How to plant a fruit tree in six easy steps
Planting fruit trees does not have to be complicated. Just follow these simple steps:
The way you plant a fruit tree will affect its growth, including how long it will take to produce fruit and how productive it will be. That is why it is important to plant trees properly and give them a good start in life.
When to plant fruit trees
The ideal time for planting bare root fruit trees is late autumn, when the trees are already dormant. This gives them have time to take root before winter arrives and will be better prepared for the next growing season. However, it is essential that the soil is not waterlogged or frozen.
An alternative is to plant fruit trees in early spring. Keep in mind that bare root trees should still be dormant (not yet budding) when they're planted in the spring. Fruit trees sold in pots can be planted all year round, except in winter when the ground is frozen.
In hot climates you can plant fruit trees all year round, except in the hottest summer months.
How to plant fruit trees
1. Preparation of the tree
Bare root fruit trees should be planted as quickly as possible after purchase. Soak the roots in water overnight before planting to hydrate them. Fruit trees sold in containers can be planted immediately after removing them from the pot.
2. Root trimming
Before planting a bare root fruit tree, trim the roots to a length of about 12 inches (30 cm), cut off diseased and damaged roots and renew older root wounds. When planting fruit trees that are growing in pots, check the roots for any bounding and prune the root system as necessary in order to free the roots and to avoid bounding in the future.
3. Digging the planting hole
Use a spade, shovel or spade fork to dig a planting hole that is twice as deep and twice as wide as the root system of the fruit tree. The planting hole should only be dug on the day of planting.
4. Planting the fruit tree
Place the tree in the planting hole and cover the root system with soil, shaking the tree gently to ensure that the roots are evenly distributed. The tree should be planted at the same depth as it was planted in the nursery or in a container, and the grafting point should be at least four inches (10 cm) above ground level. Tamp down the soil well to stabilize the tree and remove any air pockets.
5. Support for the tree and protection from wildlife
Although support is not necessary for all fruit trees at planting, it is beneficial for stabilizing the tree for its first couple of years, until it has rooted sufficiently, especially in windy areas. Fruit trees with dwarfing rootstocks in particular need permanent support.
Drive stakes into the edge of the planting hole to keep the tree stable until it has rooted sufficiently. 1 or 2 stakes are usually sufficient, tied with a loose knot to the trunk of the tree.
If domestic or wild animals have access to the fruit tree, tie a dense mesh around the stakes to prevent animals from biting or otherwise damaging the tree.
6. Watering and mulching
Water the tree thoroughly after planting and again the next day. Covering the soil around the planted tree with mulch is not necessary, but it will reduce the need for weeding. Mulch is particularly beneficial in hot climates where it prevents the soil from drying out quickly and also prevents erosion of the soil, keeping nutrients in place for the tree. Any organic material (compost, wood chips, hay, straw, bark) can be used as mulch.
Pruning fruit trees after planting
With autumn planting, wait until early spring to prune. Early spring pruning after planting will give your trees an initial growth boost and adjust the size of the crown to be better supported by the reduced root system. Leave 3 to 5 main branches on the tree and shorten them by 2/3 of their length.
Our fruit tree planting tips
• If you can't plant trees immediately after purchase, you can store them for a few days in a cool, dark cellar or garage with no light.
• Choose a suitable location for fruit trees with plenty of direct sun (at least 8 hours) and enough space. When choosing a fruit tree, look for varieties whose mature size will suit your space. For smaller gardens, fruit trees with dwarfing rootstocks are preferable.
• The tree can be labelled with the name of the variety and the year of planting for future reference.
Author: Daniel Weber