Fall is the best time to plant fruit trees – planting in very late summer or early Fall gives the trees time to settle in before the winter cold sets in. Here’s how we got started with fruit trees on our homestead. Now, about four years later, our trees are loaded each year and we really enjoy a good Apple harvest!
One year, I got a call from the real estate office saying I had won a $100 gift certificate for one of the local nurseries. I was thrilled and began to think of the possibility of getting one or two fruit trees.
We went out and talked to the nursery and here is what I ended up bringing home. Two apple trees that ended up costing me a total of $40, because I used the $100 gift certificate.
The knowledgable fellow at the nursery suggested these trees – there are 4 different kind of apples on each tree. And the tree is hardy to this area (which is something that is important here where the Winters can get so cold).
Each branch is labelled as to the type of apple. Suffice it to say that if we treat these fruit trees well, we should have a good bounty of different apples.
So, in the Fall we got them planted. That hole in the above picture may not look very big or deep, but it is. It is easily 2 times the width and depth of the fruit tree itself. This is a very important step.
Prepare your hole well! You only get one chance at it – make sure you dig a deep and wide hole.
You can see that the natural soil here is clay, just by looking at the picture. It is much more difficult to garden with and so we are always amending it. Here is how to improve clay soil.
This picture above gives a better idea of just how deep that hole is. I have added lots of very well composted manure already. Then I set the tree in the hole and stand back. I am trying to determine whether I have
a) dug the hole deep enough
b) added a deep enough layer of manure
This is very important – you want the tree to sit at the same level as it was sitting in the pot.
The picture is a bit deceiving – don’t look at the top of the pot – look at the trunk of the fruit tree. It is at a good level here for planting.
I removed the fruit tree from the hole and put in 3 good handfuls of Bonemeal. You only get one chance to fortify the hole, make sure you do this before setting your tree in the ground.
I’ve taken the Apple tree out of the pot – can you see how rootbound it is? I never just plop plants in the hole like this, as usually the plant is rootbound. I like to either loosen up the rootball by prying it apart with my fingers or using a shovel, like I did with this Apple tree.
I score the rootball all the way around. What I want is for the roots to be free, it is OK to slice them with your shovel. This way, once planted the roots will begin to spread and grow.
Finally, in goes the fruit tree. I then backfill the hole with more well composted manure. This apple tree is already staked and we will leave the stakes in for at least a year.
After the backfilling, I make a “well” so that any water the tree gets will not run off. The nursery guy told me to water it when I first plant it. Then water it once a week if the weather is very hot. If there is some rain, water the tree once every two weeks.
Letting the tree roots dry out between watering will encourage it to send out feeder roots. It will become settled in faster and grow better.
The finishing step is to put a palmful of tree and shrub fertilizer around the base of the tree. Normally, we don’t use fertilizers of any kind here, except for the composted manure. With these trees, I was advised to use some and I think that is a good idea.
Hopefully these two Apple trees will contribute nicely to the other fruits we grow here, including Raspberries, Strawberries, Rhubarb and Saskatoon berries. It’s great that we don’t have to buy fruit at the Grocery Store! Consider planting a couple of fruit trees this year.