Determining the Planting Space
To find the number of trees per acre use the following methods:
For square or hedgerow plantings – Multiply the distance between the trees in the row by the distance between rows, then divide your answer into 43,560.
For triangle plantings – Multiply the distance between trees by itself, divide your answer into 43,560 and add 15%.
The Best Time to Plant
The best time to plant bare root trees is between December and April; timing will depend mostly on your soil conditions. It is not recommended that you plant your trees in frozen or water-saturated soils. If you are unable to plant early in the year, your trees must be placed temporarily in cold storage to delay bud break. However, it is important to plant your trees as soon as possible since they are using stored energy while in storage. (This energy would be better utilized in the orchard site rather than in storage.)
Preparing the Site
Your planting site should be ripped or back hoed and allowed to settle either by rainfall or irrigation prior to planting. However, do not incorporate too much green vegetation when working the soil. If weeds, pruning, or other organic materials are buried in planting sites, they will not decompose properly. Instead, this material will promote the formation of methane gas or “sewer gas,” which will kill the roots. (It frequently happens that trees will grow normally for a year or two until the roots grow deep, then the gas begins to kill the roots and the trees stall out.) If replanting in old holes, fumigation is recommended well ahead of planting time. Soil analysis is also a valuable process to determine preplant fertilization requirements and potential nematode or disease diagnosis.
Transporting & Caring for Trees (Before Planting)
When the nursery delivers your trees, they are in healthy condition and must be kept healthy. Trees should not be allowed to dry out or freeze. If the trees are to be planted within 48 hours, they may be stored inside a facility and covered with a tarp. Always keep trees moist and protected from freezing temperatures. Trees that are kept for more than a few days should be “healed in” in a well-drained location using moist light soil, wood shavings, sand or sawdust.
Do not heal in trees with redwood or cedar sawdust or rice hulls. If you are hauling the trees yourself, they must be protected from sun, wind and frost; cover the trees completely to protect them during transit. All orders are shipped bare root unless you request that your trees be boxed (an extra charge applies to boxed orders). Inspect and count trees immediately after delivery. If order or trees are boxed, open and inspect. Please call us right away if you discover a problem with your trees upon arrival. Trees should not be stored in boxes longer than 5 days without adding additional moisture around the roots. Boxed orders are not intended for long term storage.
Digging the Hole
Your soil should be dry enough to easily crumble. The holes should be dug just prior to planting to minimize sidewall glazing. Glazing can also occur when an auger is used. If glazing does occur, scarify the sides of the hole with a shovel. Shovel planting is by far the most desirable method of planting. Dig the hole only deep enough to accommodate the roots. Holes that are too deep may cause trees to settle too low after irrigation or rainfall.
Broken or damaged roots should be trimmed off. No additional pruning is recommended. Do not prune the roots to fit the hole; instead, dig the hole to fit the roots. Remember that the roots are important because they feed and support the rest of the tree. Always remove the tree label, it can girdle the tree. Backfill the hole with the most friable soil available, and avoid large clods. It’s essential not to use soil that may have been treated with a herbicide when backfilling around the roots. Be sure the bud union is well above the ground level and pointed southeast. It is also a good rule to plant the tree no deeper than it was grown in the nursery. We do not recommend the use of fertilizer or manure in the hole at planting time. Where prevailing winds are a problem, plant trees leaning slightly into the wind.
Tanking in the Roots
Most growers depend on winter rains to provide early moisture to the roots. However, it is very important to settle in the soil around the roots shortly after planting. A light irrigation or tanking with 2-4 gallons of water is advised. This will eliminate the air pockets around the roots. Subsequent irrigation should not be applied until after new growth has started; trees can be killed when too much water is applied. If the trees have settled after the first introduction of water, they should be pulled up immediately, rather than after they have started to grow. Then, re-tank with minimal water to settle soil around roots.
Protecting Young Trees
It is critical that some form of sunburn protection be applied immediately after planting. Our favorite is the use of a plastic-coated paper tree protector, which Fowler Nurseries now provides to growers at cost. Contact your Field Representative for more details. See page 5. Measuring about 18 inches high, the tree protector can be easily slipped over the tree after planting. It will help protect the young tree from sunburn, rodents and herbicide sprays. You may also paint the tree from ground level to top of trunk with a mixture of one part water and one part white interior latex paint. Remember to reapply as needed. Sunburn of trees at the top edge of the tree protector can occur. We advise painting newly-planted trees around the top of the protector.
The most important cultural practice fruit growers can perform is the art of proper training and pruning of trees. Training and pruning are necessary for healthy, productive trees. A tree’s first heading cut will determine the height of the limbs and the trunk. Most growers head their trees at 28 to 36 inches. Inspect each tree to determine if there are live buds in the area below the heading cut. Sometimes there are no buds in this area, especially on yearling trees; these buds may have already grown into branches. If the latter is true, leave two or three of these branches with two or more buds on them when pruning.
Fertilize trees only after they are growing well. Then use very small quantities of fertilizer.