planting a peach tree organically

leira(6 MA)April 25, 2011

My neighbor just gave me a peach tree. It's about 4 feet tall. This is not a grafted tree.

How should I prepare and/or amend the planting hole? My soil is generally good to begin with, though quite rocky (shale) in the area where I intend to plant. I'm sure the soil is somewhat acidic, like most soils in the area.

I have aged rabbit manure available in large quantities. I also have shredded leaves, used coffee grounds, limestone, and some compost already in my possession (I'd hoped to put the compost on the vegetable garden, but I will re-purpose it if that makes more sense). I have a chipped-up brush pile which might make a good mulch once the tree is planted.

I have used Gardens Alive! fertilizers in the past for other things, and have been considering getting their "build up" formula for fruit trees. However, since the tree has already arrived (in a bucket, dug up from the neighbor's brother-in-law's yard), and the fertilizer hasn't, I wouldn't be able to put this at the bottom of the hole, and I'd need to side-dress after planting.

Can any of you wise folks advise me on how best to proceed? I have no experience with fruit trees.

Thanks!

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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi Leira,

Sounds like an exciting project, especially since I love peaches. (g) For some reason, I've been drawn to fruit trees this spring. I don't have room for one but I wish I did. I have no experience with fruit trees either. I think you have access to a lot of great material. I know there is a fruit forum on GW and an organic forum as well. Maybe you would find more help there? Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 3:30AM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

There are a few issues to think about before you plant this tree.

The first is that don't want to amend the soil in the planting hole too much so that it is a lot different in composition from the surrounding soil. It this happens, then the root system of the tree will not grow out into the surrounding soil as readily because all of the good stuff is in the planting hole. You essentially create a potted plant in this scenario.

When you plant a tree, you don't want to fertilize with anything high in nitrogen (like rabbit manure). That will encourage canopy growth without a root system to support it. For fruit trees, this can also encourage disease and attract pests. Your pH is probably not an issue because fruit trees like slightly acidic soil which is abundant here in New England. If anything, you may have to add some limestone to raise the pH if it's a little too low. The one thing that you have that I would suggest mixing with the dirt of the planting hole is the compost. It is usually high in both phosphorus and potassium which are both key for a healthy, growing root system and these two elements are essential for flowering plants. Just don't get too carried away with this because of the issue that I mentioned earlier about making the hole more inviting than the surrounding soil.

The second issue at hand here is the fact that this tree is not grafted. You are gambling with this situation. Fruit trees are grafted for several reasons. It controls their growth and eventual size, their cold hardiness, their bloom time and you know what cultivar of fruit you are going to be getting. If this tree was grown from seed then you don't know any of these things. You also don't know if this tree will fruit best with a pollinator nearby. You may have a new variety of peach that is the best-tasting ever or you may have a tree that's a read dud that hardly produces fruit and what little it does produce tastes horrible. You just don't know.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 7:41AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Ditto what Tree-oracle says. When I plant woody plants I do not amend the native soil. When the texture and nutrient level of the soil in the planting hole is different from the surrounding native soil, it can hold water and nutrients in a bowl. This can lead to poor drainage and discourage roots from growing naturally outward.

Perhaps you could check the Fruit & Orchards forum to see if there's anything special about fertilizing fruit trees. I never fertilize woody plants, usually mulch generously with compost, which will more slowly nourish soil and the plant. Compost tea might be a good idea though?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:27PM
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