Posts Tagged ‘amendments’
The perfect garden, as we all know, was the Garden of Eden. In that garden were fruit trees. The fruit trees in our garden are a major part of the garden, adding beauty, shade and yes, fruit.
Since this is the perfect time of year to plant trees, shrubs and perennials, I thought I’d mention a little about planting fruit trees. I’ll be drawing on information I’ve gathered from my Master Gardening course, numerous online sites as well as my own experience. It’s all pretty basic but there are a few really important tips that might help insure success.
What Kind of Fruit to Grow?
Where you live determines what you’ll be able to grow. Different fruits have different requirements and so the zone you live in matters. A really good online zonal map can be found at:http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html (Just click on the map to zoom in).
Most fruits (except citrus) require a certain number of hours of freezing temperatures to bear. So be sure and check to see what zones the fruit you want to grow will tolerate.
Where Will You Plant ?
As homeowners we are pretty limited on where we can plant trees in our yard. Even though we may not have many choices, this is still a very important factor in the success of the tree. The size and quality of the fruit and the longevity of the tree depend on it.
Fruit trees need sun, lots and lots of it. That means full sun for most of the day. The more shade they’re in the more spindly they’ll grow and the less they’ll produce. They will be more vulnerable to disease and pests as well. So if you really want to grow your own fruit (and who doesn’t?) and the only spot you can plant your tree is shaded by a larger tree, unless it is a prized specimen tree, you might consider removing the larger tree. We did. We had a very large tree that shaded the whole south side of our front garden. We had it removed and in this area we now have 4 apricot trees and 2 aprium trees (an apricot/plum mix seen in the photo below).
It may be hard to part with an old established tree but ask yourself, “Does it give me beautiful, fragrant blooms in the spring?”, “Does it give me food to enjoy and share?”. Also, fruiting trees can increase the value of your property.
If you live where winters are a little harsh, say zone 6 and lower, you have to think about air drainage. Didn’t know that air drained? Cold air flows down and seeks the lowest level so if possible plant on a slope so that the cold air can drain off. Also, if you have a choice, plant on a northeast slope and the tree will stay dormant longer and won’t bloom too early and then get hit with a freeze, which means no peaches or apricots that year. So, there are some things to consider when deciding where to plant.
Choosing Your Tree or Trees
You can buy from a local nursery or from one of the online nurseries. I’ve done both and have been very happy with both.
Fruit trees come either potted or bare root (which means they are field grown and then dug up and packed in moist material and wrapped tightly to prevent drying out). The potted trees look better when you buy them but in my experience, they don’t do nearly as well as the bare root trees. Sometimes the potted ones have been grown in the pot too long and has become root-bound and that means heavy root pruning before planting. When the roots have been pruned the top also needs to be pruned to create balance. The cropped roots wouldn’t be able to sustain the top growth.
Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to fruit trees. The small-medium trees do so much better, have a better shape and began to bear fruit sooner. Ideally peaches, apricots, plums and cherries (pitted fruit) trees should be 2′ – 4′ with no branching. Any branches should be removed at planting. Pear and apple trees can be taller, 4′ – 6′, with no side branches.
Buying from reputable local or online nurseries is a good way to insure healthy stock and correct variety.
When You’re Ready to Plant
When you’re ready to plant your tree make sure the location you’ve selected has good water drainage to prevent the tree roots from becoming water logged, which will injure the tree in a short time.
Fruit tree roots tend to go deep so the top 26″ – 30″ of soil needs to be soil the roots can grow in, not hard pan clay for instance. Some time before planting you could dig out and amend the soil if you needed to. If roots can’t go deep they’ll remain shallow and be more vulnerable to severe cold and moisture and the tree won’t be as well anchored as it needs to be.
Most fruits prefer soil PH of 6.0-6.5. Again, soil can be amended, just do it a few weeks prior to planting.
Surprisingly, highly fertile soil does not make a good site for good production. Instead low-moderately fertile soil is better. If it’s too fertile you will get a lot of vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.
If your planting a potted tree then remove it from the pot carefully and inspect the roots. If the roots are growing in a circle then either try to untangle them or prunes some of them off. If you prune off very many then you’ll need to prune the top back as well before planting.
If you are planting a bare-root tree then remove all the packing material and examine the roots. Trim off any dead, broken or excessively long roots. Place the tree in warm (not hot) water, as deeply as possible, for 12 to 18 hours to rehydrate the tree and give it a better start.
Dig the hole just before planting. Dig only as deep as the tree needs to set. If it is a potted tree then plant to the depth it was in the pot. If it is a bare-root tree then plant it so that the graft union is about 2″ above the ground. You can find the graft union by examining the color and texture of the bark along the lower trunk. Make the hole wide enough for the roots to be spread out and not crowded. Set the tree in the hole and begin to fill with dirt, working it among the roots and tamping it down and watering as you go. DO NOT add fertilizers or soil amendments at this time as the roots will stay confined to that small area and won’t branch out as they need to. Finish filling the hole, making sure the soil is firmly tamped down to eliminate air pockets. Water slowly but thoroughly. Mulch well to prevent drying out and for weed control. Mulching also protects against the cold. Pull the mulch away from the trunk about 6″.
Pruning the Newly Planted Tree
Most fruit trees need to be pruned at planting. Since peaches and apples differ in the way they are pruned I’ve listed some sites to help you understand that process better. In general, apple and pear trees are pruned similarly and pitted fruits like peaches, cherries, plums and apricots are pruned similarly. Check out these sites for more information on the pruning process:For peaches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNytXvxWJIY For apples: http://www.weekendgardener.net/how-to/prune-apple-trees.htm General pruning guides: http://www.ftpf.org/pruningfactsheet.htm
Fertilizing the Tree
All fruit trees should be fertilized, beginning with the year they’re planted. The first year you should apply fertilizer about 3 weeks after planting, being careful not to get it too close to the trunk, which may cause burning. Remember though that you can over fertilize, causing too much vegetative production and reduce the amount and quality of the fruit.
This site provides some good information about fertilizinghttp://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07612.html
This is really just the bare facts of planting and growing fruiting trees but I hope it has been enough to get you started.
Below are pictures of some of our trees, all planted spring 2009, so they are 2 years old now.