Looking at planting an orchard or maybe just one or two fruit trees? Sometimes planting and taking care of fruit trees can feel daunting, but once they get established, it is easy to get into a care routine. The trick to being successful is starting them off right. Here are some simple steps to starting your fruit tree off right.
1. Dig the planting hole twice as wide as the root system.
Make sure the spot you choose is in a nice sunny spot because they need full sun. Dig the hole twice as wide as the root system and as deep as the root system. In the Pacific Northwest, we can get some layers of hard pan or clay, so be sure to break that up so that drainage is not a problem.
2. Mix in compost, native soil, and transplant fertilizer.
You want to mix in 50% compost and 50% native soil (the dirt you dug out to get the hole). You will also want to use Al’s Transplant Fertilizer which has Mycorrhiza. This will help kick start the tree’s growing process. Mycorrhiza works with the plant's roots and soil to make the plant more efficient in picking up water and other nutrients in the soil. Refer to the label for how much fertilizer to use and place the fertilizer in the hole around the roots. It is important that you place fertilizer around the root system. These nutrients are available for the root system of the new tree. Incorporating them at the time of planting makes them more quickly available to the tree.
3. Do not cover the bud union.
The bud union is where the root stock and fruiting section of the tree have been grafted together. This happens because some root systems are stronger and survive better when they are grafted onto those stronger root systems. You want the bud union to face northeast, which is away from the direction of the hot afternoon sun. That way it does not get sunburned. When refilling the hole, fill it without compacting the soil and drench the soil several times allowing it to settle. This eliminates any air pockets that might pop up. Add 2”-3” of mulch around the tree but do not to cover the bud union with dirt or mulch; you want that to stay above ground.
4. Add an irrigation system.
It is important that a growing tree establishes its roots. The best way to do this is to water consistently ensuring the water soaks all the way down and saturates the roots. Installing a soaker hose can assist with this step.
5. Support your tree with stakes.
Lastly, you will want to support your tree with stakes. The best way to do this is with two sturdy stakes. Since your tree is new and does not have an established root system, support needs to be established above ground. To secure your tree to the stakes, counterbalance but do not tie it too tightly. We suggest a chain tie. You will need two pieces of the same length. Loop the one tie to include the tree and one stake and then the other tie goes around the tree and the other stake. Make it look like a Venn diagram with the tree in the middle! Provide a little bit of wiggle room so it is not too tight for growth. Give the roots a minimum of a year to establish and then you can remove the stakes.
6. Watch for potential problems.
Be on the lookout for common problems in fruit trees. Here is an article on what to use and when to use sprays on your trees!