Looking to add a fruit tree to your yard? Here are some tips for preparing the site and staking your new specimen so it will thrive in its new home.
Unless fruit trees have been supplied in containers, plant them between midfall and early spring, the earlier the better. In cold climates plant only in early spring.
Trees in containers can be planted at any time the ground can be dug, as long as the roots are established. Do not plant until the soil is in suitable condition. It must not be frozen or too wet. Ideally, a handful should hold together when squeezed but fall apart when dropped.
Preparing the hole
- On the day of planting, dig a hole wide enough to take the tree’s outspread roots and deep enough so that the top roots will be covered with eight to 10 centimetres (three to four inches) of soil.
- Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole with a fork so that the roots can penetrate as deeply as possible. Ideally, fruit trees should not be grown in heavy, waterlogged soils; but if you have no option, dig the hole one-third deeper than usual and work in a wheelbarrow load of sandy soil or coarse gravel when refilling. However, even this may not help if subsoil is impervious (hard pan).
- Check by filling the hole with water and timing how long it takes to drain away. If the water level sinks less than five centimetres (two inches) per hour (over the total depth of the hole), you should consider planting your fruit tree somewhere else.
- Place a stake (tall enough to reach the point where the stem begins to branch) as deeply and firmly in the centre of the hole as possible.
- Put 10 to 15 centimetres (four to six inches) of well-rotted (or dehydrated) manure or compost in the hole.
- Work this material around thoroughly so that the roots will not come into contact with large pieces.If the roots are dry, soak them in water for about two hours before planting.
- Cut out damaged roots with pruning shears, making a sloping cut.
- Trim off any stumps of deadwood on the top branches flush with the stem; cut back damaged tips. Plant the tree no deeper than it was in the nursery, as indicated by the soil mark around the stem. Count on having a helper. You may need someone to hold the tree.
- Fill in the topsoil first.
- Shake the tree from time to time to settle the soil around the roots. Once the roots are covered, firm the soil by treading.
- Add the rest of the soil, leaving it loose.
- Level the surface with a fork, and build a low mound around the excavation to prevent water from running off.
- Tie the tree to the stake.
Taking care of your new tree
- Do not grow grass around the tree for two or three years.
- After planting, the old soil mark should be just visible, and the union between scion and rootstock should be at least 10 centimetres (four inches) above soil level.
- In areas where rabbits or mice are a nuisance, protect the tree by encircling it with a plastic collar or wire netting to a height of 45 centimetres (18 inches).