An orchard ladder is a highly specialized ladder engineered for orchard work including pruning, tree training, and fruit harvesting. This type of ladder is not intended for use as an all purpose ladder, and, like other ladders, it needs to be properly maintained for safety. Garden supply stores and nurseries often carry orchard ladders or can order them by request, and several different styles are available.
Wood, metal, or plastic can be used to make an orchard ladder. While wood is traditional, plastics are sometimes preferred for durability and strength. In all cases, the rungs of the ladder are textured to reduce slippage. Most ladders are designed in a way which allows for new texturing as the ladder becomes worn with use.
Several concerns have to be addressed with the design of an orchard ladder. The first is worries about damage to the trees. The ladder has a narrowing design to address this, minimizing the area taken up by the ladder at the top to reduce the risk of damage. The second issue of concern is that the ground in orchards tends to be uneven. This instability makes a classic four legged ladder with struts which lock into place dangerous. The orchard ladder is designed to be positioned by hand for maximum safety, allowing people to precisely position the ladder to avoid gopher holes and other hazards.
The straight ladder style has just two legs, and is designed to be leaned against a supporting branch. When moving this type of orchard ladder into place, people should be sure to choose a sound branch for supporting the ladder. The tripod style has a third leg to create a tripod; tripods are very stable on uneven ground. Even with a third leg, however, the ladder can still be tippy. People are often encouraged to shake the ladder once they have it in place or to jump onto the second step to make sure that the ladder isn't positioned over a soft spot or hole.
An orchard ladder is usually designed for use by a single person. As with other ladders, the top of the ladder should not be used as a step. People should also be careful with tools. Tools should not be left on the ladder, as they may fall and hurt someone, and they should be carried with the sharp ends facing away when someone is climbing a ladder, in case of a fall.