My husband and I bought a house this fall, in the Great Lakes region, Z5b, and we're eager to put in an orchard as soon as possible (just for home/family use, not to sell). There's a great spot to the west of the house, just over an acre, that gets full sun, basically flat (though there's a steep slope just to the north down to a river) and is sheltered from prevailing winds by a windbreak of mature pines. Our soil is cobbly sandy loam. I watched The Permaculture Orchard with Stefan Sobkowiak, and it inspired me to try a permaculture orchard. The video gave me a lot of ideas for layout, but permaculture is very new to me, so I was hoping I could get some other people's ideas and opinions, to see if I'm anywhere near the right track! I reached out to our local extension office, but they guy who emailed me back was definitely approaching this from a commercial standpoint (talking a lot about spraying) and that's far from what we want. We're not too worried about high yields or perfect fruit - it's just for us and most of it will get canned or jammed.
We'd like to plant: chestnuts, hawthorn, standard apples, semi-dwarf apples, pears, cherries, hazelnuts, plums, elderberries, highbush blueberries and strawberries. We'll plant a cover crop of New Zealand white clover (and maybe lupines) for nitrogen, though as the trees get bigger, I'd like to try growing groundnuts too. Other plants we'd eventually want to incorporate include: comfrey, rhubarb, garlic, nannyberry and spicebush. Deer is a huge problem in our area, so we'll fence the whole thing in with an electrified slanted deer fence.
Since the trees we'd like to plant vary in height so much, my idea was to put the tallest trees to the north in rows that run N-S, but alternate species/cultivars so that there's some distance between the same ones. Hazelnut and elderberry could (I think) be planted near/under the taller trees. I've attached a preliminary layout that I mocked up, labeling two of the rows but the others are just more of the same. Right now I've allotted 25 feet between rows and 20 feet between large trees (hawthorn, apple, pear, cherry) within the rows. Total space is about 150' x 150', taking up only about half our space, which leaves us room if we want to add on down the road.
Anyway, I'd love to hear any thoughts, advice, tips, concerns, questions or words of
warning wisdom anyone has! Does this layout look ok? How could it be improved? Thanks!