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Permalink Can I grow an orchard on north-facing slope?

Answer: The University of Wisconsin has written about this in the publication Planning and Establishing a Commercial Apple Orchard in Wisconsin. That publication states:

"The exposure of the slope is also important. South-facing slopes experience more temperature fluctuation during the winter than north-facing slopes. Winter injury to tree trunks can be caused when sunlight reflecting off of snow causes trunks to warm and to lose hardiness. Bright sunny days followed by bitter cold nights can injure trunks that have lost hardiness. With the low angle of the winter sun, north-facing slopes receive less sunlight."

In other words, a north slope is actually preferable. This is true for pears, apples, peaches, and cherries. There is even a type of damage to fruit trees dubbed "Southwest injury" because of the phenomenon described above.

Additionally, all other things being equal, the soils on north-facing slopes have higher average proportions of organic matter. That is simply because the heat favors the bacteria that breakdown organic matter. This can be a very important factor in areas where soil organic matter is at a premium.

For the University of Wisconsin publication referenced above, see http://orchard.uvm.edu/uvmapple/hort/AppleHortBasics/Readings/WI_orchard_guide.pdf.

For more information on orchard site selection, see the ATTRA publication Tree Fruits: Organic Production Overview, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=2.

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