A caring start
When selecting fruit varities, talk to your local nursery – they will be able to advise you on varieties to suit your soil and site. Remember that when you take delivery of your trees or bushes, the nursery has already invested a great deal of time in growing and caring for them. It should also be remembered that you are going to invest time and money in continuing that process, so ensure that the best possible care is taken of your new plants.
- If your plants are bare-rooted and you are not going to plant them immediately, make a trench in the ground and cover the roots with soil to protect them and stop them from drying out.
- Never leave bare-rooted trees or bushes open to the elements, even whilst they are waiting to be planted. Cover them over to prevent the roots drying out.
- If you have containerised plants ensure that they do not dry out but also ensure you do not over water.
Preparation is everything
When it comes to preparation for planting your new trees or bushes, it’s like meeting someone for the first time; you will never get the second chance to make that first impression!
- Grass and weeds should be removed from the site before planting, either by stripping or the use of a herbicide. Do not dig holes days in advance of planting, as they can fill with water, or dry out and give your plants the very worst start.
- Break the soil compaction in the planting hole, but do not add any organic material. This will only lead to a drainage sump, especially in clay or heavy soils. A slow release fertilizer incorporated into the soil back-fill on poor soils can help the plants establish.
- Remove any damaged branches or root growth with a clean cut before planting. Damaged roots and branches are entry points for disease.
- Small bushes and trees can be successfully established without staking or support. They should be planted around 1-2 inches (4-5 cm) deeper than the previous level in the soil or the pot. This will be easily identified by the old soil level around the plant. Spread the roots out in bare rooted plants in the planting hole, and ‘tease’ out the outside roots of a containerised one. Remember, don’t bury the graft union.
- Larger trees may need some support – a short stake of around 12 inches (30cm) can be used for the first 12-15 months after planting. The tree will need to sway a little in order to develop a strong root system.
The Devil is in the detail
After care is vital! So often bushes and trees are planted and left to survive …. if they can.
- With trees, an area of 3 feet (1m) in diameter should be kept grass and weed-free for the first 2-3 years minimum. Make sure your bushes are kept clear as well. This will prevent water and nutrient competition with your chosen planting.
- Ensure that you guard your trees if you are planting into an orchard that will have grazing livestock or where there is the possibility of rabbits.