How to Plant a Fruit Tree

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To plant a fruit tree, dig a hole twice the width and depth of the root ball. Place the fruit tree in the ground and refill the hole with organic matter and compost. 

For apples, plums, apricots, cherries, mangoes, and more, planting fruit trees is a very simple task and one that should be no problem for a beginner gardener. There are a few things to consider, please read on.

Soils:

Depending on the type of soil will depend on how you should manage the planting. If you have clay soil you can’t just dig a hole and stick a tree in it, and if you have sandy soil you’ll need to use a different strategy again. While planting methods may vary, the soil amendments will be relatively the same. If you don’t know what type of soil you have, watch this video:

Sandy Soil Method 1:

  1. Dig a hole 3x as deep and wide as the root ball.
  2. Remove or loosen the tree from the pot, ready for planting
  3. Fill the hole ⅔ with broken sticks, wood chips, leaves, high-quality compost, and other organic materials. This will help retain moisture, allowing the tree to drink instead of it draining away too quickly.
  4. Plant the tree to the depth of the root ball.
  5. Backfill with native soil mixed with compost.
  6. Water thoroughly and then heavily mulch!

Sandy Soil Method 2:

  1. Dig a pit next to where you intend to plant the tree (see diagram below).
  2. Prepare the pit with either the plastic pipe, or the mulch tube/bag.
  3. Dig hole for the tree 2x as deep and wide, and repeat steps 2 – 6 from Method 1.

Clay Soil

  1. Dig the hole 3x wider than the root ball
  2. Dig the hole the depth of the root ball, and score the sides to break up the hard clay edges of the hole. This will allow easier root penetration and tree establishment.
  3. Remove or loosen the tree from the pot, ready for planting.
  4. ⅔ fill the hole with gravel, leaves, a few handfuls of good compost or worm castings, and sticks (hugelkultur style) and place the root ball on top. This will allow
  5. space beneath the tree to keep separation from water. If the root ball sits in water the roots will rot and the tree will die. The organic material will help to break down the clay over time.
  6. Backfill the space around the root ball with existing soil that’s been amended with quality compost. You may choose to add emulsified fish or compost tea at this time also. Ensure the root ball is completely covered by the soil. The tree will be “mounded” above the natural ground level. Don’t worry. It will settle over time!
  7. Support stakes will be useful in helping to stabilise the tree while the roots establish into the soil. Do not leave tree supports for more than 1 year!
  8. Water the tree and then heavily mulch. You’ll want to mulch twice per season. Over time the mulch will increase soil health and break down the clay, producing a healthier living environment for your tree.

If you’d like to test the porosity of your soil, dig a hole 12 inches wide and about 12 inches deep. Fill it with water and see how long it takes to drain. The water should drain within 30 minutes. Too fast or too slow are problematic soils.

Planting perennials, such as fruit trees, is a little work up front but you get years of fruit in return! Making sure you know what type of soil you have is important before planting a tree, so you can modify it as needed. You’ll want to make sure you understand the amount of water your fruit tree needs and water appropriately (not too much, and not too little). Even in winter when the trees may be dormant you’ll need to water them. Be sure to reapply mulch in early spring, as well as compost/compost tea / or natural fertilizers (such as blood meal and bone meal). Stop fertilizing trees in late summer so the tree isn’t putting too much energy into growing and can rest for the winter (the trees off-season). You may want to check out the diagrams here to understand how to plant a support guild! Happy planting!

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