Monday, February 1, 2010

How to plant a fruit tree

Over the weekend I planted the 'Bergamy' perry pear maiden (1 year old) I bought at Day's Cottage last Thursday. It will take at least 15 years to get going fruitwise, but could live 350! 'Plant pears for your heirs', as the saying goes. Planting trees of any sort (even Laylandii?!) is very addictive, but there is much more to it than just digging a hole. A few things to remember with fruit trees:

1) Choose a site. Avoid anywhere that remains waterlogged for long periods or is really exposed.

2) Dig a big hole and fill it back up again with well rotted manure/good composted organic matter.

3) Don't plant the tree too deeply. As the soil settles the tree will sink leaving a bowl that may fill with water. If much of the trunk becomes buried the tree will struggle. It's best plant the tree quite shallowly and then mound the soil up to cover the roots.

4) Water in well.

5) Staking is important as it will prevent the tree from blowing over and give the roots a chance to establish. Recent thinking suggests that it is also beneficial to avoid securing the tree to firmly to a stake as some wobbling encourages the tree to establish a more sturdy root system at an earlier age. So basically, if you're on quite an exposed site then use a stake that's as big as your tree and attach it with a rubber tie quite high up on the tree. On less exposed sites (like mine) you can get away with a lower fastening.

6) Mulching is also a good idea to prevent weed competition. I used some cardboard pegged down that will slowly rot. Bark chips or breathable/biodegradable plastic are other alternatives.

7) Guards. Essential in some form for any new tree. Use a spiral or mesh guard for planting a tree in your garden to stop rabbits. If your field is going to be grazed then you need to think about something more substantial. For sheep you can probably get away with a 4ft metal mesh guard or similar. If you know there may be deer about this will need to be 6ft. For cattle or horses you need a mega post rail and wire construction that will look ridiculous compared to your stick like maiden but is very necessary.

8) Keep an eye on it! Most people make the mistake of planting the tree and thinking that's the job done. Aftercare is essential for success and the first year is when you are most likely to lose the tree. Lone trees in fields are also very tempting perching spots for raptors so it may be an idea to have a taller 'perching post' that will prevent unfortunate accidents!.

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