HOW TO PLANT & GROW

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 the hole twice as wide as but not deeper than the rootball.  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.

Remove the pot stake that came with the tree. If the tree appears stable staking is not needed (this is more likely to be the case for smaller trees). if staking is necessary, hold the trunk with one hand to find the height at which the unsupported top can stand up on its ow and will spring back to a vertical position if lightly flexed.

 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 trees!

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.

    

IRRIGATION

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.

FERTILIZATION

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 PH

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.

WEED CONTROL

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.

FREEZE PROTECTION

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 Day!

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.

POLLINATION

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 pollination.

PRUNING

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 production.

     

           Open vase pruning in peaches                          Central leader pruning in oaks

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.



Blueberries and 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 year.

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

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 plantings.

 

PROTECTION FROM BROWSING

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.Planting Dunstan Chestnuts with Dan Perez from Whitetail Properties

ELECTRIC FENCE

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 HERE.



Complete planting instructions can be downloaded by clicking:

FALL PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS

SPRING PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS