Preparation for Planting Fruit Trees and Fruit Bushes

When preparing a site for planting fruit, remember that, except for strawberries, you should be thinking in terms of a useful life of at least twelve years. This applies for even the shortest lived plants, which are normally raspberries. Currant and gooseberry bushes can, if looked after, live for a good fifteen years and tree fruits for upwards of twenty.

With trees, in fact, forty years and more is quite possible, but you might run into the problem of their growing too big and there is always the likelihood that they will be neglected if this occurs. Added to that, old trees will usually need rather better looking after than those in the prime of life, Bearing this in mind, it is easy to appreciate that preparing the soil for planting is an important job; if anything is omitted at this stage, there is very little opportunity of putting it right after planting has taken place.


Preparing the Ground

As a general rule, if plants are to be closer than about 4ft (1.2m) apart, then it is good practice to prepare the ground over all. That is, the whole of the area to be occupied by the fruit should be prepared, not just the planting positions. If the spacing is to be wider than that, just the planting position can be prepared. Even so, for a tree this should never be an area of less than one yard (1 metre) square.

Rather more important than the actual surface area is the depth to which cultivations should go. This is with a view to correcting any compaction or fault in the drainage. One should work on the basis of moving the soil a good 2ft (60cm) deep. This will usually extend into the subsoil and care should be taken not to mix too much of this with the more fertile topsoil. Where the subsoil is chalk, this is especially important, bearing in mind what has been said about the effect of too chalky a soil and its effect on the availability of certain plant foods.

Where just the planting position is being prepared for trees or bushes, the best way of working to this sort of depth is first to dig out the top layer, or spit, with a spade and lay the soil to one side. Then, loosen below this with a fork before returning the top spit. It is a modified form of double digging which, of course, is the best way of tackling a complete patch of land.

Plenty of bulky organic matter, such as garden compost, should be incorporated into both layers. Mixing it well in is important because, if the compost etc. is allowed to remain in layers beneath the surface, the roots will tend to operate only in that area, it being the line of least resistance. This may not appear to matter, but it means that the roots are not making the best use of the available soil and the trees or bushes will tend to be poorly anchored.

Even strawberries need this treatment, although not from the point of view of support. If you want the best from them, bearing in mind that the life of the plants is up to three or four years, then nothing should be skimped. They are fussy plants and need the best conditions if they are to flourish and crop well.

The importance of good drainage cannot be overstressed. No fruit plant likes to have its roots sitting in water and will quickly show its displeasure if forced into this situation. If roots are not able to penetrate and work to at least 18in (45cm) deep, with 2ft (60cm) for trees, the crops will suffer Added to that, if the subsoil is poorly drained, there is a risk that the water level will rise into the topsoil during the winter. The bulky organic matter will open up heavy soils so that there is little chance of poor drainage.

These deep workings should be carried out as far in advance of planting as is sensibly possible. This gives the soil time to settle naturally. The trouble here is that, if the soil sinks down too much after planting, you can run into the situation of the whole rootstock being buried and the main variety sending out roots that will soon dominate the rootstock. In any event, try to avoid leaving the deep work until planting time.


Marking Out in Readiness of Planting

Once the soil has been made ready for planting, mark out exactly where the trees etc. are to go.

Strawberries and raspberries will be planted in rows in the open garden so run a line along the proposed row and mark off the position of each individual plant with sticks.

Roughly the same routine is followed with both bushes and trees except that there is less likely to be room for rows in small gardens. Their positioning is just as important, though, and you must make sure that they are given adequate space. Mark their exact position with a cane.

The next job to be done will vary with the kind of fruit and the tree form.



fan trained peach treeAnything requiring a post and wire support system should have that put in place before planting. This will include raspberries, blackberries and other cane fruits, cordon and espalier apples and pears and fan-trained peaches and pears. Raspberries will be in the open garden, but the trained trees could be either in the open or against a wall or fence.

It is safe to assume that most trees will need staking for at least their first few years to encourage them to become firm and established. This will cover all standards, half-standards and bush trees. Dwarf apple trees on M27 or M9 rootstocks will also need staking, usually for their whole life. So will spindlebush trees.

The stake should be driven into the bottom of the planting hole before the tree is put in so that it will be on the windward side of the tree. In most districts this means that the stake will be to the west of the tree.

Then plant the tree beside the stake and afterwards secure it with a proper tie. Never drive the stake in beside an already planted tree; this can damage both the roots and the young shoots or branches.


Planting Fruit Bushes and Fruit Trees

With most of the preparatory work done, planting can go ahead. Strawberries will normally be in little peat cubes or small pots and can be planted with a trowel. The centre (crown) should just be visible after firming the plant in. As the summer fruiting

varieties should be planted during the period from late July to mid-September, it is particularly important that they are planted firmly and kept well watered to prevent them drying out.

All trees and other fruit plants should be properly firmed in so that the plant is held steady and so that the roots start growing right away.

Raspberries will normally be bare rooted and can be planted simply by making a slit with a spade in the planting position. Place the roots in the slit so that, after firming them in with your heel, the buds at the base of the cane are just below ground.

Other cane fruits should normally be in pots when you buy them. If these are clay or plastic, they must be removed before planting, but those made of peat or bitumenised paper can be left in place; this prevents disturbing the root system and makes for quicker establishment.

Aim to plant cane fruits fractionally deeper than they were previously. This is usually quite easy to see because the planting depth of a bare-rooted plant is shown by a soil ring around the stem.

Cordon apples and pears should be planted at an angle of forty-five degrees with the scion (the trunk part as opposed to the rootstock) on top. Remember that you will have to offset the planting hole in relation to the positioning cane to allow for the angled planting.

Trees that are to be trained to a wall or fence should be planted about 9in (23cm) out and leaning towards it.

After planting, the ground should be tidied up to remove footmarks etc. and all fruits except strawberries will benefit from a mulch of garden compost. This helps the soil to retain moisture during the first all-important summer.

When planting in the late autumn or winter, mix in a little bone meal with the planting soil. The phosphates in it will help new roots to develop and the tree to establish before the hard weather.

The actual planting is simple enough but, as with most jobs, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it. When planting pot or container-grown plants, unless there is evidence of root restriction, disturb the rootball as little as possible. Simply stand the tree etc. in the bottom of the hole, which must be of the correct depth, and shovel the earth back round it. Do this a bit at a time and tread down the soil as the hole fills up. This should bring it to the right depth by the time all the soil has gone back.

If the tree is badly pot-bound, the outside roots will need to be teased away from the solid ball or they will tend to remain confined and won’t spread out.

When planting bare-rooted stock, first spread the roots out in the bottom of the hole and then fill it up gradually with the soil. Tread down the soil every so often and, after the first few shovels have been returned, joggle the tree or bush up and down. This ensures that the soil falls between all the roots and none are left high and dry in air pockets.

If planting in the late winter or during the growing season, though, a general fertiliser like ‘Growmore’, or the wholly organic blood, fish and bone, should be applied after planting instead of bone meal. This will do much more good as it provides the young plants with the three main nutrients that they require: nitrogen, phosphates and potash.

14. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Fruit Trees | Tags: , | Comments Off on Preparation for Planting Fruit Trees and Fruit Bushes


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