Monday, February 20, 2012

Grafted Fruit Tree Planting Part 2: Plant Your Tree!

Follow our three part photo essay on grafted fruit tree planting.
Part 2: Plant Your Tree!

Ensure your planting hole is large enough to accommodate the entire root system (photo).

Bare-Root Fruit trees should be planted back at the original soil level with the graft exposed well above soil level. A close examination of your tree’s trunk will indicate where the original soil level was. A color difference on the trunk is usually indicative of the original soil level (see photo).

For container grown trees, carefully remove the tree's root ball from its container, taking care not to break or damage the root ball.  Minimize touching the roots with bare hands as lotion and acids from your skin can cause damage. Place the tree in the center of the hole on firm ground so the root crown is level with the surrounding soil.  Check that your hole is deep enough for planting by placing a shovel handle level across the hole. The shovel handle level will indicate planting depth on the trunk (photo). Adjust planting hole depth as needed.

Backfill the hole with the soil you removed (original soil). Discard any grass and weeds from the soil. Do not add soil amendments.  Try to use pulverized soil like that of a gopher mound (photo).

As you continue to fill the hole, once again ensure the original planting depth is at soil level (photo).

Ensure the graft is exposed well above soil level (photo).

Do not pack the soil around the tree roots; instead use water to settle the soil into the voids of the hole. Do not place any kind of fertilizer tablets into the backfill. Do not use any kind of root stimulator or fertilizers in the hole with newly planted trees.
For optimum tree growth, watering with a sprinkler is best. The zone that needs to be watered is the same area the tree needs to expand its root system out into, the first growing season. This zone has a radius of many feet. If a temporary water basin is needed, make it as big as possible (photo).
Build the walls of the basin above the surrounding soil level (photo).

Using basin watering long term will affect the over all size, growth rate, and health of your tree. Roots only grow into moist soil, limiting that area greatly increases your chances for problems with tangled roots, limited growth, lower nutrient up take, poor anchorage (trees being blown over in strong wind) and stress. A stressed tree is more vulnerable to bugs and diseases. Do not depend on drip irrigation to water trees as it will not create a large enough wet spot in the ground to grow a satisfactory tree.
Look for our grafted fruit tree planting.  Part 3: Top Dress and Mulch!

Written by:
Stephen Sain
Staff Plant Physiologist

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