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.