Q. I am thinking of buying a few bare-root fruit trees for a backyard orchard. What should I look for, when and how should I plant them? — Charlene Hinshaw, Nipomo
A. Planting new, young fruit trees can bring rewards or disappointment. Rewards come from properly planting and caring for your trees. Here are a few helpful tips.
Although fruit trees may be planted any time, they are often planted during our winter months when many varieties of dormant bare-root trees are available. When possible, buy locally so you can inspect the trees. Select trees with a trunk diameter from ½ to 5/8 inch. These trees usually become established faster than smaller or larger planting stock. Select saplings whose roots are plump, moist, firm and radiate in an even pattern from the trunk. Pack the roots loosely in moist sawdust, burlap, shredded bark or similar material for transit and until planting. Planting within 48 hours after purchase is best. Don’t let the roots dry out.
Pick a sunny spot, at least six hours of full sun each day. When planting young trees, use the same native soil that was excavated from the planting hole. Excavate a hole no deeper than the root ball and twice as wide. Commercial soil amendments are generally not recommended since they may impede root adaptation to the native soil. Compost may be added but use it as a top dressing. Don’t put fertilizer in the hole since it can “burn” the tender roots.
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When properly planted the soil line on the trunk of the tree should be 1 to 2 inches above the level of the surrounding soil and the graft union should be 2 to 4 inches above the soil level. Place the graft union facing northeast to reduce chance of sunburn. The soil should slope away from the tree to drain away water, so preventing crown rot. To prevent sunburn, paint the trunk with a half-and-half solution of white interior latex paint and water. For the “hows” of hole digging and planting, please refer to Fruit Trees: Planting and Care of Young Trees, U.C. ANR publication 8048 or go to http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/.
May you enjoy the fruits of your labor.