HOW TO PLANT
Trees are like children:
you get out of them what you put into them. The more you can help with water,
fertilizer and good conditions, the faster they will grow and the sooner they
will come into production.
Dig a hole the same size
as the pot or root ball. Do not add amendments to the soil such as mulch
or organic matter – this acts like a sponge and increases root rot and robs the
trees of nitrogen from the fertilizer (microbes breaking down the organic matter
use nitrogen in the process). If
planting in heavy clay soils, break up the ground under and around the
hole, so that the tree is not planted in a bath tub. Roots need
oxygen to be able to breathe. Un-pot the plant if the roots are
curled or wrapped up inside the pot, spread them out or cut off severely curled
roots. This will promote new root growth. Plant the tree at the same
level it was grown in the pot, not deeper. Fill in the hole around the
plant. Water in thoroughly, making sure there are no air pockets around
the roots – air pockets prevent roots from growing into the soil around it.
Mulch around the trunk on top of the ground with hay, bark or pine straw or use
Weed Mats to prevent weed competition.
WATERING NEW TREES
Water is the single most
important factor for tree survival. If
the year you plant is like the severe drought experienced by the Midwest
several summers ago, if you do not water your trees they will die.
Newly planted trees
planted in the spring should be watered regularly (2-4x/week) for the first 3-6
months, especially if rains are infrequent. Water thoroughly but do not
over-water; the soil should dry down slightly between watering. Irrigation from
lawn sprinklers is generally not sufficient until the plants are well
established. This is the most critical step in the establishment of your new
If you plant in the fall,
water in at planting, and then 1x/week until they lose their leaves and go
dormant with the onset of winter. Resume watering after leaf out in the spring.
Normally the East receives
rainfall from frontal rains during the spring and fall, and rain storms and
tropical storms in the summer. However, rainfall is not sufficient for
the needs of your trees, especially in sandy soils. There are often dry periods
during the fall and spring when it will not rain for weeks, which can hurt tree
growth, flowering or fruit production.
Despite seasonal rains,
watering is very important, especially during the year after planting. If
possible, drip irrigation systems are the most water efficient and should be
installed if at possible to insure survival and healthy growth. These are inexpensive,
easy to install, and available at most home-improvement or landscape supply
stores. They are insurance for your planting.
However, most food plots
do not have access to wells for irrigation. In this case it is very
important to haul water to the trees, such as with a tank mounted on your ATV
or truck. Tanks are inexpensive and
available at most farm supply stores in varying sizes. A 5 gallon bucket with a
1/32” hole drilled just above the bottom can be filled from the tank, and will
also catch rain.
In addition, we highly
recommend the use of Grow Tubes, which will recycle the transpiration moisture
given off of the leaves at night, and re-waters the tree this way, so you don't
have to take water to the trees as much.
It is important to provide
a balanced fertilizer such as Scotts Osmocote time release with minor elements.
Minors are very important because if they are not available in certain soils,
as they can be a limiting factor for plant growth. Your local extension service
will make recommendations along with the soil test. Strong rains can also leach
away much of the Nitrogen, which is highly soluable. Nitrogen is a key element
required for plant growth. Do not fertilize at planting. Quick-release lawn
or garden fertilizer can burn the tender roots of young trees before they
become established. We recommend waiting at least a month after the trees have
leafed out before fertilizing with a time-released fertilizer such as Scotts Osmocote
After applying the
fertilizer make sure you water your trees lightly for absorption.
Once the trees are
established, fertilize in early spring (Mar-April) when growth begins with a
time release fertilizer. DO NOT FERTILIZE IN THE FALL, which could promote late
season tender growth that can be damaged in early frosts.
Soil's acidity or alkalinity
is determined by pH. The best range for growing most fruit and flowering
trees is between 5.0 and 7.0. Soils in much of the South fall within this
range. Soils in pine woods are often lower (4.0-5.0) , and need to be
raised by the application of lime or dolomite (see your County Agent for a
soil test and recommended rates). Other areas (such as Texas) have
soils with pH>7, which will need to be acidified or lowered by the
application of nitrogen sulfate or other sulfur-based fertilizers.
It is important to keep grass
and weeds from competing with young trees - they are the biggest competitor for
young trees and steal water and fertilizer from the new plantings. Try to keep
a 2-3' circle clear of weeds from the base of the trunk. Mulch keeps the roots
cooler and helps moisture retention as well as keeps weed growth down. We
recommend Grow Tubes, because you can spray Roundup or other herbicides close
to the tree without hitting the stem. If you do not use Grow Tubes, be
very careful with herbicide, especially on young trees, because they can absorb
it directly through the bark. It only takes a few drops to kill the tree;
so apply only when there is no wind, use a colored dye mixed in the herbicide
so you can see it being applied and protect the trunk with a shield or hood on
the fertilizer wand.
Late spring freezes are a
problem in northern locations, especially after the plants have leafed
out. If your trees have already started to grow and you expect a late
freeze, then you should make every effort to protect them, such as using Grow
Tubes and other protective measures.Some areas even in Zone 5 can have killing frosts as late as Memorial
For fruit trees such as apples
or pears that leaf out early in the spring, painting the trunks with white
latex paint reflects heat and slows down the sap flow and potential freeze
damage from trees starting to push too soon after a warm winter afternoon.
Most plants including
chestnuts, apples, pears, oaks, blueberries and some grapes need more than one
variety to cross-pollinate and bear fruit. We will make sure that you receive
more than one variety when you order 2 or more of these types of trees.Plant no farther than 50’ apart for best
Pruning is usually necessary
only in the first several years to shape the tree to its appropriate form –
central leader, modified leader or open-vase (see pictures). Most nut trees
grow naturally with a straight trunk (central leader) with only a little
pruning required. Light annual pruning of dead wood or an out-of-place
branch helps older trees by rejuvenating growth and promoting better fruit
Some trees may require
annual pruning to produce the best fruit. With peaches, the top is cut at
planting to open up the center of the tree for light to get in for fruit
ripening. The branches grow out in a vase shape. New growth is cut back each
winter, to create a better crop with larger sized fruit. Fruit-thinning
may be necessary if the crop load is too high.
blackberries are pruned back after fruit harvest to grow vegetative shoots over
the summer that will bear next year’s fruit. Grape vines are pruned back to
main fruiting limbs during the winter to promote optimum production the next
Many gardeners are afraid
to prune, but you should not be. Learning to do a little pruning will greatly
benefit your trees and increase their productivity.
Grow Tubes are plastic
tubes that act as mini-greenhouses that enhance the growth and protection for
young trees. Grow Tubes are valuable planting aides, especially in
locations where there is less opportunity for care, such as forest or wildlife
plantings, or where there is browsing by deer, rabbits, and rodents and they
protect against deer rubbing their antlers on the trunks. Grow Tubes decrease
the need for watering (they recycle the moisture that breathes off the leaves
at night during respiration – part of the photosynthetic process of plant
growth), help with weed control (by protecting the tree from spray and drift
from herbicide) and offer cold protection in late season frosts. They can
dramatically increase growth rates, and one-year tublings often grow out of the
top of a 5’ tube in 1 season! The Grow Tube stays on until the tree
outgrows the tube, usually after 4-5 years.
DO NOT USE BLACK PLASTIC
DRAIN PIPE AS PROTECTION – THEY WILL NOT WORK AND WILL DAMAGE THE YOUNG TREE!
We recommend Grow Tubes in all wildlife
If you don't use Grow
Tubes deer will browse the tops of the young trees.If pressure is high it may be necessary to
build cages to protect your investment.The best cages are made with 2 metal T-posts driven in the ground in a 3’
diameter circle around the tree, and then 5-6’ heavy wire fencing is wrapped
around the T-posts and secured with Zip-ties.The Grow Tubes stay on the trees inside the cages to protect against
small animals and all of the other benefits.In areas with bear or lots of deer, a cage may be the only way to allow
your trees to grow.
If you are planting an orchard
or a large food plot, it will be much less expensive to use a 3-wire Electric
Fence to keep deer out of your planting. Dr. James Kroll has determined the best system that provides 99%
exclusion. This is much cheaper and
easier to install than building dozens or hundreds of cages, and much less
expensive than 8’ metal fencing. You should still use Grow Tubes for the trees. For
more information on the best system to keep deer out of a large planting, click
Complete planting instructions can be downloaded by clicking:
FALL PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS
SPRING PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS