Home Orchards: The Planting Site

Plenty of sunlight is a key to maximizing fruit production. While some fruit plants can survive in partial shade, most require direct sunlight to fuel the energy-intensive fruit production process.
Home Orchards: The Planting Site - Articles


Choose a planting area in your yard that will be in the sun most or all of the day. Rapid drying of the plant canopy reduces the need for fungicides and is important in preventing disease. The more quickly the plants dry off after rain or dew, the less chance they have of contracting disease. Early morning sunshine is particularly important for drying dew from the plants.

Choose an area that is large enough to permit adequate plant spacing within and between rows. Less crowded plants will dry more quickly.

Choose a location with good air and water drainage and some protection from prevailing winds. Northern exposures are less subject to late spring frosts and are likely to have the most snow cover, which protects plants from soil heaving caused by alternate freezing and thawing of the soil surface.

Avoid planting within the root zone of black walnut trees since these trees produce a natural herbicide (juglone) that inhibits the growth of other plants. Do not plant brambles or strawberries where any Solanaceous crop (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes) has been grown for the last five years. A soil fungus called Verticillium can inhabit plant debris from Solanaceous crops. If strawberries or brambles are infected, the entire planting may be lost within one season.

Lack of space in full sunlight often discourages the home gardener from planting fruit in the backyard. Fruit plants can be planted in ways that do not require large areas. The following list provides some suggestions for planting in smaller spaces.

  • Use dwarfing rootstocks for apple trees. These reduce the apple tree size by as much as 60 percent and are readily available from most nurseries. See Pome Fruits: Apples and Pears for further details.
  • Use the fruit plants as a property screen or divider. Fruit trees, grapes, and brambles are ideal for this.
  • Grow espaliered apple or pear trees or vining plants such as grapes or thornless blackberries on a fence or against a wall.
  • Grow strawberries in pots or as a pyramid.
  • Grow currants or gooseberries in partial shade. (These are the only fruit crops that will tolerate some shade.)

Good internal water drainage in the soil is a more important consideration than soil fertility. Avoid soils and sites that are not well drained. If water stands for more than 24 hours after a spring rain, the soil is probably not drained well enough for fruit production. Wet soils result in oxygen-starved roots and a microenvironment conducive to disease development.