I am lucky to have spent my summers in the countryside in Europe, so I have a bit of knowledge and a lot of love for trees, forest and of course fruit.
So five years ago I bought a small piece of land in the foothills of Cascades (1400 ft altitude).
The land was covered with 10 year old Douglas fir but there were a couple of large open areas. So I choose one of them to try to create an orchard in the woods. The problem is almost no fruit tree survives/grows. Here are some facts to understand my predicament:
On the plus side, the soil is 6ft deep well drained and very good (volcanic ash plus silt). The land is sloping south and west and there is plenty of sun. The poplars, alders, vine maples, maples, black cherries etc grow like crazy. The ground was covered with dead wood, ferns and brambles but I threw some grass seed around and now the grass grows 6 feet and stays green through the summer.
On the other hand, there are elks and deers passing through spring and fall and they do a bit of damage, even though I spray with stinky repellant found online. There are also a lot of hares and ants around (I don't see any damage though). The nights can be cold even in the summer and there are harsh changes from day to night. There is also 70" of rain mostly in the winter.
I planted a lot of fruit trees on this ~1acre open space and here are the results up to now:
Dead or dying: peach, nectarine, pears (asian and european), paw-paw, plums, apples, mulberries
Stagnating: cherry, quince,
Ok for now: Chestnuts, walnut, hazelnuts
Growing great: black locust, willow, goumi (even though one was eaten to the ground, the others are good!)
Any suggestions, ideas on what I can do to help the fruit trees survive?
I had fruit trees dying with no sign of leaves/branches being eaten by the deer. The pears/apples seem to get some disease - their leaves get dark spots.
What can I plant as ground cover to help?