Tuesday, April 14, 2009
OSU Extension Service
Plant fruit trees while it's still cool: Ask OSU Extension
by Timothy J. Malinich/Ohio State University Extension, Lorain County
Wednesday April 01, 2009, 12:44 PM
When planting a fruit tree, make the planting hole two to three times the size of the roots. For best results, add organic matter and high-phosphorus fertilizer to the backfill.
Q: What is the right way to plant a fruit tree?
A: The next few weeks are the prime time for putting in a new fruit tree. The weather is still cold, so the tops will grow slowly while the roots quickly tap into their new home. Most fruit tree transplants come bare root; there is no soil but the roots usually are wrapped in damp paper or peat moss. Prune off any broken roots. The roots can be soaked in water while the hole is dug.
The tree usually will need to be planted to the same depth it grew in the nursery (one can see the old soil line on the stem). Most transplants also will be grafted. The graft union resembles a knot, or knob, in the stem just above the soil line. The finished planting hole should be bowl-shaped, with the edges getting gradually shallower.
Measure the length of the roots. Dig the hole no deeper than the roots. It is tempting to dig a deep hole, but doing so could allow the tree to sink into the planting hole and end up being planted too deep. Make the hole two to three times wider than the spread of the roots on the transplant. Pile the soil next to the hole and add a bucket of compost or other organic matter to this pile. If planting in a yard, the sod can be chopped up and put in the pile. Also, add a handful of a high-phosphorus fertilizer, such as bone meal, to the backfill.
Have someone hold the tree in place. Do not bend the roots to fit the hole; dig the hole larger if needed. Gradually add the backfill, working it around and under the roots. If there is sod in the backfill, try to put it in the bottom of the hole so it doesn't sprout. Lightly firm the soil around the roots and leave a slight depression around the center to catch water. Make sure the graft union remains above the soil line. The finished planting will have a slight mound, but this will settle over time. A well-planted tree does not usually need to be staked. Plan on giving the tree a large bucket of water each week, especially during summer.
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