2008-01-23 / Fields & Yields

Home & Garden Tips

Planting Fruit Trees
By Roosevelt McWilliams Extension Agent

It's been said before, but it still needs emphasizing. If you can't plant fruit plants when they arrive from the nursery, they need to be checked carefully for adequate moisture then stored properly until they can be planted in their permanent location.

When planting fruit trees you should prune back the tree top when you plant it. When trees are removed from the nursery, some of their roots are injured between digging in the nursery and eventual planting at your site.

As a result, the top of the tree has a smaller root system to provide it water and nutrients. So it is critical to prune back the top at planting to bring it into balance with its root.

If you plant an unbranched whip, prune it 24-30 inches from the ground, if it's a wellbranched tree, prune the main trunk back to a strong bud to stimulate new growth. Prune side limbs that can be retained as scaffold limbs. As a rule of thumb, prune off 30 percent of the length on the main leader and side limbs.

Improper fertilizing can damage newly planted trees. Don't put fertilizers in the planting hole or around the tree immediately after planting. Apply them at recommended rates after the soil has settled, following a drenching rain. Even then, don't place fertilizer closer than six inches from the tree trunks. Spread it evenly around the tree.

You should keep in mind that trees were pampered in the nursery. Trees undergo postplant shock as they adjust to their new environment. This adjustment is even harder if trees have to compete right away for moisture and nutrients.

Be sure to control weeds around the tree and water it well during the first season. People often fail to do these important tasks. Weeds or grass growing around trees compete for moisture as well as nutrients and will win out over the young tree.

Maintain a weed free three foot square area around the tree, and water every 10 days to two weeks until rainfall equals one inch per week.

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