How to plant your new tree

We are getting ready at the Scott Farm for our annual spring tree sale, May 4 & 5, from 9 – 3 both days.  Each year in early May we offer peach, plum, pear, cherry and apples trees along with lots of advice to customers that come to the farm. We usually have a few surprises, this year we’ll also have figs, beach plums, blueberries and rhubarb. We choose varieties that we know will grow well in our area. We sell most of the trees “bare root” and the shrubs are in pots.

When choosing a site to plant a new fruit tree, there are several important considerations. First, the soil; most fruit trees don’t do well in wet soils. If the hole you dig fills with water or your shovel makes a sucking sound as you dig it is too wet, find another dryer site. Next on the checklist: the site should get full sun for most, if not all of the day. Fruit trees grown in the shade of larger trees or buildings simply won’t be able to produce as many fruit buds. Although your new trees may be small now, be sure to leave enough space from driveways, buildings, walkways and the road. Most of the trees we sell are on semi-dwarf rootstock; we leave at least 16’ of space between trees.

When I am planting a new fruit tree I dig a hole only large enough to accommodate the roots. I seldom dig a hole larger than a five-gallon bucket. Whatever soil comes out of the hole is what goes back in; I don’t add compost or fertilizers. It has been found that if you enrich the soil in the hole the roots tend to stay put and become “pot-bound”. The roots need to spread out and grow to provide anchorage and nutrients for the tree. I spread the roots out as I fill in the hole taking care to work the soil in and around the roots. It is important that the “graft union” be 3 to 4 inches above the final level of the soil. The graft union is easy to find; start at the top of the root system and go a few to several inches up the trunk and you will come to a “bend”. That is where the cultivar or variety was grafted onto the rootstock. Once I have filled in the hole I firm the soil with my foot and then slowly, really slowly, water the tree. I usually water a couple times during the week for the first few weeks. After the tree has leafed out, I top-dress the soil with a fertilizer; something that has some nitrogen. It can be a manure tea, composted manure, a granular mix from the garden supply store, your choice. Never, never, never use the compressed fertilizer “stakes”. I also try to keep a two foot circle around the tree clear of weeds and grasses.

Take a look at our website to see the tress and plants we’ll have available for sale this year and we’ll post an article on taking care of your new trees in a few weeks.

Another Pruning and Grafting Workshop


On Sunday, April 14th, Scott Farm will host a pruning and grafting workshop for back yard fruit growers from 9 am – Noon.  Participants will receive instruction while pruning a variety of old and young fruit trees from 9 -11 and practice grafting apple trees from 11 -12.  This class will discuss caring for their trees, the proper tools to use and will give participants the knowledge, confidence and skills needed to work on their own fruit trees at home.  The fee is $40.00 and reservations are necessary. For more information, directions, and to reserve a space, call (802) 254-6868 or email

Waiting for Red Winged Black Birds by Zeke Goodband

It’s sugaring season in in Vermont  now.  The maple trees surrounding The
Scott Farm orchard have been tapped by our neighbors and the sugary steam
and smoke drifts from the sugar houses out over the orchard where Ben and
I have been pruning since November.
We have 6000 trees to prune with hand and pole saws.  We trim or remove
braches to allow more sunlight into the trees – more sunlight means
stronger fruit buds and more flavorful apples.  We also have to keep in
mind where ladders can be placed so that our harvest crew can climb to the
top of every tree and leave room for the tractor to crawl up and down the
rows, ferrying bins full of apples to the packing barn.
After about 40 years of pruning each winter, I don’t need to think about
which branches to cut.  In the time it takes to turn from one tree to the
next, I know exactly how I will shape that trees branches.  It gives my
mind free range to wander – will the sheep in my barn start lambing
tonight, Town Meeting business, a novel I’m reading – I get a lot of
thinking done.
This winter has been an especially good pruning/pondering season.  With a
new Executive Director at The Landmark Trust, we’ve been brainstorming
fresh ideas and directions for The Scott Farm.  While pruning this winter
I’ve been thinking about the new plantings going in this spring and
planning ahead for renovating the orchard with new varieties of fruit
trees over the next several years.  We’ve been reaching out to our
community and inviting them to the farm, and making plans for new
marketing and educational programs.
So, each morning when I walk out into the orchard, I now notice a little
more melted know, muddier roads and deeper ruts.  Just yesterday the geese
were flying overhead, but I’m still waiting to hear the harbinger of
spring:  the conk-la-ree of the red winged black birds.  When I hear them
I know we have to pick up the pace of pruning, as our time is almost
through.  Spring will be here soon and there will be no more winter day
dreaming.  It will soon be time to put away the saws and take out our
shovels – it’s time to plant the new trees!