Starting a fruit and nut orchard for wildlife


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I planted 60+ trees on our new property in North West NC this summer and did so without much site prep. The pears, persimmons, and chestnuts were are strategically planted in areas I plan to bow hunt in the future but they are basically planted in and around regrowth from a 2 year old cut over. I put weed mats around some trees and sprayed the rest. It will take me a few years to figure out what surrounding native brush I need to remove and what can stay.

The rest of the areas I plan to turn into fruit and nut orchards are in brand new clear cuts. I'm planning to move all the tops and other trash myself or hire someone to do the work for me with a dozer. These orchards will all be used as a kill plot or a way to influence deer movement.

Since I'm starting from scratch, I want to do this right. I've learned just enough from this site, other sites, and books to be dangerous. I have a pretty good idea of what I think I want but would like to see what you all think.

There is a big (~14 acre) destination apple orchard along one of my property borders, at least I like to think of it as a destination orchard. Realistically it's a creek bottom loaded with wild apples and deer are using the area to feed and bed, I definitely have some work to do with regard to deer movement. The creek bottom runs the entire length of the only side of the property that provides access. I'm hoping to influence deer to bed deeper in the property so I can access areas to hunt more effectively.

I'd like to plant several nut and fruit orchards further from the border to intercept deer movement as the deer move from the clearcut regrowth that I'm hoping will be prime bedding cover in the next 3-5 years. The biggest question I have at the moment is what to plant for ground cover in the orchard.


I live a very long way from my property at the moment so anything that requires constant maintenance is pretty much out. I'm picturing these trees surrounded by white clover at some point in the future or at least a clover/annual rotation. I have an opportunity to lime a small plot or two this winter which will be required, current PH is 5.6 on the area I've tested. This will only be possible in areas I'm able to clear. I might be a little too ambitious to think this is even possible the few days I have on the property this winter.

Should I attempt a clover plot this spring (April or May) after liming in late December or try something else? I've thought about letting native plants like blackberry and pokeweed take over naturally but my fear is they and other plants might make it too hard to reclaim the land ~5 years form now when I move to the area and have everyday access.

Would putting lime on the soil and controlling future plots with annual herbicide application be better than planting something I can't maintain?

  • I want to plant tress now so they will draw deer 6-10 years from now.
  • I plan to lime as soon as the areas are cleared; just seems like a no brainer.
  • I want a "place holder" for the plots, not necessarily something I want to hunt over. The draw to animals is of less importance than something that will prep the plots for the future. I have no intention to deer hunt the land in 2017 or 2018.
  • I need to plant something that won't "require" any TLC. I understand clover needs herbicide application and or mowing to thrive but what happens if it gets neither?
  • I brought this topic up in September when I thought I might be able to plant this past fall and most recommended cereal rye, winter wheat, and red clover. Knowing the situation I'm in, is that still a better idea than clover? Can those be planted in the spring too?
Sorry so long winded, thank you for reading. I've learned a ton from members on this site and look forward to learning more.

Thank you!
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I'd still recommend clover and rye together. The rye will help keep the grass down and the clover provides nitrogen for the rye. The rye will provide some fawning cover as well. Replant the rye in midfall next year.
I would second the winter rye and clover but since you are wanting a perennial plot anyhow, go ahead and plant what ever type of white you choose with the rye. Plant next fall and go back once next year and mow about the time you would plant again. You will likely have rye seeds get sewn while you mow down the stalks and the clover should be pretty thick.

Both these plants do well on marginal type soils so do what you can for the next couple of years. Not a lot of maintenance needed either from a maintenance stand point.

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Can the rye be mowed with a weed trimmer if necessary? It can get pretty tall right?

If you only mowed once or twice a year, when would you mow?

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Yes rye an be mowed with a week trimmer. Actually it should be fairly easy going as you would want to mow after the rye has fully matured and dried down turning into straw. Whack it and leave it lay. You are adding large amounts of OM doing this and the best method for seed dispersal would be mowing but you have to do what you have to do. Planting rye between 80 and 100 pounds per acre should take care of the majority of weed pressure so you should end up with rye and a thick bed of clover with very little weed pressure. Hopefully the photo I attached will show this as it was an area with rye and med red clover taken when in August right before I mowed it off to begin my fall plot.


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I'll rake or use some sort of a drag but that's probably about it. Do you recommend 80-100 pounds without tillage or do a need to increase that amount when using hand tools? How much clover should I use per acre with the cereal rye?
I'll rake or use some sort of a drag but that's probably about it. Do you recommend 80-100 pounds without tillage or do a need to increase that amount when using hand tools? How much clover should I use per acre with the cereal rye?

If thrown out just before a rain where seeds get to the dirt they germ and will grow on concrete, the rye that is. 80 to 100 pounds per acre should do you well with the throw and mow as far as the rye goes. When talking about clovers it depends on what type of clover. Ladino I use 6 pounds per acre when I use med red I use around 12 per acre just as an example. When using the throw and mow I would up the rate about 10% for the clovers. Hope this helps.

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Have any of you ever tried imperial no plow from Whitetail Institute? I've read some pretty good reviews on mediocre soil. Would a product like this be beneficial to my soil at all?
Here lies the problem with a lot of buck on the bag stuff, they don’t tell you exactly what is in there. You would likely benefit not only your soil, but your wallet as well, making your own mixes. Seed can be purchased by the pound from many stores or online.

Just a word of caution for someone wanting a very low maintenance selection, I would shy away from brassicas, or at least turnips. The reason for this is if the bulbs do not get consumed, then the next spring they will get regrowth and bolt making seed heads. Then you will be putting out way to many turnip seeds for any mix. At least this is what happens to me so I have to go in the spring and terminate the crop, adding an extra step.

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When creating my own mix of cereal rye and clover, do I add the fertilizer recommended per acre for each product? I've been looking at Pennington's web site and they have pretty specific recommendations for fertilizing clover and rye.
Buckwheat is a good soil builder and may be an option if you are looking at building OM quicker. Just realize quicker is a relative term here and can still take years even when switched over to a complete no-till system.

As for the recommendations for rye and clover, when you have a soil test completed you should be telling the lab what you intend to grow as recommendations are based on what each plant “generally” needs. Here is a recommendation I can give for generic advice: 300 pounds of 13-13-13 per acre will give you approximately 39 pounds each per acre of N-P-K. That is sufficient for a quick fix before planting but I highly recommend getting a soil test and applying what the test calls for so as not to waste a bunch of cash.

Let’s go into this a little farther and talk specifically about your soil and low CEC. For a short season crop like we see with most fall food plots, 30-60 days till usable forage, we are not as worried about nutrient loss. For longer season crops like a perennial clover plot, I would spoon feed it and make two to three applications between spring and fall. For instance with clover I would add potash (K) at 20 pounds early spring, mid summer, and again just before fall. Clovers use lots of potash and if the plot is constantly being foraged by deer, those nutrients are leaving your soil and need to be replaced. N is not necessary with clover, clover is a legume and is able to grab N from the air and store it within the root system for use as needed by the plants. Additional N can cause the plant not to store additional nitrogen in the root system if available needs are met within the soils. P needs to be applied every once in a while.

When looking at how much in a mixed planting you have to account for each plant type and in a sense apply for each. But when we plant diverse plantings if we figure based on the most needy plant we generally will have enough to cover the rest of the plants adequately.

Hope this answers your questions.

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Your in depth explanation definitely helps. I had a soil test done in one of the areas I'm looking at back in July. I'll probably do another one after the plot is cleared this winter/spring. I sent the sample to Whitetail Institute (WI) and they were very specific on what my soil required based on two seed combinations (No plow and bow stand). At the time I had no idea what I wanted to plant so I picked two random products.

Soil test results:
PH 5.6
CEC 6.2
Organic Matter 8.4%
P 11ppm (Low)
K 72ppm (Low)
Ca 754ppm (Medium)
Mg 92ppm (Medium)

The recommendations from WI was to add 2500 pounds/acre of lime and some very specific fertilizer options based on Imperial no plow and bow stand.

I'll email WI and inquire about recommendations for a cereal rye and clover plot based on my report number.

My big concern now is getting ample amounts of lime into the plot locations. With a plan to plant cereal rye and clover, I'm assuming I won't need quite as much lime but even half the recommended amount is a lot when I'm looking at hiking it in or even using a 4 wheeler.
If I was looking for low maintenance fruit trees I would go with pear trees. My personal experience is they are tougher than apple trees.

Pears will still be a draw for deer and the wildlife group has some great options. If you take the time at planting time to properly water them in, weed mat, apply pea gravel, put some watersorb in the planting hole, and cage them they will have a chance. They will do better if can supplement water even a few times the first few years.
I've been eyeing pear trees from WG. I planted about 20 pears from nativ nurseries in October. Great looking trees but more/less a wild pear with small fruit.

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Any recommendations for cereal (winter) rye? I found it available from Pennington and Grandpa Ray so far. I'm guessing my local feed/seed will have a few ag brands.

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Does anyone have any experience with Grandpa Ray Outdoors? John is recommending a product he sells called inner sanctum. According to the site it's:

30% Spring Triticale

15% Alsike Clover

15% Frosty Berseem

15% Fixation Balansa

10% Med Red Clover

10% Bayou Kale

5% Ladino Clover

Interesting blend that's designed to grow in poor soil, shade and first time plots.

Thoughts on a blend like this?