I know that taking the time to plant your trees correctly is insurance that their optimum health and productivity is obtained. After deciding on the best planting site my next step is to find out each fruit tree’s particular needs to ensure compatibility. Considerations include; sunlight hours for fruit set, minimum space requirements, wind tolerance, soil type and water needs.
Having scoured the library, talked to locals and trawled the internet for information on what dwarf fruit trees will do well in my local area I have happily chosen half a dozen. I picked a supplier with a good reputation for providing healthy, bare-root, fruit trees well suited to our temperate region. The trees were ordered online and delivered in careful packing ensuring no damage in transport. The trees were kept in top condition by ‘heeling’, this means I planted them temporarily in damp soil in a protected area.
So now it is time to start planting!
I dug a hole as deep and as wide as the tree roots and mounded the soil up underneath to support the roots. This wide, shallow hole will encourage horizontal root growth. At the same time I placed the tree support in place, this ensures no roots are inadvertently damaged. The tree support becomes the guideline for the angle of the fruit tree. In this case because I will be creating vertical leaders with no lateral branches I wanted the stems to be as perpendicular as possible. This style of fruit espaliering is called Ballerina or Minarette. They grow upright and narrow as a pole with almost no side branches, typically 60-100 cm wide when mature. The fruiting spurs come directly off the main trunk on stubby little mini-branches.
The prevailing wind in Sydney is a light south west offshore breeze that blows from land to sea and my chosen location is a path running east west in a fairly protected location. However, by mid to late afternoon in summer, as the land rapidly cools often a north east convection current wind sweeps in from the sea. When planting grafted fruit trees the advice is to try to protect the graft wound by facing the curve of the graft towards the prevailing wind.
I placed the tree in the hole, making sure it is standing nice and straight. Dwarf fruit trees are grafted and as I carefully back filled I made sure the graft was 5 cm (2 inches) above the soil line. It is important to eliminate air pockets and ensure that the roots are in good contact with the soil. This can be achieved by puddling the tree roots with water. Filling part of the hole and letting it soak in, gently wiggling the tree and poking the mud with a stick to eliminate air bubbles. After the water has soaked in, filling the rest of the hole with the soil and tamping it using the palm of your hands, pressing down lightly.
I do not add compost or any other fertilizer at this stage. My soil is quality aged compost from a no dig garden bed and purchased organic soil mix, this will encourage the roots to spread out to search for food and build up a healthy root system. Thoroughly watering the planting hole and surrounding soil ensures moisture will not be robbed from my newly planted baby trees. I then applied a thin layer, only about 3cm deep, of pea straw mulch.
If you have any tips and tricks relating to fruit tree planting drop us a line we would love to hear from you.