For those looking to attract and hold more wildlife on their property, mast orchards can be a great alternative or supplement to food plots and other habitat management practices. One of the principle benefits of orchards is that once established they require less effort. They also add more diversity, and by planting the right combination and variety of mast trees you can significantly widen thewindow of attractiveness to your land.
For example, when most people think of mast orchards they picture nut-producing trees like chestnuts and oaks. But soft mast producers like apple trees add greater diversity to your wildlife banquet, providing fruit for, and appealing to a different and broader variety of wildlife species at different times.
Apple trees prefer well-drained, sandy-loam soils but will grow on many other soil types with good drainage. They will tolerate a certain amount of shade but grow more vigorously and produce more fruit in full sunlight. You should also avoid frost pockets as blossoms and fruits may be damaged by unseasonable frosts. Apples prefer slightly acidic soil (pH 6.0 – 6.5) so it’s a good idea to test soils first and treat as necessary.
Site Preparation and Planting
The more competition you remove from the site the more productive your apple trees will be. Remove any overstory trees that would otherwise shade your orchard. They, along with weeds and grasses can also rob water and nutrients from your orchard trees, and should be removed as well. This step is often overlooked but is critical to a successful planting.
Before planting you should lay out your site, spacing trees at least 15-20 feet apart to provide sufficient room for growth, but no further than 20 feet apart to ensure cross pollination. Specific planting instructions will be provided with your apple trees, and are also available on the Chestnut Hill Outdoors website: http://www.chestnuthilltreefarm.com/store/c/34-Apple-Trees.aspx.
While apple trees are relatively low maintenance compared to food plots, the more effort you put in, the more production you and your wildlife will get out of them. One step is fertilization, which should be done in March after bud break, late May and late July for Zones 8a-10, and in March after bud break for plants further north (Zones 6-7). Again, specific applications are provided on the Chestnut Hill Outdoors website.
Water is particularly important during the first year for the establishment of a new apple tree. If possible, water thoroughly twice a week on light soils and once a week on clay soils, soaking the entire root system deeply. Water regularly, especially during dry periods. Also try to keep a 4-foot diameter area around the trunk clear of grass and weeds to minimize competition.
Training and Pruning
“Training” a tree early in the growth process will prevent its natural tendency to grow upright, creating narrow crotches that may break under the heavy fruit loads your Chestnut Hill Outdoors apple trees will be producing. Subsequent pruning will also improve branch strength and structure. Specific instructions are also available on the Chestnut Hill Outdoors website: http://www.chestnuthilltreefarm.com/store/c/34-Apple-Trees.aspx
- Height: 10-15′
- Spread: 5-10′
- Tree Form: Modified leader
- Pollination: Plant 2 varieties for cross pollination
- Flowers: Feb-Mar
- Bears: in 2-3 years
- Light requirements: Full sun
- Soil type: Well-drained, pH 6.0-6.5
- Maintenance: Easy
- Hardiness Zone: 8-10s app
Chestnut Hill Outdoors is more than just a nursery. In order to ensure you receive the maximum benefit from their products, they also provide sound advice and instruction on proper planting and care. For more on Chestnut Hill Outdoors products and how to care for them, visit ChestnutHillOutdoors.com, or call (855) 386-7826.
Chestnut Hill is the best place for you to purchase your food plot and deer attractant plants because they offer a large selection, their plants are specifically bred to attract deer, and they offer customers different sized plants at different levels of growth.
For more information, please visit