Here is some basic information on planting and care during the initial phases of growth.
Fruit trees will look after themselves if you do the following things:
Photo courtesy Simon Sherlock/flickr.com
Set out the planting positions with tall bamboo canes, well before the trees arrive. Remove one square metre of grass sward for each tree position and remove this grass totally, away from the planting position. The reason is that the grass roots fiercely compete with the tree, and prevent the tree from establishing itself on the new site. Newly planted trees and grass are BAD companions!
Grass roots are very bad for the trees in the early years, when the trees need all the water available. Break up the topsoil and loosen the subsoil over 1 square metre for each tree. This is very important as tree roots hate stagnant water during the winter months. Keep this 1 square metre of soil free from weeds for the rest of the season and two years after that. The planting hole needs to be at least 2 feet in diameter and approximately 6 inches deep. Only put the best top soil on top of the roots. No subsoil. Loosen the subsoil with a rigid tine fork, before you plant the tree.
While the soil is reasonably dry, this is the best time to get the stakes in place near the planting positions. Once that is done, set a stake upright in the middle of each 1 square meter. The stake needs to be 2” in diameter, 1’6” in the ground and 4’6” feet above the ground. Total length 6 feet.
If you cannot plant the trees straight away, on arrival, do not let the roots dry out. Heel the trees into the soil, in a shallow trench 8” deep and 6” wide, for the time being. Protect the trees from rabbit damage. Do not plant when soil is frozen. Instead keep the trees in a cold, but frost-free shed or building.. Dampen the roots after 7 days. Before you plant the trees, it is recommended to put the roots in a bucket of water for 6 to 12 hours. This will invigorate root growth and restore the moisture content of the feeding roots. The pH of the soil needs to be between 6.3 and 6.8. Garden centres stock inexpensive pH meters.
When you plant the trees during November-April period (this year December-April), when the trees are dormant, plant them at the same depth as they were in the nursery. You will see the soil marks on the trees. Keep the union well above soil level, around 2 inches. Cover the tree roots with a 50/50 mixture of good quality multi-purpose compost and the soil from the planting hole. Do not put any artificial fertiliser in the planting hole. Firm the soil well, but do not stamp it tight. Tree roots need air as well as water. Plant the tree 3” away from the stake. Tie the tree to the stake with an adjustable tie. Please do not forget to adjust the tie each year, as the tree stem gets thicker. Do not strangle your tree.
Cover the entire square metre with 4” deep mulch of well rotted garden compost or old matured farm yard manure. It is very important you keep that area, as the trees begin to grow, free from grass and weeds. A soil membrane which lets through the rain, but stops the weeds and grass developing around the trunk of the tree, is a real help and a labour-saving investment. If you don’t bother to do this, the goodness goes to the weeds and not to the trees. Put a tall enough spiral guard around each tree trunk to avoid hare/rabbit damage . Adjust the guards every 6 months. Too tight a guard is a shelter for pests and disease to develop. Special guards are needed if lifestock has access to the tree crown.
To stop deer having a go at the young foliage, hang on an S hook a piece of strong smelling soap on each tree and replace it as soon as the scent has worn off. Replace the soap every 3 weeks. A 1” square piece is large enough.
During dry periods during the growing season, please make sure that the trees get extra water. Two full watering cans a week will keep them going. At all times ensure the ground is moist. Water is the life blood of the tree!!
Tree roots need lots of oxygen. This is often forgotten and applies at any time of the year. Tree roots standing in water literally suffocate and if this situation is not alleviated, it will cause the tree to die. IF DRAINAGE IS SUSPECT, ALWAYS PLANT YOUR FRUIT TREES ON A MOUND. The height of the mound needs to be at least 10 inches above soil level and 3 foot wide in diameter. Only use the best topsoil to construct the mound. Trees flooded during the spring/summer time, when the tree is full of foliage, are particularly sensitive.