Planting new peach and apple trees - How to?

wolly6973(6B KS)June 18, 2014

Posted this on the tree forum since I did not see this forum, so I am re-posting over here.

I have some apple and peach trees coming to me from Stark Bros and I need some guidance on planting them. I have been researching and I am now somewhat confused!
I have the following varieties coming. Jon-A-Red Semi-Dwarf Apple, Candy Crisp Semi-Dwarf Apple, Burbank July Elberta Standard Peach, and Redhaven Standard Peach. These are all shipped bare-root.

They will all be planted in lawn area. My soil has quite a bit of clay (not red) and we got a lot of wind (Kansas).

So far from my research here are my plans...

1. Dig hole about 4 ft wide and just deep enough to cover all the roots.
2. Put tree in hole and fill back in with original soil compacting lightly with tamper.
3. Water well with low flow
4. Stake - I have some of the cheapo stake kits with garden hose, rope, and stakes. I also have some of the big metal stakes and a wide strap to tie in a figure 8 around them. Is one method preferred? I will only be staking for the first year.
5. Place 2-3" of mulch over dug up area making sure not to get too close to the base of the tree.

Are my plans solid or should I make some changes?

Any good advice or links for ongoing care of these guys? I am a complete fruit noob.

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tamper is not necessary. I worry about damaging roots in that process. I water heavily to settle the dirt. The surrounding earth will wick away the excess before it is an issue. (over watering a young tree can be an issue so check the dirt before watering or with a sprinkler system put that zone on low). I would rather the hole be too deep then too shallow. I do a 3' circle and mulch over all that I dug. I do a fence around it to protect from rabbits, pets, and kids. A bare root also is bare of leaves so I don't stake it. It will grow roots as fast as leaves. But if in a high wind area maybe a piece of twine to the cage with a little slack. Last thing. It probably has a lot of buds breaking on it. I would cut away the majority of live buds. Even if that leaves it pretty short. You can't afford to have the leaves ahead of the roots in this weather.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:47AM
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wolly6973(6B KS)

Thanks for the feedback so far guys!

Should I trim the roots?

Someone on the tree forum mentioned planting in pots in the shade for the summer and then transplanting in the fall to the ground. What do you guys think?

This post was edited by wolly6973 on Thu, Jun 19, 14 at 7:22

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 4:19PM
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wolly6973(6B KS)

Feedback on pots on the shade and root trimming anyone?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 9:36AM
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wolly6973(6B KS)

Trees are coming tomorrow, hopefully everything works out!

Going to dig some holes out in the heat tonight.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 5:01PM
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Hi Wolly6973 -

I probably would not trim the roots unless I saw a broken root in the bunch. Something that was damaged in shipping or unpacking. But otherwise, I would just leave as it and plant it.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:42AM
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A planting hole really depends on the soil. I have seen some soil so incredibly rich and friable that you literally dig a hole big enough for the root ball and drop it in.

For heavy clay, the digging out 4 feet is likely a good idea to get the initial soil loose for the growing roots to spread out.

Tamping works (to remove air pockets) [you can use the shovel handle] BUT since you dug out the hole to loosen the dirt why would you want to compress the soil back around the roots? It seems a better method is to shake the tree in th esoil filled hole back and forth slightly up and down (vibrate it) while filling the hole with water. This collapses any air pockets without compressing the soil.

As for depth, it is at worst as deep as the root flare. The rule is a couple of inches shy of the root flare height so the tree will settle in and NOT be below grade. A tree planted above grade is fine, below grade (too deep) will ultimately die from it.

Heavy clay means water retention, slow and wide water infiltration and long watering to get the water to penetrate down three feet as needed. If your area has problems with root rot you might consider raised bed planting. Do not water too frequently or anaerobic conditions will develop which will kill the tree.

I never stake trees. I especially see no need in heavy should hold. If you do, two wooden stakes planted outside the root ball, perpendicular to the prevailing winds at the time of planting. Measure about where you think the support should be applied and it should likely be LOOSELY tied about 2/3rds the way down from where you figured it should be tied. Just my experience. You want the lower trunk to not move but the greater part of the the upper to freely move. Lastly, after it is tied saw off the stakes a few inches above the ties; this prevents the tree from beating itself against the stakes. Tie the tree off with nursery tape or some other binding that will not cut into the trunk. The tree's roots should have grown out in 6-12 weeks and allow removal of the stakes but if you want you can leave them in until the tree goes dormant before removal. Just remember the longer the tree is staked the wimpier the trunk.

I like to soak bare roots in a garbage pail for at least 2 hours, overnight or up to 24 hours (what ever is convenient) right before planting to rehydrate the roots. Some nurseries do not think this is needed. I don't see how it hurts. I use Superthrive now to soak the trees as it appears to actually improve recovery which really surprised me.

Your local planting traditions apply: Test drainage? Orient the graft junction in a specific orientation? Paint the trees? Supplements? (I suspect this is a bad idea anywhere since trees must grow into areas without the supplementation eventually but I leave it to local wisdom generally provided...

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:14PM
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alan haigh

The reason it was suggested you put trees in pots and leave in shade was probably because of the extremely late shipment. Early spring would have given you almost a years head start over planting now. I'm speaking under the assumption these are bare root trees. Starks probably gave you a deal because they were desperate to unload them, I'm thinking.

Summer planted bare roots usually barely grow the first season, IME, but it is better to put them directly into the soil as long as you can keep them hydrated. They will establish some root this season and grow much better than if you put them in pots first.

Because of the late planting, I don't think I'd give them any fertilizer (mainly nitrogen) unless first leaves look very yellowish, in which case use something very quick- ammonium- nitrate quick. They won't be able to take up the nitrogen for a few weeks when they've grown some new fine roots and by then it's almost time to worry about the trees beginning the process of hardening off for winter. Probably best to wait until early spring to boost vigor with nitrogen. It is only the peaches I'm worried about in this regard (for now).

The soil needs to be kept moist during the entire summer- moist, not sopping wet. With such a late start the trees will be vulnerable to drought, even short ones. For the same reason mulch and absolute control of competing weeds, at least within 3' of trunks is practically mandatory.

I've never seen a shred of researched evidence that superthrive is beneficial, but we are all in love with our anecdotal experience, myself included. If such things are truly affective, they tend to be embraced in the world of commercial fruit production, where even a slight advantage can be the difference between success and failure for a grower. If one could increase production by the third year by even 3% by adding some kind of fairy dust they'd be all over it.

It is a lot more fun to make decisions based on your own "observations" of cause and affect than jumping on other people's testimonials is the way I see it. There are a lot of products sold to gardeners that don't actually work as advertised.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 9:25AM
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wolly6973(6B KS)

Got them in this weekend. As usual, I underestimated the effort it was going to take to dig 4 holes in the heat!

So far I have only watered them in with a slow drip from my hose.

I am curious why I shouldn't fertilize them? I have some tree starter/transplant fertilizer at 12-24-12 and I have not used it yet.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:05AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Fertilizer can burn the roots and kill the tree, I've seen it happen. But the main reason now is that you don't want to force the tree to grow too late into the fall. KS winters are bad enough without inviting damage.

Also give the soil at least one good soaking to settle air pockets and assure that the roots are touching soil.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Mon, Jun 23, 14 at 9:31

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:28AM
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On this forum there have been countless posts of harm caused by chemical fertilizer and very-very few where fertilizer was the answer to a problem. I have a late planted peach and pear. I too want to see progress. But it is slow going due to the heat. And by the way, You can harm them with water too. as long as the soil is damp 1.5" down you are good. Saturated soil will kill the roots. You can also dig further down wider out in your hole to check for soil dampness.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:39AM
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