“When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people.”
This Chinese proverb blends very well with both my personal and professional mindset. It summarizes this website’s goals very well. I have been teaching for several year’s, have already planted this years corn, and now we will talk about planting fruit trees.
I have wanted to have a couple fruit trees for some time, but life has kept me away from actually doing it, I have moved around quite a lot, both during my divorce, my recovery from that failed experiment, courting and marrying my Genny. During all this moving, I had this house, but I kept it rented, and never quite had the time or energy to drive down and plant some trees.
This spring would be my year for trees, I decided that when Genny and I decided to move from a Nashville apartment to a Dickson subdivision. She and I discussed what trees we wanted, I wanted some apples, she wanted pears, and we decided on apples, pears, and plums.
To get fruit from your trees, they need to be pollinated, and that means at least two breeds of fruit per species of tree. So that means we would need 6 trees if we wanted fruit from our 3 types of trees.
Our lot is small, and less than an area, its also hilly, has trees already, and the best spot in the front yard happens to be where out septic tank was buried. I also worried about the height of the trees, both for management and pruning, but also because of our overhead power lines. Because of these issues, we settled on semi-dwarf trees. These are full sized trees grafted to a root semi-dwarf root that keeps the trees from their full growth potential. These will grow to 15 to 18 feet high, and can be spaced closer together to make my small orchard have a smaller footprint in my yard.
On deciding on semi-dwarf, I was able to find a nursery that was able to recommend tree varieties based upon my growing region, this nursery also sells 2-N-1 trees, in which 2 varieties of the same fruit type is grafted on a single rootstock. This is great as the tree grows two types of fruit so I only need one tree for pollination. This cuts our needs to only 3 trees. We settled on 4 and bought:
- 2-N-1 Plum Semi Dwarf
- Shiro Japanese
- Redheart Plums
- 2-N-1 Pear Semi-Dwarf
- 2-N-1 Classic Pie Apple Semi-Dwarf
- Granny Smith
- Arkansas Black
- 2-N-1 Antique Apple Semi Dwarf
- Heritage Delicious
- Heritage Golden Delicious
Stark Brothers was the nursery if your wondering, and the prices were pretty good, This was my first order with them, and I don’t have any complaints. At the same time we bought 12 Kiowa blackberry plants (which will be the subject of another post) and a potted orange tree to keep inside.
I wish I had done this years ago, as it will take 2 to 4 years until I start to get some fruit, but I have heard I can expect 6-10 bushels of fruit per tree (48 pounds a bushel). This means in the coming years I will make a tub grinder and a homemade press to make a lot of apple juice.
I wonder what I can make with dried fruit bits left over from making juice?….
Before I get lost in more plans, let me tell you how I planted my trees.
- Dig a hole at least wide enough for the roots of your tree so that none of them are bent. Make it deep enough for the tree’s roots to be completely covered. A wider hole is better. I have been told dig a ten dollar hole for a one dollar tree.
- Chip away at the sides of your hole to break any compacted soil – this will make it easier for your tree’s roots to grow beyond the initial hole.
- Use at least a five or six foot garden stake hammered about two feet into the bottom of the hole a little off center on the southern side, if possible. (mine came with stakes)
- Make a mound of soil a few inches high in the bottom of the hole from some you dug out. You want the root ball to sit in the middle of the hole so that the roots can grow in the loose soil.
- Carefully place your fruit tree in to the hole, centered on the mound and spreading its roots. The tree has a “graft union” (sometimes called a “bud union”) visible which is where the root stock is grafted to the trunk. Make sure it is above the existing ground level. It’s better to plant a little high than low since trees often settle, and the grafted tree will root if the union is under the soil.
- If the bearing portion of tree roots, then you will have a full sized tree and not a semi-dwarf.
- Amending the soil with nutrients may be necessary; however it is better not to over-amend since doing so will create an artificial environment for the tree that in the long run will stunt growth.
- Carefully covering over just the roots. Gently pat down the soil a little and then water to help the soil settle around the roots.
- Continue adding another layer of soil, repeating the process of patting it down slightly and watering to help the soil settle and fill in any air holes. Fill in up to the original ground level.
- Use any leftover soil to build a raised circle around the tree to keep water in. Ideally build the circle about four feet in diameter. Placing organic material such as leaves, mulch or bark inside the circle can help protect the trees roots and help water retention.