The Q&A Archives: Fruit Tree Planting

Question: How do I plant a fruit tree?

Answer: Select a site with all day sunshine. Allow enough room between the planting site and buildings, trees, power lines or other obstructions for the tree to fill its space when full grown.

Tree size varies with different species and the rootstock that the tree is on. The nursery where you bought the tree can advise you as to how much space the tree will need when full grown. (the label might also include this information)

Fruit trees are tolerant of a fairly wide range of soil types, but the soil should be well-drained, with a minimum of 18 inches of soil above any ledge or hardpan.

Dig a hole wide enough to allow the root system to fit without roots wrapping around the edge of the hole in a circle. Dig the hole deep enough to allow the tree to be planted with the graft union two to three inches above ground. This planting depth is critical for trees on dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstocks. Your goal is to have the tree growing at the same soil level as it was in the nursery pot.

Trim off any broken or damaged roots before planting. Place the tree in the hole, and after making sure that the depth is correct, fill the hole with the soil you removed from the hole. It is helpful at this stage to have someone hold the tree straight while the hole is being filled. Pack the soil in the hole by gently stamping it with your feet. After the hole is filled, water the tree with two to five gallons of water, poured slowly enough so that the water doesn?t run off.

All newly planted fruit trees will benefit from being staked. This will result in a straighter tree with more growth. Staking is especially important for trees planted on a wind-blown site and for dwarf fruit trees. Consider a strong permanent stake for dwarf fruit trees.

After the tree has started to grow (in about two weeks) you can apply a nitrogen fertilizer. Apply one ounce of actual nitrogen in a 12-inch circle around the base of the tree, and make sure the tree is well-watered after fertilizing. All nitrogen fertilizer should be applied before mid-June. Late application of nitrogen can lead to late-season growth, and the tree may not harden off in time to withstand winter.

Watering the new tree is important to help get it started, especially in the first few weeks after planting. A good rule is to apply five gallons of water around the base of the tree every week of the growing season in which there is less than an inch of rainfall.

Best wishes with your new tree!

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