Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Planting a fruit tree or bush

Alright friends, so maybe you've decided to put in a fruit tree. What a great idea!

Before you go off and buy the first fruit tree that you see, make sure you think about what fruit trees other people in your area have and are successful with. For example, here under the Wasatch Mountains, I'm not going to have any success with a mango tree or an avocado tree.

I don't like avocados anyway.

But peach, pear, apricot, cherry, plum, apple-- these will all do well in these parts.

So step one is to find a good tree. First off, if you are a cost cutter like my family is, you will likely buy a bare-root tree. You could get a tree with roots, dirt pack and all covered with a canvas bag, but that's just not necessary. I'm going to assume you are going to go with a bare-root tree.

Now, a tree is good if it has healthy roots and some new growth. Healthy roots are not brittle, are moist, and will have small, hairy bits growing off of the bigger roots. If you are going to have the seller deliver, be sure that they are going to keep the roots nice and moist during delivery of the tree. If you are going to take the tree, bring along a black trash bag with wet dirt in it. You will stick the trees roots in the bag to protect them somewhat. 

However, understand that you need to get that tree in the ground fast. Without regular dirt and its nutrients and moisture, those roots are going to be exposed to all of the elements and they will start dying fast. So, while you are digging and preparing the hole, be sure to keep the roots moist and in the shade or in the bag. 

The hole comes next. This is where your artistic nature comes into play and memories of building sandcastles will flood your mind. So think about depth first. The hole should be deep to the point that when the tree is placed in it, the crown, which is where the roots all branch down from the trunk, is a couple inches above ground. Why? Because the tree is going to settle naturally and you don't want the trunk flare to go too deeply underground. What is the trunk flare? The spot right above the crown.

Next you need to help those roots start out right. So since you are planting a bare-root tree, you need to give those roots support. Which means you need to build a mound of dirt in the center of the hole. When you place your tree in the hole, the roots need to be gently spread all around this mound. Thus, the mound you build will be inside the root system. The mound should be nice and packed so that the tree will be held firmly, but it does not need to be rock hard. Some settling is allowable.

Now that you have finished the hole and the supportive mound, get that tree in there! As you replace the soil, you can add some nice fertilizer to help the roots find their way into a firm home. A good fertilizer is Mycorrhizal Fungi, which you can find at Then, with the dirt all replaced, tamp it down tight and water. The next day, pack it down again to make sure your tree is not going to fall down. 

Feel free to water again, but then leave the tree for a few days. This will wake roots up and get them working to find water. Also, make sure that water is not going to pool too long in the area around the base of the tree, as that will sometimes cause the tree to weaken and fall.

Finally, keep an eye on the tree and be confident that nature will take its course and your tree will flourish. 

These same principles apply to planting bushes. Remember: 
  • A nice deep hole.
  • A mound to spread the roots out on.
  • Fertilizer to get things started. 
  • Strategic watering. 
  • Trust in nature. 
And that's it for today. Remember to share this site with your gardening friends. I would also love to have you comment with questions, links to other helpful gardening sites, and any other thoughts you might have. 

See you tomorrow, when I will discuss the chickens a little more in depth. 

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