realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: planting

It’s almost time…

People who work in garden centres know that plants sell best when they have flowers on. In the same way, customers often start thinking about planting fruit trees in spring, when days are warmer and the sap is rising. In the winter, people like to be warm and cosy. Fruit trees are different: they like to be handled when it is cold and all the leaves have come off.

Trees evolved their life cycle to survive harsh winter conditions. In winter, there is far less light for photosynthesis, and the low temperatures can easily freeze and kill the leaves. So in the winter months, the tree shuts down, shedding its leaves and virtually halting its uptake of water from the soil, because sap movement has come to a standstill. That’s why January, February and March are the best time to plant fruit trees.

So, if you’re thinking about planting a few trees, now is the time to order, ready for delivery from December to the end of March. It’s also important to avoid planting trees in grass and weeds. Young fruit trees must be given a chance to build up their root systems unhindered by grass encroachment. Always make sure that a square yard of soil around the trunk of the trees is completely free from grass or weeds.

Young fruit trees ready for delivery

Planting young fruit trees

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The critical points to get right to ensure that the trees to do well.

1) The soil is the tree’s home. Only the best will do. Use John Innes compost number 3 as a soil improver, if necessary. Ideal pH: 6.3- 6.8

2) Choose a spot in full sunlight.

3) Do not plant the tree on live roots of any other tree or on old orchard land.

4) Stay away from any type of hedge. The distance depends on the height of the hedge: for example if the hedge is 3 metres tall, plant the tree at least 3 metres from the hedge canopy.

5) Prepare the planting spot well before the tree’s arrival.

6) Moist soil is fine. Waterlogged soil is a no. Plant in a raised bed when in doubt.

7) The tree should be staked at all times from planting, right through its life. Use a 2”diameter, round, treated stake, 6 feet in length, treated against wood rot fungi.

8) First put the round stake upright in the ground, to a depth of 1’6”.

9) Then dig a decent-sized planting hole at spade depth. Approx. 1’6” diameter. Loosen the sub soil with a rigid tine fork. Keep the union of the tree above soil level.

10) Put the top soil in a wheelbarrow and mix it with some blood and bone meal and some garden compost or well rotted manure.

11) Always make sure crumbly soil is put back on top of the roots. Not big lumps of stiff clay. Firm the soil with your boot.

12) Tie the tree with a flexible adjustable tie. An old nylon stocking is perfect.

13) Put a rabbit guard on the trunk. If deer are a problem, use the appropriate guard.

14) Keep 1 square metre of soil around the trunk free from grass and weeds, during the growing season, from April to September during the next 4 years. Use a soil membrane from the garden centre. WITHOUT THIS, THE TREES WILL STRUGGLE. Grass is the worst enemy of young fruit trees.

15) Water your tree weekly during the growing season, above all from May to September. A full watering can for each tree. The first 3 years are decisive for healthy tree development.

16) Prevent aphids from damaging your trees. This applies in particular just before flowering time and soon after that. Any garden centre will stock what you will need for this. Use an approved organic method in order to save the ladybirds, lacewings and earwigs. These are excellent predators and the earwigs remove lots of caterpillars.

Critical Points to be followed to enable your trees to do well

Planning and preparation

1) The soil is the tree’s home. Only the best will do. Use John Innes compost number 3 as a soil improver, if necessary. Ideal pH 6.3-6.8

2) Choose a spot in full sunlight.

3) Do not plant the tree on the live roots of any other tree.

4) Stay away from any type of hedge. When planting several fruit trees, for every metre in height, calculate 1 metre’s planting distance from the other trees. For example, if the final height of the tree will be 3 metres, it should be at least 3 metres from any other tree.

5) Prepare the planting spot well before the tree’s arrival.

6) Moist soil is fine. Waterlogged soil is a no. If in doubt, plant the tree in a raised bed.

7) The tree should be staked at all times, from planting, right through its life. Use a 2” diameter, circular-section, treated stake, 6 feet in length.

Planting

8) First put the stake upright in the ground, to a depth of 1’6”.

9) Then dig a decent-size planting hole at spade depth. Loosen the sub soil with a rigid tine fork. Keep the union of the tree above soil level.

10) Put the top soil in a wheel barrow and mix it with blood and bone meal.

11) Always make sure crumbly soil is put back on top of the roots. Not big lumps of stiff clay. Firm the soil with your boot.

12) Tie the tree with a flexible adjustable tie. An old nylon stocking is perfect.

13) Put a rabbit guard onto the trunk.

Maintenance throughout the tree’s life

14) Keep 1 square metre of soil around the trunk free from grass and weeds, during the growing season, from April to September, in every year of the tree’s life.

15) Water your tree weekly during the growing season, above all from May to September. The first 3 years are decisive for healthy tree development.

16) Prevent aphids from damaging your trees. This applies in particular just before flowering time and soon after that. Any garden centre will stock what you will need for this.

Time to plant for best results

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

There is a lot of confusion around the topic about which is the best time to plant. Many people believe that March to May is the best time to plant. In fact in most cases it is the opposite! By far the best time to plant trees is in the period from early December to the middle of March. And in that period it is most important to choose the right moment to plant, soil wise and weather wise.  It is a mistake to delay the planting to the last moment. The weather  is very variable and unpredictable. The best way of doing it is to have the trees on site, from early January onwards. When you receive the trees, heel them in, near the house, in a trench 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep, cover the roots totally with soil, and leave them until that moment when weather and time are opportune for planting. These moments of ideal planting conditions may only last for a day. If the trees are on the site one can make use of these ideal opportunities , which occur spasmodically during the winter months.

Now, why is it so important to plant early? It is a mistake to think that when the trees are put in the soil they start to grow from that moment. Trees need time to adjust and closely associate with the soil, in order to rebuild the micro-feeding roots. This process can take as much as from 3 weeks to a month, depending on soil temperature. Without these roots being functional, the trees are totally dependent on the reserves stored in the thicker roots and in the woody parts of the tree above ground . Once those reserved are used up, the tree, if not planted early enough, starves, and will look miserable for the rest of the season.

Finally, don’t put big lumps of soil on top of the tree roots. Micro roots cannot grow in this. Instead, visit your garden centre, and buy some of the best tree planting compost such as John Innes compost number three. Cover all the roots with it, move the tree gently up and down to enable the crumbly soil to filter in between the roots, then secure the tree to the stake or the wire or the fence and make sure the union of the tree is 5 cm above the soil. Apply a mulch around the tree and water weekly with 5 litres of water once growth has begun around April time.