The Q&A Archives: Fruit Tree Planting

Question: Can I plant fruit trees in my lawn? I'd like to plant two apple trees, two sweet cherry, or persimmon trees. When do I need to dig the holes? Do I need to do anything to prepare the site? I bought a house on a pretty new subdivision. The soil is clay, drainage is slow.

Answer: The problem with planting in the lawn, is that the fruit trees and the grass will have different water requirements. Lawns are generally irrigated with sprinklers for a short time, and the water doesn't penetrate very deeply. Tree roots can sometimes stay at the top of the soil, where the water is. Fruit trees need to be watered slowly and deeply, out past the root zone. Be sure to water the trees slowly to leach any accumulated salts from fertilizers past the root zone. Since you have clay soil, it will retain water longer, so be sure the tree roots are not soaked all the time, as roots need oxygen also. I've included info on planting trees below.

Research shows that trees develop shallow, spreading root systems in the top two feet of soil and have few deep or ?tap? roots. Till or loosen an area of soil that is five times as wide and only as deep as the tree?s root ball (or container size). Starting with a wide section of aerated soil provides roots with oxygen and allows them to spread easily.

In the center of this area, dig a planting hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and no deeper. The top of the root ball should be level with the ground?or just slightly above to allow for sinkage.

Do not amend the backfill with organic matter. In over 30 studies on trees, no advantage was found to incorporating amendments into the backfill. Ensure that the tree is securely upright but do not heavily tamp or pack the backfill, which compacts soil and impedes water and oxygen flow.

Form a circular berm, or rim, to make a water well on the outside of the root ball. The goal is to keep water away from the trunk to discourage disease.

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