Planting an apple tree

Fruit trees may be planted in the dormant season between November and March, as long as the weather is mild and the soil is workable, and the earlier they are planted, the better. If the trees arrive when conditions are not suitable, they should be temporarily planted in a a quickly prepared hole and the roots covered over with the soil so that they cannot dry out. If it's very frosty it may be better to place the trees, still packed, in a frost proof shed for a day for two, but the danger is that they will be forgotten and only discovered a fortnight later when that they have dehydrated. It often helps, before planting, to place the roots in water for an hour or two.

The planting hole should be wide enough to take the roots comfortably, and the depth of the hole should allow the union between the stock and the scion to be above soil level. It often helps if two people plant a tree, since one can hold it whilst the other adds the soil and firms it around the roots. The object here is to make sure the soil is very firmly packed around the root system, so you must not add compost or other organic material, or manure, or fertiliser around the tree at this time. After the soil has been added and stamped down, make sure that the ground around the stem is very slightly concave so that when it rains, moisture will run gently towards the stem and not away from it. This will also help when you are watering the tree, and my rule for doing this is to water most days for the first fortnight and then to leave it alone. It is also worthwhile to put some organic matter such as leaves or straw on top of the soil until the spring.

The tree may need staking. If so, the stake should be hammered into the bottom of the hole before the tree is planted. Do not drive a stake through the root system since damage will result. Also, when tying a tree to be a stake, bind the stem and the stake in a figure of eight, using strips of cloth or old nylons rather than string or twine. This will avoid damage to the bark.

After planting it is best to let a tree become well established and to grow for a while before attempting to feed it. Subsequent manuring must be based on the needs of the tree and this is determined by the type of fruit and how heavily it crops.

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