t like fish to eat but I wanted to at least make the suggestion. Grapes really like steep hills. Great looking property it’s clearly very rich. The wetland area might be the best pond candidate. Used a marshy area here covered with springs for my pond but I had to wait for a severe drought.


Even if you wouldn’t want to eat the fish there is the possibility of fresh fish fertilizer cutting down on expenses… or selling some to organic gardeners in the farmers market.


Yeah, it is steep. 13 to 15% is my guess. I’ve thought about doing some terracing, but that sure would be ambitious. I have a BCS 853 walk behind tractor which should be useful for working on a slope. I’m in no hurry, but would like to get some things established for retirement in about 10 years. I’ve ordered some paw paws already, so I’ll put some of those in. Sort of leaning towards grapes and cider apples. I’m obsessed with Dolgo crabapples, I probably need someone to talk me out of planting too many :grin:. Crabapple jelly with smoked gouda cheese is darn near gourmet quality.


I live about 10 minutes from Youngstown, which is a small city but has a decent sized university and some of the trendy downtown farm and artisan markets in the summer time. People seem to get into them a little more each year, so there might be that kind of market on a small scale.


Yeah, college towns are usually a good bet for selling the more interesting stuff! Good deal!


@ztom Did you order pawpaw varieties that are known for better handling/shipping/storage? Susquehanna and Benson are two, according to Michael Judd in “For The Love of Pawpaws.” May be a couple others too.

Put deep and wide wood chip mulch on pawpaws, usually free, helps keep them happy.


No, I went for early ripening and ordered Mango, Penn Golden, KSU Atwood and NC-1, but I already have a small potted Benson over-wintering in my garage. Susquehanna was on my list to look into, so I’ll take your advice and order 1 or 2. I also have a Chapell and Prima 1216 in small pots. I have a 6 year old Sunflower and Allegheny in my yard at home right now. Might benchgraft a few of those onto seedlings, but Sunflower is kinda late, so is Prima1216 as I understand. I also ordered 10 seedlings from named varieties from burnt ridge.

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Susquehanna is a late-ish one, not sure what’s too late for you.

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If you are prepared to deal with the hassle, you might want to consider pick-your-own for at some things as well.
The labour costs can be a huge chunk of the price for many of the berries so being able to get some money out while not dealing with that can be helpful. The mulberries, rasps, blues, currants and honeyberries all fall into that.
Our local blueberry farm did a deal with a local bakery this year with bake-your-own kits and they couldn’t keep them in stock.

Discovered this year that my hardy kiwi could be picked from late June and would ripen up fine on the counter! A squirrel ( I think) kept knocking off fruit, checking for ripeness, and they would ripen on the ground. I did a test in August and picked a few and they ripened fine so I took them all. They went from hard, to soft and tasty in 2-4 days, then held for quite while after.

Also wanted to add that haskap make a great additive berry for a number of other processed fruits. They are good, but not amazing on their own but mixed with black raspberries they totally up the jam. Added some into my Concord grapes when doing jelly and they pushed it right into top grade.
They give a general " berry" flavour so it makes the others have more depth of flavour and the strong colour also makes it all look better too. Even a bit mixed into red raspberries cuts down on the greyish look they sometimes get.


For the SWD issue you can make traps with a yellow background and a red center… (just like McDonalds). They are attracted to the color red. Make trap out of plexiglass and cover it with saran wrap and coat it with tanglefoot. Traps will fill up so you may have to change the wrap every month or so. There is also another way… lots of hummingbirds. And another way is to set bait traps with erythritol…

You didnt mention codling moth so not sure if its an issue where you are. Molasses and water traps do the trick.

As for the Mulberry question- You will probably go broke trying to sell the berries. I suggest making jams or jellies… people will ‘try it’ and it will go from there. The real money is in propagating. Mulberries love to be pruned hard. In an average pruning you can root 100s or thousands of scions. At $10 each… alot of people would love to have their own mulberry trees.

Same thing with paw paw… you will not be able to keep up selling seedlings… everyone will want a tree of their own…but probably wont want to eat your fruit.

So where i am going with it is to not focus so hard on selling fruits- on strawberries ive seen people pay $20 for a full sized strawberry plant at Lowes just so they could have one on their porch.

Just yesterday at my local feed store they had a whole big box of ‘deer apples’ All of the apples that didnt make the cut for a local orchard. People were loading up to feed their deer…and i saw a few people eating them…and buying for their own use.

I have also seen Apple Wood Chips at that store in small bags… i think that same orchard farmer is smart… when he prunes he chips the limbs and makes a dollar off of the chips…

I could go on but in the end do what works for you and makes you happy…


Congratulations on your new land purchase! I am jealous. We have been looking for land somewhere in Virginia mountains or highlands where we can retire and have an orchard, but nothing appeals to us so far.


Looks like a great purchase! I really like the soils and the elevation. Can’t offer any specific recommendations but perhaps a couple of big picture observations:

Cider Apples will most likely be sold by the bushel. Its hard to make money selling apples by the bushel on a small scale. Selling by the peck is a lot more profitable on a small scale. Winesaps and Goldrush make excellent cider but are good eating apples too.

I would not rule out early blueberries or blackberries because of SWD. Controls other than insecticide can be effective but the large amount of picking labor might be a problem.

Damsons are well known by rural folks and they are normally is short supply but getting a profitable price from these be difficult. An apple grower we know in VA ships his Damsons direct to customers in other states.

Most farms I have seen plant their stone fruit at the higher elevations just like you suggest.

Investment in a good fence for the orchard area before planting trees might be smart if you have a lot of deer pressure. Electric twine, T post and a powerful fence charger may keep them out but I would not want to risk loosing a lot of expensive planting material and planting labor to a bunch of deer who really love apple trees.


Thanks, good info!


Well, two years later and I still don’t have a well but I planted a dozen or so trees anyway this spring. I just had the septic design physically laid out today, which I have to do before getting a well drilled even if I don’t have the septic actually installed. Here are a few of the peach trees I planted, July Rose and PF-19-007. They did okay. I planted them in the spring, weeded the area and caged them, and hit the area around the trees with glyphosate once in early summer. Other than that they’ve been on their own. (I also mowed the area outside the cages midsummer with a sickle bar mower) The weeds look horrible but they were totally cleared for the first half of summer so the trees got some good growth in.

Here’s a few shots showing the elevation at the top of the hill. It stays pretty dry up there so I’d like to water during dry spells, but the plums on prunus americana did really well anyways, so did the peaches and two chinese chestnuts. When I finally get a well, I’m going to put in a dozen paw paws also and some grapes.