Growing An Orchard
by Juan Jardinero
“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”
Xela used to be an apple producer, and the surrounding areas were known for their peaches and apricots. However over the last 20 years, big apple farms and orchards have closed down and have been developed into gated communities with perfectly cut grass and decorative gardens. Now it’s almost difficult to purchase an heirloom apple, from this area, in the markets. However, many old houses around the city still have unique varieties of fruit trees growing in their backyards. One hopes that when we find a place we can call home, there will be enough outdoor area to grow your own apples and peaches. Fruits trees though, require patience. When you plant your trees you have to envision what they will look like in a few years, and with a bit of yearly pruning and care you can ensure quality fruit. Here are a few easy to follow suggestions if you are planning to start your own orchard.
Your orchard will be a permanent site on your homestead so you have to carefully select your location. Fruits trees need good drainage, so if you have a slope on your property, this would be ideal. Planting the tree on a southern slope will speed up both blooming and subsequent fruiting. Fruit trees need full sun, so location is important.
No fertilizer is needed at the time of planting a bare root tree. Furthermore, fertilizers in contact with tender young feeder roots can kill them and set back or kill the tree.
Ultimately, trees must grow in the surrounding soil. Don’t make a hole of amended soil surrounded by slow-draining native soil – the tree hole will just fill with water, killing the tree. The only remedy for poorly draining soil is some sort of raised bed or planting in containers. Adding organic matter to sandy soil, however, can help retain moisture in the root zone of newly planted trees. Check with your local fruit tree nursery regarding recommended soil amendments.
When planted, the tree should be at the height it was in the nursery; the nursery soil line is visible on the trunk as a slight change in bark color. It’s very important not to plant the tree too low. If you will be watering-in the tree after planting (as you should when planting in fast-draining soil), plant an inch or two high to allow for settling.
Caring For Bare Root Trees
Bare root trees should be planted as soon as possible after purchasing. If buying trees before planting day, keep the roots wrapped or covered to maintain moisture and high humidity; store in a cool location. Bare root trees may be held before planting by heeling in: cover the roots well with a moist (not soggy) medium such as sawdust (but not redwood or cedar), sand or porous soil. Do not let the roots dry out or freeze.
Plant a tree, your children and future generation will thank you.