The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is an important consideration when buying apple trees. Often, “bargain plants” are not healthy or may not be a variety adapted to your area. Buy only trees of recommended varieties from a reliable source.
Listed below are a few points to keep in mind when purchasing apple trees:
• A healthy 1-year-old tree, approximately four to six feet tall with a good root system, is the preferred type of tree for planting.
• A small tree with a good root system is more desirable than a large tree with a poor root system.
• Trees that are 2 years old or older do not usually grow as well as 1-year-old trees. Frequently, older trees do not have sufficient buds on the lower portion of the trunk to develop a good framework.
• Do not purchase trees that appear stunted, poorly grown, diseased or insect injured.
• Check the trees closely to make sure that you are getting the variety and rootstock that you desire.
• Trees should not be planted if the soil is too wet.
When fruit trees arrive from the nursery, open the bundle immediately. Soak the roots in water six to 12 hours if they are not moist. The trees should then be planted if the soil is not too wet. This year, that may be a problem because the soil is always wet.
If the soil is not prepared where the trees are to be planted or the ground is too wet, heel the trees in by placing them in an open trench, deep enough to cover all roots.
The north side of a building is the best place for heeling because the trees remain dormant longer. Place the soil over the roots to the depth they will be planted in your yard.
Before planting, prepare the soil thoroughly by plowing or spading followed by disking or raking to smooth the surface.
If you have not adjusted the soil pH to 6.5 previously, liming should be done before you prepare the soil so that the lime will be incorporated. If you are not sure of your soil pH contact the local extension office for a soil test.
During planting, dig holes large enough to receive the roots freely without cramping or bending from their natural position. Set the plants with the graft union two inches along the soil line. Work soil in and around the roots. When the hole is half-filled, firm the soil with your feet before you finish filling in the hole.
When the hole is filled, pack the soil firmly. Do not leave a depression around the tree. Also, do not place fertilizer in the planting hole or fertilize immediately after planting. This should be done after the soil is settled by a drenching rain.
For more information, contact the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County Extension Agent.