University of Maryland Extension

Establishment and Management

Aronia tolerates a variety of soils and pH’s, however to optimize growth a soil test should be performed before plants and soil should be amended following the recommendations for fruit trees. The plants should be placed in full sun.

When planting, consider how the fruit will be harvested and what quality of fruit you want. If there are no plans for mechanical harvesting, the Aronia plants should be planted at a spacing of no less than 4 feet on center or greater to improve canopy light penetration in mature plants. Maximizing sunlight interception may improve sugar content in fruit.

At Wye REC, the original Aronia orchard plot was planted at a spacing of 3 feet on center. This spacing has become very tight since planting. Light penetration is low and picking fruit is difficult. However, this is the spacing that is recommended if using a side-row harvester. Two other orchard plots were planted in 2010 and 2011 at spacings of 4 and 7 feet on center.

Mulching is a concern for Aronia growers and there are many options. At Wye REC, we used 3 foot-wide nursery fabric and planted down the center. Holes were made in the plastic and should be large enough so the black plastic does touch the plant so as to not burn the young stems during hot and sunny summer months. The distance between the holes is dependent on the planting density you wish to have.

Other mulch options may be composted organic matter or wood mulch. However, the use of wood mulch will require supplemental nitrogen. This is to overcome bacterial competition for nitrogen in the soil due to the increase of carbon from the mulch. Between rows can be managed several ways, but should be planted with some vegetation to reduce erosion. Grass is one low management option, but some Aronia growers are using legumes like alfalfa or clover between rows. Blister beetles are known to feed on alfalfa flowers. Certain pests can be harbored by the plants one chooses to maintain in between rows. Consider doing some research before making that choice.  Weed managment is a concern.  There are no pre-emergent herbicides labeled for Aronia at this time. 

Irrigation through drip is a good method for improving initial survival and establishment, especially during the first two growing seasons. The amount and method of irrigation to apply will depend on your soils. In sandy soils, irrigation should be applied several times during an irrigation day for durations of 15 minutes to 30 minutes. In clay soils, a single application or two applications at 15 to 30 minutes will suffice.

Organic nitrogen fertility studies at the Wye Research orchard have shown that after three years, fruit yield was influenced by high rates (above ¼ oz nitrogen per plant) in the new orchard plots. However, soluble sugar and phytochecmial content was unaffected by these high nitrogen rates. Other studies have shown that high nitrogen increases yield but lowers anthocyanin content in the fruit.

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