Planting Fruit Trees

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wpid-2014-05-05-10.19.04.png.pngThis past weekend we decided the weather was probably optimal to plant trees, so we quickly got busy plotting, evaluating, digging holes for each of the trees. The original plan was to place 5 trees in the backyard and one tree on the side yard, but after careful investigation we decided to place all 6 trees in the backyard.

While examining the edges, we decided to just extend the tree edge outward and at the current time leave the existing trees in place to serve as a support system for the new trees. Each tree was evaluated to determine how much daily sun and its tolerance to extreme temperatures were the primary considerations as we placed each tree into the design. All of these trees are suitable for USDA Zone 4, so we are expecting each to do well in the designated areas.

So let’s go through each step of planting these trees. We first identified an area about 1 foot larger than the planter pot and removed the grass or sod layer. We decided to transplant the sod to another area in our front yard. So we moved all the additional dirt along with the sod to the front yard as we dug each new hole.

We dug each hole approximately 6 to 12 inches deeper than the pot and then placed a 3-6 inch layer of cow manure. Then we back-filled with mushroom compost until the root ball was level with the surface, and filled in more mushroom compost around the edges of the root ball. The enriched compost and manure will feed the young trees and the size of the hole will allow the tree to quickly establish itself in the hard clay packed soil.

Then we added a thick layer of rich top soil and back-filled with dirt removed from the hole. These two layers will mix over time as the tree is watered allowing the clay to seep into the enriched top soil below and help prevent compacting of the roots.

The final step once each tree was back-filled to the surface was to provide a thick mulch layer around each of the trees while remembering to keep mulch away from the base of each tree trunk. This should prevent weeds from encroaching on the tree’s growth and will give the tree adequate area to spread its roots. Below are pictures for each of the steps mentioned above:

Cut Out Sod Layer
Cut out an area of sod about 12 inches larger than the pot.

Remove dirt, rock and roots
Remove dirt, rocks, and roots.

Removing dirt
Digging hole approximately 6 to 12 inches deeper than the pot is tall.

Placing tree into hole and backfilling
back-filling the hole with compost, top soil, and fill dirt from original hole.

Fill Dirt
This is the dirt removed from the hole, which is mostly clay with minimal biomass.

Backfilling the hole and watering
Completely back-filling the tree and saturating with water.

Mulching the area around the tree
Adding mulch around the base of the newly planted trees and keeping the base of the trunk clear of mulch.

Each new tree will be watered every couple of days for the first few weeks and then weekly thereafter. I have postponed pruning these trees until such time I am confident that this will not stunt their development. Since we have had several late frosts and even a few days of snow, I want to give these trees a few weeks to adjust before conducting their spring pruning.

As of the time of this writing I was hoping to be able to plant a pawpaw tree that we had ordered. Though the tree did arrive it was all but a little twig, so we decided to keep it in pots until such time we feel that it would survive being planted into the ground. This will give us time to see how the other trees will do and perhaps this pawpaw tree will replace one of our support trees.

It will be nice to head out back and harvest fresh fruit. This thought kept me going during the planting of each of these trees. Though it may be several years for any of these trees to produce fruit, we spent great care and planning for the success of each tree, and are looking forward to that day. We hope you have seen the level of effort that went into planting these trees, and hope that this article will encourage others to do the same.

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