Planning a pear orchard

Many times, I’m asked the steps in planning a pear orchard. What are the hardiest rootstocks and pear tree varities? When do pears ripen? When do they bloom? Which pears pollinate others? What are the fertility requirements of the soil? How big is each pear fruit? What type of grass should we grow in an orchard? What types of pear pests and diseases exist?

The biggest problem with pears is fireblight. The number one thing everyone should do is look for things with fireblight resistance. Size of rootstock and other things are important ,but fireblight should be at the front of your mind at all times. Pears are one of the easiest fruits to grow if you get the types resistant to fireblight. Pears tolerate grasses and other trees very well making them easy to grow. Lots of planning goes into an orchard. My idea of ideal harvest times means all year july, august, september, october , and november. Having fresh pears all the time helps meet the needs of the farm.


Here are some threads to help with grafting


Here are a few harvests that might be a place to start when considering what to grow. I dont record every harvest or the amount of photos and threads would wind up excessive.

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If you don’t mind a couple of more questions @clarkinks I’m curious about a couple of pears I have on order for next year.

I ordered a Magness Dwarf on Quince A rootstock. I know Magness is a pear that is on the extreme far end of the scale for when it begins bearing fruit. As Quince A is supposed to induce precocity, how long do you think this combination will take to produce fruit? I know it’s impossible to predict this exactly, but what would be your best guess? I’m hoping I may actually get to taste this variety before I’m going to be planted in the ground myself. :smile:

I really like the red varieties of pears, so I couldn’t resist ordering a Max Red Bartlett on Semi-Dwarf
(OHxF87) rootstock as well. What is your feeling as to when this combo may start producing? Have you grown, the Max Red variety before? What would be your assessment of this variety? What I have read about this tree seems to claim it is an much improved version of Bartlett. Of course, most nursery websites always paint the varieties they sell as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’d rather get the real scoop from someone such as yourself who knows pears and is not just huckstering.

I’m in zone 9b (Canada) in an area that is great for growing pears. The area these trees will be located should receive plenty of sun and the soil is decently fertile for growing pears.

Any insights you could provide would be greatly appreciated @clarkinks.

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grumble, grumble, Clark starts a pear thread about orchard planning and misses the obvious. How far apart and what pattern should pears be planted? It all depends on your rootstock! Dwarfing rootstocks permit pear trees as close as 10 feet between trees. Full size rootstocks are best with 20 to 25 feet. I personally prefer planting trees in rows as compared with patterns such as triangle or quincunx. My rows of pears are just now being laid out with 25 feet between rows and 20 feet between trees in the row. I have 20 trees so far and have rootstocks picked to increase to 30 or 40. My back yard will be pear and apple trees covering about 2/3 acre.


I was thinking of planting a row on the North property line (south facing) with 15 feet between semi-dwarf and full size rootstocks intermixed. In front of that row I was thinking a 15 ft spacing between another row of all semi-dwarf trees spaced 15 ft apart between trees. I’m only planning on two rows at this point, but you know how that can creep upwards before too long.

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Quince A does not survive here in my location in Kansas because it lacks hardiness to with stand droughts, etc. That is common here. @scottfsmith has grown many pears on quince. i think magness would produce pears within 3 - 5 years on quince in most locations. Hopefully, Scott can correct me if im way off. Rogue red is a pear i grow among other bartletts. As you have read, it is an improvement over bartlett in resisting some disease. There are many factors with these questions on rootstocks as you know.

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It wasn’t my intention to make this the advanced pear orchard planning thread by leaving out spacing. lol since i skipped the obvious spacing criteria i will post some older related threads. Lets go back a few posts and sometimes several years


@clarkinks tagged me here, I can answer your question.

Good move! It will still take a long while before it is bearing well but in five years you should get some pears.

After eating my Magness this year I am considering adding a full size tree so in ten years I have all the Magness I would ever want. It is a truly amazing pear. Only Dana Hovey is in the Magness league and it is small and harder to ripen properly.

Re spacing, for the quince pears they are 8’ apart now… I started with 2’ and thinned most of them, removing lesser varieties. The pears on semi dwarf I have at varying gaps from 6-12’. My new stand of full pears is at 15’. All of my trees I prune to limit height, my pruning pole reach sets the height as nothing gets above the reach of that… all my pruning from the ground is my rule (unless thinning a larger limb higher up, a rarity).


As a reference you might wonder what penn state says

"# Beginning Grower: Planning and Planting an Orchard

Planning and preparing a site for a new orchard begins two to three years ahead of planting. Mistakes made in planning and planting an orchard cannot easily be reversed.

March 9, 2023

Before establishing a new orchard block, it is important to carefully assess all the factors that will ultimately affect fruit quality and orchard sustainability. Fruit growing is a high-risk venture, and Penn State Extension offers budgets and spreadsheet programs to assist you in business planning. Optimal site preparation and planting involve thinking in terms of managing tree roots for increased orchard performance. Physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil must all be considered. Soil structure is a major concern on a new site. A replant site requires two to three years of crop rotations to replenish organic matter and avoid tree mortality or stunted growth.

Site Assessment

Cold-air drainage and soil quality have significant effects on the profitability of an orchard. An ideal site is on the upper side of a gradual (4 to 8 percent) slope, on rolling or elevated land. Low lying areas, where cold air can accumulate during a calm, clear night, are prone to spring frost damage. Hilltops or ridges may expose trees to excessive winds or to arctic air masses.

A preferred orchard soil is a deep (at least 3 ft), well-drained and aerated loam. Detailed soil appraisals should be conducted several years in advance of planting. A grower begins by locating a soil map and by digging test holes to examine the soil profile. Soil maps provide useful information on soil texture, parent material, native fertility, erosion levels, and water-holding capacity. Test holes reveal impervious layers and water-related problems. If checked several times during a rainy period, test holes will yield valuable information on the soil water table.

Topsoil and subsoil samples also are collected at this time for analysis of pH, nutrient imbalances, and organic matter content. Additional site considerations include access to water for irrigation and spraying, the presence of weeds that serve as reservoirs for plant viruses, and the potential for hail or other weather-related disasters.

Orchard Design and Tree Quality

Give considerable thought to orchard design and tree quality. Important considerations are canopy light interception and distribution to flowers and fruit. Branched trees on dwarfing rootstocks will produce early crops.

Trees grown in north-south oriented rows have better light conditions than those grown in east-west rows. Decreasing the distance between rows and increasing tree height also increases light interception. With most tree forms, optimum tree height is half the row spacing plus 3 feet. Maximizing production per acre by planting trees in high densities requires careful assessment of the vigor potential of a site. It is helpful to evaluate tree size in a previous orchard or in an adjacent block. Other factors that affect decisions on tree arrangement include topography, equipment size, and worker access.

To obtain the scion/rootstock combinations best suited to an orchard plan, order trees 2 to 3 years ahead of planting. Ordering virus-tested trees with healthy root systems ensures a good start for a sustainable production system. Well-feathered trees are desirable for early cropping, intensive systems. Windbreak trees, if needed, and pollinizer trees also should be ordered early. Studies indicate that the best trees for windbreaks are alders (Alnus), willows (Salix), or other deciduous species that leaf out early in the spring and hold leaves past harvest time. Fruit tree bloom periods vary from one region to another, and it is wise to get local advice on pollinizers.

Orchard Preparation

The one chance a grower has to optimize the soil environment is prior to planting. Before disturbing the surface vegetation, spot treatments can be made to control perennial and other problem weeds. On replant sites, a cover-cropping system can be established and maintained for several years to suppress weeds, nematodes, and soil-borne fungi and to increase soil organic matter. Soil drainage problems should be corrected with subsurface drainage systems or surface modifications such as ridging. Stone fruit and certain dwarf apple rootstocks are especially sensitive to water logging and associated diseases caused by Phytophthora species. The fertility status of the soil is ameliorated to the depth of the root zone, since lime and phosphorus are not very mobile and potassium moves slowly.

After the soil is thoroughly prepared, an orchard groundcover is established. Turf grasses often are the most desirable groundcovers, especially species that suppress voles, broadleaf weeds, and soil-borne diseases. Grasses also conserve nutrients, increase organic matter, protect groundwater quality, and improve water infiltration. To prevent erosion, the groundcover should be established shortly after the site is cultivated and leveled. Grass seed can be sown in the row middles, leaving 4 ft-wide bare strips where the trees are planted, or seed can be sown over the entire field. In the latter system, the sod is established at least one season before planting and the tree strip killed prior to planting, leaving a mulch that enhances early tree growth.

Tree Planting

Several studies show that time of planting greatly affects initial tree growth. Early planted trees have increased shoot numbers and length, and fewer trees become spur-bound or stunted. Orchards should be planted as early in the spring as the ground can be worked or in late fall in regions where sudden drops in temperature are unlikely. Trees may be planted by a variety of methods provided close root-soil contact is secured and the trees are not planted too deeply. To prevent scion rooting, the bud union of dwarf trees should be 3 inches above the soil line. Higher bud union placement is generally avoided due to the potential for burr knots or winter injury on some rootstocks. Soon after planting, the trees should be watered and, if needed, a support system established.

The goal of advance planning and site preparation is to ensure early and regular crops of high value fruit for the 15 to 30 year life of an orchard. Preplant use of sustainable management practices guarantees that a site will support the current orchard and generations to come.

Learning and networking opportunities for young growers are available via the Penn State Extension Young Grower Alliance.


Autio, Wesley R., Duane W. Greene, Daniel R. Cooley, and James R. Schupp. (1991). Improving the growth of newly planted apple trees, HortScience 26:840-843.

Auxt, Tara, Steven Blizzard, and Kendall Elliott. (1980). Comparison of apple planting methods, J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 105:468-472.

Baugher, Tara Auxt and Rabindar N. Singh. (1989). Evaluation of four soil amendments in ameliorating toxic conditions in three orchard subsoils, Applied Agric. Res. 4:111-117.

Baugher, Tara Auxt and Suman Singha, Editors. (2003). Concise Encyclopedia of Temperate Tree Fruit. Food Products Press. 387 pp.

Biggs, Alan R., Tara Auxt Baugher, Alan R. Collins, Henry W. Hogmire, James B. Kotcon, D. Michael Glenn, Alan J. Sexstone, and Ross E. Byers. (1997). Growth of apple trees, nitrate mobility and pest populations following a corn versus fescue crop rotation, Amer. J. Alt. Agric. 12:162-172.

Fuller, Keith. (2000). Bolstering the soil environment: Site preparation, Compact Fruit Tree 33:25-27."

What about others



Once you’ve decided which fruit you want to grow and purchased your trees, it’s time to pick a site for your orchard. Choosing where to plant your fruit trees carefully will set you up to have a productive orchard for years to come.

Fruit trees grow best in full sun and in well-drained soil. Look for a location that has:

  • Well-drained soil . If rainwater regularly puddles in an area, it’s not a good place to plant your trees. Fruit trees like deep, loamy soil that retains some moisture, but doesn’t stay soggy.
  • Full sun. Your fruit trees need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight to produce high quality fruit. Avoid planting your trees in the shadow of other mature trees and look out for black walnuts, in particular-they tend to kill fruit trees.
  • Sunny north-facing slopes are ideal. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in the Upper Midwest, north-facing slopes experience fewer potentially damaging temperature fluctuations in the spring as fruit trees come out of dormancy. If you want to delay an early blooming tree, plant on the north slope.
  • South-facing slopes get more sun and warm up faster in the spring, but the temperature fluctuations can damage the trunks of the trees. If you want to help a late blooming tree bloom early, plant on the south slope.
  • Good air flow. Gentle rolling hills are the perfect topography for an orchard because it keeps the cold spring air moving. The best spot is along the slope, just down from the crest of the hill. You want to avoid planting trees in spots at the very top of a hill where they’ll be exposed to frigid winter winds or deep in the valleys between hills where the tree will be susceptible to spring frosts.

Do you need help planning your orchard? We are here to help!



Critters enjoy fruit just as much as we do. Go figure. To keep deer, rabbits, and rodents away from your fruit, consider installing a fence. At a minimum you will need to use tree guards, particularly in areas close to woods or shrubbery where animals live. Clear out

brush and cover to minimize places where animals can inhabit to protect them from small intruders.


To dwarf or not to dwarf? That is the question.

Dwarf Trees

Dwarf trees grow between 8-12 feet without pruning. They produce apples more quickly than other varieties, but require support structures and pest control measures. Dwarf trees generally come in fairly common rootstocks.

Semi-Dwarf Trees

Semi-dwarf trees grow between 12-18 feet. They produce apples after 3 years and then a healthy crop annually or biannually thereafter. Bigger trees means more apples, but harvesting can be slightly more labor intensive. You’ll find the largest variety of rootstocks in the semi-dwarf trees, including several cold hardy varieties.

Standard Tree

Standard trees grow to 20 feet and beyond. Once they are established, they will produce fruit biannually, every two years. You’ll need ladders to harvest the apples off of standard trees. These trees are excellent shade trees and often used in food plots for hunting.


Decisions about how close together should you plant your trees,

High Density

Most modern commercial orchards use a high density system, with trees planted as close as 18 inches apart. This type of orchard usually has just 1 or 2 varieties of trees for specific production purposes. Pollinators are used throughout. High density orchards require intense weed and bug control. For commercial orchards, this system offers the best “bang for your buck.”

Low Density

Most non-commercial or pick-your-own orchards follow a low density system of planting. Trees may be spaced to any size in this system. Low-density orchards are more aesthetically pleasing and accessible for agri-tourism activities. This type of system is best for backyard or “gentleman’s” orchards.


Most residential orchards have fewer than 25 trees, spaced so that residents can mow between the trees and use their yard. Kids and dogs need to be able to run around the trees. There may be a wide variety of trees in a small space.

Commercial orchards tend to have fewer varieties of trees but more of them. Of course there are exceptions to this, but high density commercial orchards prioritize production over visual appeal in the landscape. While the effort per tree is smaller, the overall effort is generally greater.


We can design and plant food plots to attract wildlife to your land. We offer tree packages that include apples, pears, crabapples, nut trees, and oak trees, based on your location and zone.


We can discuss organic sprays and trees that are naturally disease resistant that will work well in your organic orchard. Varieties and rootstock are the most important start of an organic orchard."

Most people plant their rows like i did for the most part running north to south when possible. Here is another great reference

" Think Twice, Plant Once: Does a Tree Fruit Orchard Make Sense for Your Farm?

An introductory guide and curated list of references and resources

  • Megan Muehlbauer, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Hunterdon County
  • Hemant Gohil, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Gloucester County
  • Nicholas Polanin, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Somerset County

New Jersey has optimal growing conditions for a number of different types of tree fruit including peaches, apples, cherries, and plums. However, whether you have an existing farm and are looking to diversify, or you’re looking to purchase land and are considering tree fruit as your crop of choice, tree fruit management is not for everyone. There are challenges unique to perennial crop management that go well beyond planting and harvesting. This is a long-term commitment and investment rarely encountered in annual crops. With hundreds of varieties of pome (apple) and stone (i.e. peaches, cherries, and plums) fruit available and an increasing number of rootstocks, pests, diseases, weed control options, and training practices, it can be downright daunting for new growers to even know where to begin in establishing tree fruit orchards. This factsheet provides an overview on necessary considerations prior to the establishment and/or expansion of a tree fruit orchard in New Jersey. This includes topics such as farm business plan development, commitment of time and resources, selection and preparation of an optimal orchard site, choosing varieties and rootstocks, trellising and pruning systems, and finally the establishment of irrigation systems. Information and resources will also be outlined for tree fruit pest management, including weed, insect, and disease control.

Does a Tree Orchard Fit Your Farm’s Business Plan?

With over 8,500 acres of tree fruit in New Jersey (2017 USDA Census of Agriculture), alongside numerous farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and accessibility to city markets, there are ample opportunities to grow and market high quality tree fruit. So why don’t more growers have tree fruit orchards?

One of the most crucial first tasks for any grower planning to launch a business venture in agriculture, especially one that seeks to establish an orchard, is to develop and regularly update a business plan. Fortunately, there are a number of helpful resources available to guide farmers in establishing business plans. The templates listed below provide guidance in outlining a proposed farm operation, as well as help growers to consider their strengths and weaknesses before establishing or expanding their farm operations. These documents also serve to assist in leveraging money from both government and private lenders.

  1. AgPlan was developed to help rural businesses develop a business plan and is free of charge for anyone to use individually or in educational programs.
  2. Here is an example of a business plan written for a future peach and apricot farm.
  3. Cornell University Small Farms Program released a Farm Start-Up Plan Template which growers can also use to make their own plan.

In addition to a business plan, aspiring tree fruit growers should also develop a detailed farm budget. There are a number of significant costs associated with establishing an orchard that need proper planning. Upfront investments or establishment costs may include land purchase, rental and taxes, equipment, controlled temperature storage, plant material, and trellising. Additional major yearly expenses include fertilizer, pesticides, tools, fuel, and labor. But before all of that, growers must consider where and how the produce they grow and harvest will be marketed, what prices they anticipate charging, and yearly predicted yields. There may be several options available to tree fruit crops, not normally found for annual crops.

These resources listed below provide guidance on developing detailed budgets tailored to tree fruit orchards:

  1. Tree Fruit Production Budgets
  2. Sample Costs to Establish an Apple Orchard and Produce Apples (PDF)

No one should expect to handle all of these considerations alone. You will need the knowledge and experience only found within a team of experts: accountants, financial planners, business lawyers, fiscal resource loan or grant managers, etc. Successful farm business plans, especially those that seek to expand operations into new crops or specialized areas such as tree fruit orchards depend on a team – this is not a weekend Do-It-Yourself project.

What Site on My Farm Is Good for an Orchard?

Proper site selection is critical in the establishment and profitability of tree fruit, especially given that the land chosen will become a long-term (20+) year investment. When first choosing an orchard plot, growers should be mindful of how close the proposed orchard is to residential areas, and where normal farm operations in tree fruit production could cause issues with neighbors. In addition, the land should be gently sloping with good air drainage to ensure air doesn’t stay stagnant and cause “frost pockets” at bloom. Avoid areas with historically extreme temperatures or early frosts. Historic weather data can be obtained through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Along with site selection, growers should strongly consider deer fencing. With the ever-growing deer population in New Jersey, the investment of establishing a tree fruit orchard can be quickly lost to a night of buck rubs and deer grazing. Both Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension, and Cornell University Cooperative Extension, have developed detailed publications outlining how to calculate deer fencing expenses.

Soil Fertility

After selecting the growing site, the next step in establishing a successful orchard is soil testing. New Jersey has a diversity of soil types, and sometimes different types within single orchard planting. A soil profile should reveal a well-drained soil with good water holding capacity. Detailed information on soil profiles for selected areas of interest can be obtained through the National Web Soil Survey.

Zoom in Figure 1.

This figure is an example of the soil test results received for a Honeycrisp apple orchard in New Jersey.

Additional information on soil profiles, can be obtained at a local Soil Conservation office.

Soil testing should be performed at least two years prior to planting to allow plenty of time to properly amend the soil. Once the plants are in the ground, soil amelioration is difficult. Physical and chemical soil analyses should include soil texture and organic matter content, and a full soil fertility test (that includes pH, alkalinity, and salinity). Early chemical or fertility analysis is critical, because it can take months to adjust the pH of the soil to the optimal range, or to grow and incorporate field crops that may enhance its organic matter content. Instructions on proper soil sampling methods, and information on how to obtain soil testing kits, can be found on the website of the Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory.

All farm soil tests performed through the Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory are returned back to growers with recommendations from their local county Agricultural Agent. Additionally, there are extensive publications outlining how to interpret soil fertility results and implement amendment practices, based upon these results. Several of these publications include:

  1. Liming New Jersey Soils for Fruit Crops.
  2. Soil fertility recommendations for tree fruit are outlined in the Rutgers University Tree Fruit Production Guide.
  3. In addition to fertility testing, a nematode soil assay should be performed prior to planting an orchard. This assay can be performed by the Rutgers Plant Diagnostic Lab, using the Nematode Soil Assay Submission Form (PDF).

Once the orchard has been established, leaf tissue analysis should be performed yearly along with soil fertility analysis. If varieties planning to be grown are susceptible to the nutrient disorder bitter pit, fruit tissue assays may also be beneficial to in develop supplemental foliar nutrient spray routines.

Guidelines on how to interpret leaf tissue analysis for tree fruit can be found in FS627, Leaf Analysis for Fruit Trees.

Does My Orchard Need Irrigation?

Even though average precipitation in New Jersey is enough to meet tree growth needs, supplemental irrigation is often required during the fruit development stage. In high density orchards, irrigation is critical from the early stage of tree growth and development to achieve full production in 3–4 years. Nearly all orchards in New Jersey are irrigated to ensure trees receive adequate water throughout the growing season. However, prior to orchard establishment or purchasing an irrigation system, it is important for growers to estimate their overall water needs based on tree spacing, number of emitters per tree, emitter flow, total discharge rate for the block, and the pump capacity. Knowing the physical properties of the orchard soil profile can help in determining the maximum soil water holding capacity and most appropriate irrigation system.

Currently, most orchards in New Jersey utilize drip irrigation, the details of this system are outlined in the Penn State University Extension factsheet listed below. Once installed, growers must decide when to irrigate. There are a number of ways to determine when to irrigate, including conventional wisdom/intuition, weather based evapotranspiration i.e. NEWA (Network for Environment and Weather Applications) through Cornell University, canopy temperature, and soil moisture (e.g. measured using tensiometers). Further descriptions of drip irrigation and methods of irrigation can be found at Drip Irrigation for Tree Fruit Orchards in Pennsylvania.

Details on the timing and duration of irrigating a high density orchard are outlined in the following article: How to get water right in the orchard.

Note that if a grower’s proposed water need reaches a certain threshold, they must apply for necessary Agricultural Water Use Permits through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Information on these thresholds and permitting can be found on the NJ DEP website.

What Should I Choose to Plant in My Orchard?

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing which fruit to plant. The first, and perhaps most important consideration when deciding what tree fruit to plant is what is the market/where will you sell the fruit. The decision of how to market the fruit should be closely interwoven with the farm business plan (i.e. will you sell directly to the consumer, wholesale, or pick-your-own orchard). The other driving factor in tree fruit/variety selection should be whether the future orchard will be maintained using conventional or organic practices. Organic orchards should only be planted with cultivars that have resistance to disease.

All tree fruit crops have very similar pros and cons—they all require pruning, all are susceptible to diseases, and nearly all of them are susceptible to early spring frosts. Thus, other factors to consider when choosing plant material are maturity times, shelf-life, and yield.

The subsequent links outline recommended variety lists for each of the major tree fruits for New Jersey growers. It is important to note that each of the lists also outlines whether cross-pollination is needed, and if so, which trees would be adequate.

  1. Plum Varieties for New Jersey
  2. Peach Varieties for New Jersey
    White-Fleshed Peach Varieties for New Jersey Commercial and Home Orchardists
    Five New Peach and Nectarine Varieties for New Jersey Commercial and Home Orchardists
  3. Nectarine Varieties for New Jersey
    Nectarine Varieties for New Jersey Commercial and Home Orchardists
  4. Cherry Varieties for New Jersey
  5. Apple Varieties for New Jersey
    Classic and Novel Dessert Apple Varieties for Commercial Orchards in New Jersey

Finding a source for clean planting material is important to avoid accidentally introducing devastating diseases such as viruses. There is no cure for virus diseases, which can only be managed by replanting, which in turn can be cost prohibitive. Orchard crops are perennial and can be productive for up to 20–30 years depending on care and economic return. Sourcing virus-tested scion and rootstock can ensure that plants are free of such pathogens. Always order trees from nurseries that sell certified clean planting material. Please note that there is a difference between a certified nursery and a nursery that sells certified planting material. Information on ordering certified disease-free plant material and recommendations on nurseries which comply with these rules can be found at the following link: National Clean Plant Network – Fruit Trees.

Do Rootstocks Really Matter?

This image represents a high density (dwarfing rootstock) Honeycrisp apple orchard at the Rutgers University Snyder Research and Extension Farm (Pittstown, NJ). Photo Credit: Megan Muehlbauer.

It is critical for growers to make informed decisions about their rootstocks. Rootstocks confer dwarfing characteristics (important when growing these trees in trellised systems), disease resistance, and high yields. Further information on specific rootstocks, compatibility with scion wood, and availability can be found online at the following publications from several universities involved in the NC-140 Regional Rootstock Research project:

  1. Michigan State University Apple Rootstock Selection Guide
  2. Cherry Rootstock Evaluation Information
  3. Washington State University Rootstock Evaluation Guide

Currently there are a number of apple rootstock choices, however the choices are far more limited for stone fruit.

A list of suppliers of tree fruit plant material can be found through the Rutgers NJAES factsheet FS685, Nurseries and Nursery Dealers with Fruit Trees for New Jersey.

How Should I Design My Orchard?

Orchards are typically planted in rows running north to south, which maximizes sunlight absorption, fruit set, and enhances fruit development. Rows should be spaced apart based upon the width of the farm equipment (i.e. tractors, mowers, and sprayers) required to drive down the rows.

In terms of within-row tree spacing, fruit trees can be spaced at a number of different densities. This decision is made based upon rootstock choice, soil fertility, and desired management methods. In general, more vigorous rootstocks/fertile soils tend to produce larger trees, which require wider in-row spacing, while more dwarfing rootstocks/less fertile soils tolerate tighter spacing. Research on apples, rootstocks and trellising systems in NJ has been extensive.

Growers often seed turf between rows to minimize weed pressure and erosion. Turf should be chosen based on expected traffic. Recommend turf for the aisles in an orchard is tall fescue, Festuca arundinacea, in the southern portion of NJ, and either tall fescue or hard fescue, Festuca brevipila, in the northern areas, as both are fairly resistant to tractor traffic. The KY31 tall fescue is very commonly planted with great success. There are many newer cultivars that are slightly less vigorous while still remaining quite healthy under water stress and traffic. If the soil is deep, holds moisture well, and traffic is less frequent, the hard fescue may be a reasonable choice because it requires less mowing and creates a finer turf.

Detailed information on orchard designs and growing systems of each of the major fruit crops grown in New Jersey are listed below.


The factsheets below provide details on tree spacing, orchard layout, and production systems for apple orchards.


The following Good Fruit Grower article outlines several peach orchard growing systems and the pruning techniques necessary to maintain them.


The bulletin below details many aspects of plum production in the North Eastern United States, including planting and pruning recommendations.


The Good Fruit Grower article below provides a succinct outline of the most productive cherry growing systems.

How Should I Manage Disease, Pest, Weed, and Environmental Injuries?

Some of the most complex and economically important decisions a grower has to make each growing season involve pest management. This includes cultural practices, varieties, integrated pest management (IPM), herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides to combat weeds, disease, and insect issues. In addition to these, most fruit growers must utilize plant growth regulators at some point in the growing season to aid in crop thinning, branching, and harvest management. This information is all outlined in detail and updated yearly in Tree Fruit Production Guides published by major land grant universities.

These guides also provide information on rodent management and environmental injury management (i.e. sunscald and southwest facing injuries). They are all invaluable tools for growers looking to establish and/or maintain tree fruit production on their farms.

In addition, it is important to note that growers should remain diligent in double-checking all pesticide labels to be sure everything is labeled for use on the given tree fruit in New Jersey.

Some pesticide guidelines and recommendations for fruit crops in the Northeastern United States can be found in the following publications:

  1. New Jersey Commercial Tree Fruit Production Guide, (updated semi-annually)
  2. Cornell Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Tree Fruit Production, (updated annually)
  3. Penn State Tree Fruit Production Guide, (updated annually)

Replanting Old Orchards

If the orchard you are planning will replace a current orchard, there are a number of additional considerations to take into account. Replanting an orchard with another orchard can lead to tree decline due to pests and diseases in the soil. Prior to replanting, care should be taken to prepare the site. This includes eliminating all old root systems, disking the field multiple times, testing for nematodes, and possibly fumigating the field. In addition, growers should strongly consider replanting orchards with the newest, most disease resistant rootstocks. Detailed information on precautions to take when replanting orchards can be found at the Penn State University Extension link and Good Fruit Grower newsletter below.

Keep Learning about Your Tree Fruit Orchard

Every year brings about a unique set of disease and insect pressures. Obtaining current information on pest, disease, and fertility information is important to sustaining a successful orchard. This information can be found through the following websites. A number of these websites provide updates on the latest information on horticultural growing practices, varieties, and regional meetings for the northeastern tree fruit industry. Extension agents and specialists are also good sources of information and often able to direct specific inquiries to the appropriate source."


I plant on a SouthEast to NorthWest line where possible. About 25 years ago, I did an analysis of light interception for pecan trees. They get more light exposure in late evening with this setup because it reduces tree to tree shading just a tad. What is the best angle for the row? For most of the U.S. about 35 degrees from true east/west works.

Disclaimer that trees planted on a triangle pattern get less benefit than trees planted on a rectangle.



My orchard is designed to be upland where frost pockets dont normally form like they do in the bottoms. That has saved me from many spring frosts. Light exposure as you mention is also a huge advantage. A neighbor picked some frozen pears the day before last from a duchess d’ Angoulme tree. That one picking caused a stir among people in this area since we had very little rain this year. Many people had no fruit crop but we had a fruit crop that is still being picked into December. What a blessing we had this year! An Upland orchard has exposed me to higher than normal storm damage. The good outweighs the bad.

I plant persimmons in low areas where cold air settles. My pears are on the slope behind my house.

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Smart move Darrel. I planted persimmon and pawpaw and blackberries in my lower areas as well.

With east being 90 degrees from north, 35 degrees from east/west could be at 55 degrees or 125 degrees.

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