In general, the apple prefers a rather strong soil, neither
very heavy nor very light. Subsoil is rather more important than
surface soil, although the latter should be friable and easily worked.
The apple follows good timber successfully. Heavy clay soils are apt
be too cold, compact, and wet; light sandy soils too loose and dry.
A medium clay loam or a gravelly clay loam, underlaid by a somewhat
heavier but fairly open clay subsoil is thought to be the best soil
for apples. Broadly considered, medium loams are best. The lighter the
soil the better will be the color of the fruit as a rule, and so,
also, the heavier the soil and the more nitrogen and moisture it holds
the greater the tendency to poorly colored fruit. In the same way
light soils give poorer wood and foliage growth as compared with the
large rank leaves and wood of trees on heavy, rich soils.
VARIETAL SOIL PREFERENCES are beginning to be recognized. We cannot go
into these in detail in this brief discussion. A few suggestions
regarding standard varieties must suffice. Medium to light loams or
heavy sandy loams, underlaid by slightly heavier loams or clay loams,
are preferred by the Baldwin, which has a wider soil adaptation than
practically any other variety. Baldwin soils should dry quickly after
a rain. Rhode Island Greening requires a rather rich, moist, but well
drained soil, containing an abundance of organic matter. A light to
heavy silty loam, underlaid by a silty clay loam, is considered best.
Northern Spy is very exacting in its soil requirements. A medium loam,
underlaid by a heavy loam or a light clay loam, is excellent. Heavy
soils give the Spy a greasy skin. Light soils cause the tree to grow
upright and to bear fruit of poor flavor. The King likes a soil
slightly lighter than the best Greening soils, but retentive of
moisture. Hubbardson will utilize the sandiest soil of any northern
variety, preferring rich, fine, sandy loams.
The particular location of the apple orchard is largely a matter of
convenience. It should be remembered, however, that the apple requires
much and constant attention, therefore the orchard should be
convenient of access. The product is rather bulky, so that the haul to
the highway should be as short as possible. Other conditions being
equally good there, the common location near the buildings and highway
THE SITE OF THE ORCHARD is a more important matter. Two essentials
should be kept in mind, good air drainage and a considerable
elevation. Although it is not so apparent and therefore less thought
about, cold air runs down hill the same as water. Being heavier, it
falls to the surface of the land, flowing out through the water
channels and settling in pockets and depressions. Warm air, being
lighter, rises. It is desirable to avoid conditions of stagnant air or
cold air pockets where frost and fogs are liable to occur. A free
movement of air, especially a draining away of cold air, is best
secured by an elevation. Fifty to one hundred feet, or sometimes less,
is usually sufficient, especially where there is good outlet below.
Frosts occur in still, clear air and these conditions occur most
frequently in the lower areas.
Aspect or slope requires less attention. Southern exposures are warm
and hasten bud development and opening in spring. Northern exposures
are cold and retard the blossoming period. It is usually advisable to
plant the apple on the colder slopes which hold it back in spring
until all danger of late frosts is past. Northeast exposures are best
as a general rule. Choose a slope away from the prevailing wind if
possible. If this is impracticable it is often advisable to plant a
wind break of pine, spruce, or a quick, thick growing native tree to
protect the orchard from heavy winds.
A large body of water is an important modifier of climate. Warming up
more slowly in the spring, it retards vegetation by slowly giving up
its cold. Vice versa, cooling more slowly in the fall giving up its
heat wards off the early frosts. It is therefore desirable to locate
near such bodies of water if possible. Their influence varies
according to their size and depth, and the distance of the orchard
from them. Good examples of this influence are the Chautauqua Grape
Belt on the eastern shore of Lake Erie and the Western New York Apple
Belt on the south shore of Lake Ontario.
Professor Brackett has well summed up the whole question: "The
selection of the soil and site for the apple orchard is not governed
by any arbitrary rule," he says. "All farms do not afford the best
soils or exposures for orchards. The owners of such as do not are
unfortunate, yet they should not feel discouraged to the extent of not
planting trees and caring for them afterward." There are a number of
factors which influence not only a person who wishes to locate, but
one already located, either favorably or unfavorably. About these even
the most intelligent orchardists often differ. We have only laid down
general principles and given opinions. Here as elsewhere application
is a matter of judgment.
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