How to Plan and Care for Orchards

If you are planning on planting an orchard either for your community, farm, croft or own garden, here are some great resources on everything you need to think about, including:

  • Suitable land for orchards
  • Where to plant
  • The best soil for fruit trees
  • How to plant fruit trees
  • Pruning Fruit Trees
  • Selecting the best varieties
  • Grouping varieties of fruit trees for pollination etc
  • Looking after the trees
  • When and how to pick the apples / fruit
  • How to keep the trees in good health
  • Organising community apple days, cooking, juicing, cidering!
  • How to add your orchard to the Scottish Orchard Map
  • Orchard Events

And of course, links to our own orchard project:

  • Ardgay Distributed Orchard March 2020
  • Sutherland Orchard Project (2020-2021)
  • In 2022 we joined forces with the Sutherland Community Partnership Food Group and The Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust to manage the Orchard part of a much larger Food Growing Initiative funded by the National Lottery. We ordered and managed the distribution for six new Orchards in Sutherland, also encouraging groups to work together. For instance, Gledfield Church, Gledfield School and Planet Sutherland joined forces to plant a wee orchard at the Church. Amongst others, orchards have been enhanced in Rogart, Culrain, West Coast Schools and Brora.

Planning Orchards

The Orchard Project – Notes on Planning and Designing Orchards. Note that The Orchard Project site is packed full of info on how to plant, plan, prune etc. Grab a coffee and spend an hour there !! 

The Tree Council – Trees for Schools Project. There’s a great pdf document on planning orchards, including everything that needs thought of including making sure to involve the pupils in the design process. The planning document is a good read for anyone planning an orchard.

There’s also a great Facebook Page with lots of  helpful people on there – Orchard Collective Scotland

And, you can read about the Wester Ross Pocket Orchards Project here.

Where to Buy Fruit Trees

Apple Tree Man – Appletreeman (Andrew Lear) propagates and sells hardy, heritage and Scottish fruit trees. at Blackhaugh Community Farm in Perthshire. Andrew provides a consultancy service and runs training courses.

Scottish Fruit Trees – Scottish fruit tree supplier, again providing consultancy service and help on planning and planting trees.

What Variety of Fruit Trees to Buy

Thanks very much to The Hirsel, Regenerative Farm in Ardgay for providing this list or orchard varieties that do well in in Ardgay. Ofcourse, we know that from East to West and North, the weather varies tremendously; even just within a few miles. But, this will give you a really good starting point, including share, taste and keeping notes.

Click here to open the Sutherland Orchard Tree Varieties Information doc (pdf). And here is a full list of apples good for the Highlands, thanks to Apple Tree Man. Our advice is to really think about what you want – tasty eating apples like Katy and Bloody Ploughman or the amazing Howgate Wonder cooker at the start, then mellows to eater and it’s a great keeper, or ofcourse apple juicing is very popular too.

What Size of Fruit Trees to Buy, Root Stock

It’s really important to consider root stock size. Who will be picking the apples? What about pruning? Do you want a good variety of trees in a smaller space, for instance, which would work for M27, M9s. Have a look at The Plants and Apples web site for more information on root stock size.

Pruning Apple Trees

Winter is the time to prune apples and pears. Please don’t touch your plum or cherry trees in winter. 

Pruning Young Fruit Trees

This is the best video I’ve seen explaining the fundamentals on how to prune fruit trees. The video goes through a pictoral description on what we’re doing when pruning and then moves on to a practical demonstration.

And here’s the Gardener’s World info on Apple and Pear Tree pruning, leading to how to grow, pick and store apples –