Category Archives: Fruit Trees/Orchard

Fruit Trees: Planting in the Desert

How to Plant a Bare Root Fruit TreeHi Friends!

Here it is, the next post in my fruit tree blog series. Enjoy!

Late January thru mid-February is the best time to plant fruit trees here in the desert. Most fruit trees are dormant this time of year (with the exception of citrus and other evergreen fruit trees) which allows them to be planted with minimal stress during this time period. Leafing out is a sure sign that a fruit tree is well on its way to waking up from its winter slumber leaving it more vulnerable to the stress of planting. Also, the January/February time frame allows newly planted fruit trees plenty of time to get settled into their new home before a couple of huge major stressors enter into their life… our drying spring winds and searing hot summer weather. In my opinion, planting a fruit tree in March, April or May is far from ideal. Fruit trees are definitely awake by this time, the wind and heat are starting to kick up and the chance of planting failure increases exponentially.

In some cases, planting March thru May is your only option. Such is the case with citrus and other evergreen fruit trees which are typically not available until spring when the weather warms due to the tree’s sensitivity to cold. Thus, colder weather is actually a major stressor in their lives.

On the extreme side of things, I shudder when I see people here planting fruit trees in the hottest months of June thru September. I usually smile, give them a pat on the back and wish them good luck. In the majority of cases I’ve seen, the trees just never seem to recover from such a poor start. The growth is usually weak and struggling and the tree rarely ever seems to thrive and achieve its full potential. As with everything in life, there are always exceptions… the one super fruit tree that seems to thrive regardless of what you throw at it. Just don’t expect it.

Some folks like to plant fruit trees here in our desert in the fall. To me, this is a much better option than planting in late spring and summer, but I tend to shy away from this time frame as well. Again, my focus is on minimal stress to the fruit tree and subjecting the tree to potential freezes throughout winter as well as extreme temperature changes (i.e., frigid nights and hot days) may not be optimal. Now if you’re an experienced orchardist and know how to properly protect a fruit tree through extreme weather, than this may be a viable option for you.

Bottom-line is this, stress, to any plant, does not promote health and vigor and can lead to a whole gamut of issues such as disease, pest issues, poor growth, poor yields/fruit, and so on. Our goal in planting fruit trees in our orchard is to provide the least amount of stress throughout not only the planting process, but throughout its entire lifetime as well so the fruit tree can thrive and obtain (and maintain) its full potential.

With that said, here’s a cautionary point I want you to be aware of…

Caution: Avoid Planting Fruit Trees On A Windy Day!

The ideal time to plant a bare root fruit tree is on a cool calm day. Add in a bit of drizzly weather and you have perfection. But since perfection is hard to come by in weather these days, chances are you’ll be dealing with some sort of weather challenge while you plant your new bare root fruit tree. One challenge that is particularly harsh is wind. Wind can really do a number on exposed bare root fruit tree roots (say that three times fast 🙂 ). It only takes a few short minutes of blasting wind to dry out those tender wispy little hair-like roots.  Early on in the process, it’s important these precious little roots (along with the more fibrous roots) are kept healthy and viable as they are so critical to your tree’s health and play such a key role in up taking nutrients, water and interacting with soil life.

On those occasions when you do find yourself having to plant on a windy day, just be sure to keep the roots wet by placing your bare root fruit tree roots in a bucket of fresh water while you’re getting ready to plant them into the ground. Though, avoid soaking the graft union (the joint where the root-stock and the scion have been joined together ~ typically a few inches above the root area). You can also stage your fruit tree somewhere close by so you can easily wet down the roots often to keep them moist. Also, be sure to keep the roots moist throughout the entire planting process as well by wetting down the roots often until you’re able to completely cover them with moist soil.

Seriously folks, do your best and plant when it’s most convenient for you… just be certain to be gentle and attentive to your baby fruit tree’s well-being and you’ll be good to go.

Now, let’s plant those patiently waiting bare root fruit trees!

Tools and Supplies

Here’s a list of tools and supplies you’ll need throughout the planting process.  Gather together all of the supplies you’ll need before you begin planting and be sure to set up everything near your planting site for easy access.

  • Set Aside Two to Three 5-Gallon Buckets Full of 50/50 soil mix (50% forest or green waste compost / 50% native soil) ~  You’ll need these buckets full of soil mix to finish off the planting process and to build up a water well around the base of your fruit tree when you’re all done.
  • 4 to 6-foot long Metal Rebar, 1×1 Wood Stakes, or Metal Landscape Stakes (green plastic coated steel) ~ you’ll need these to help support your baby fruit trees.
  • Hammer or Rubber Mallet ~ to hammer in the support stake
  • 1/4″ to 1/2″ Green Nursery Tape ~ To tie your fruit tree to the support stake (we prefer the 1/4″)
  • Water Hose
  • Shovel
  • A 5-foot to 6-foot long wooden stake ~ to help properly position your tree during the planting process and to level the soil after planting

Amendments (for high brix ~ bionutrient fruit)

Now that you have your tools and supplies set aside, it’s time to focus on gathering the amendments you’ll use to start your bare root fruit trees off on the road to high brix bionutrient (nutrient dense) fruit. That means super slurpy sweet delicious fruit that will make every cell in your body sing with vibrant health!

Be sure to check out Step 5 ~ Kick Start Those Soil Microbes! in my Fruit Trees: How To Prepare Soil For Planting

  • OMRI-Certified Organic Animal or Fish Bone Meal ~ a good source of phosphorus and calcium; you’ll need about 2 cups per fruit tree.
  • A Variety of Rock Dusts ~ Rock dusts are a great source of minerals for our soil and mineral-rich fruit (a.k.a. high brix). Rather than rely on a single source of rock dust, I like to use a mixture for a variety of minerals. In addition to using Azomite (granular or microfine powder works ~ I’m trying the granular product this planting season. It quickly breaks down with water and eliminates the dust-factor). I also love to use microfine Basalt rock & Lignite Ore dust blend, Gaia Green Glacial Rock Dust, and a new rock dust product I’m using this year called Ruby Mountain Stone Flour. As for quantities, I typically use 1 lb of Azomite and 8 ounces of Gaia Green Glacial Rock Dust per fruit tree. I’ll be adding about 8 ounces Basalt rock dust blend and 8 ounces of the Ruby Mountain rock dust, but this is highly optional.  You may want to wait until I’ve had a chance to experiment with it, though I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome addition. Keep in mind that with rock dusts, a little goes a long way. Using too much can cause a chemistry imbalance in your soil. Always be on the safe side and have your soil tested before liberally adding amendments in.
  • Endo mycorrhizae inoculant (Ecto mycorrhizae benefits conifers & oaks)
  • John & Bob’s suite of products ~ You’ll broadcast this on the soil surface AFTER planting.
  • For an extra boost, you can also mix into the top 6-inches of soil (during the planting process) about 1 lb of OMRI-Certified Organic Alaska Humus and/or 1 lb of OMRI-Certified Organic Worm Castings. It’s all good stuff.

Step 1 ~ Let’s Get Planting!

Before you begin planting, make sure you’re prepared to do so. Check out my previous post for more details.

With your planting holes dug, soil and hole prepped, tools and supplies staged nearby, and your bare root fruit trees ready to go, select the first fruit tree to be planted. Grab the fruit tree and place it in a small bucket with just enough fresh water to completely cover the roots and set it close by your planting hole. You can skip the bucket of water if that makes more sense for your situation. Just be certain to keep the roots nice and moist.

Fruit Tree Ready for Planting

Fruit Trees Soaking In WaterPlanting a potted fruit tree?

I prefer to plant bare root fruit trees for optimum tree and orchard health as well as variety selection. Be sure to check out why.

Sometimes containerized fruit trees are our only option. No problem. Rather than placing your tree in a bucket of water to keep its roots moist, which would obviously make a complete muddy mess, make sure your potted fruit tree is well watered the day before planting.  This will allow you to easily remove and handle the tree’s root ball while ensuring the roots are moist and ready to go 🙂

Fruit Tree Hole Ready for PlantingFor those of you who prepared your holes in the fall and completely filled them with the 50/50 soil mix AND have been watering the soil to keep the microbes happy and healthy… stop watering the soil a few days before planting so it will be more workable. Next, dig down about 12″-18″ ~ just enough for the roots to fit comfortably in. Then continue onto the next step below.

Finishing up your holes as we speak? That’s okay, too. After digging the planting hole and mixing up your 50/50 soil mix, fill the hole up to about 12″-18″ from the top with your 50/50 soil mix so that the roots will fit comfortably in. Make certain to water the soil thoroughly as you fill the hole to help the soil settle. Then stop watering when you get close to the 12″-18″ mark. This will make the planting process much easier for you.

Planting Hole for Fruit TreeHow To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

Step 2 ~ Placing Your Fruit Tree

During this step, be prepared to move your bare root fruit tree in and out of the hole while you get the depth and placement exactly where you want it. Remember ~ keep those roots moist while you get the placement “just right”.

How do you know the right planting depth for your fruit tree. With potted fruit trees, it’s easy. Basically, the top of the soil in the pot is your guide ~ it should be level with the top of your ground soil. For a bare root fruit tree, it can be a bit trickier. You’ll need to identify where the previous soil line was.

To do this, simply look carefully at the base of the trunk, below the graft union and just above the roots.  The part of the trunk that was above the soil will be a slightly different color than the part of the trunk that was originally below the soil. Keep in mind that on some specimens the soil line discoloration is clear as day. Others, can have a more subtle marking. I would consider the example in the photo below on the subtle side of things.

Notice the roots in the photo are fairly dark (partly because they’re wet). Then, as you move up the trunk the bark becomes a little lighter. And there, at the indicated blue line, is the soil line discoloration.  Pretty faint, right? As you move past this point, the trunk bark gets lighter yet, then you’re at the graft union. Just do your best ~ if you plant a little above or below the line, the tree will do absolutely fine.

Fruit Tree Graft UnionHubby and I also like to use a long board to help place the fruit tree’s previous soil line level with the surrounding soil. The board helps us to line everything up just perfectly. Works like a charm every time 😀 Bare Root Fruit TreeAt the point you are absolutely certain that the planting depth is right, thoroughly moisten the soil and set your tree in ~ Never plant in a dry hole!  At this stage of the planting process, it’s extremely helpful to have a helper who can hold the tree upright through the first part of the planting process. At least until the tree is securely in place. Your helper can also use the hose to wet down the roots and moisten the planting hole soil for you, too. Some folks like to leave the hose trickling into the hole while they plant. Personally, I like to hand water the soil as we’re filling the planting hole with dirt rather than have the hose in the hole. It allows me to quickly shut off my watering hose nozzle when I need to.

Now, as you begin to position your tree within the planting hole, pay careful attention to the graft union. Newbies tend to focus on situating a tree based on the existing branch position and fail to properly place a fruit tree with a grafted trunk. To protect the graft union, position it away from the damaging hot south sun by facing it due north. This is especially important while the fruit tree is young and unable to protect the graft with its small leaf canopy. Also, you want the graft union a few inches above the soil line (the previous soil line will help you with that). So be careful not to accidentally bury it.

Step 3 ~ Stake The Tree

For the most part, Hubby and I like to stake our are bare root fruit trees at this stage so we can clearly see the roots to avoid damaging them when the stake goes in and to add an endo mycorrhizae inoculant directly to the exposed wet roots. Some folks like to stake their newly planted fruit trees when they are all done planting, but it’s a bit more challenging to dust the roots with the mychorrizae inoculant doing it this way. Do what works best for you. Here’s how we stake our trees…

With the fruit tree held firmly in its final perfect position by a helper (or creatively propped up if you’re planting on your own)..

1) Position and hold your support (i.e., rebar, 1×1 wood stake, plastic covered metal stake) close to your tree’s trunk ~ working safely in and around the tree’s roots

2) Lean the tree slightly away to prevent damage, then

3) Hammer the support securely into place keeping it level straight up and down and left to right ~ otherwise, when you go to secure your tree to the stake it could be cockeyed.

4) Now with the tree trunk up against the support, secure the trunk firmly to the support using green nursery tape. This stuff is pretty stretchy, so a little pulling and tugging while tying will firmly secure your baby fruit tree. Try to avoid tying the tape too tight, but you do want it pretty snug. Your goal is to prevent movement of the roots during acclimate weather, especially during high winds. Strong winds are an annual spring event here in the desert and just so happens to take place at the exact same time your baby fruit trees are getting established in your newly formed orchard.  Why is it so important to prevent root movement during this critical time in your fruit tree’s growth cycle? Simply put, a loose tree can rock back and forth causing the soil to dislodge, creating holes and wide cracks around the base/root ball of the tree. These open spaces in the soil can expose the fruit tree’s tender roots to air ultimately drying them out, causing the tree to stress and negatively impacting the health of the tree.How to Plant a Fruit TreeHubby and I try our best to secure the tree trunk to the support near the base of the tree and toward the top to make certain the tree is secure. Sometimes we’ll just tie it towards the top of the tree. Use your best judgment.

How to Plant A Fruit TreeFor those of you worried about girdling, no worries. Once the tree starts to leaf out, you will need to check the ties to make sure they are still firmly in place but not choking the dickens out of the tree trunk. At that time you may need to loosen the tie a bit. Our trees grow extremely well using our planting and care methods and typically have well established roots, and a nice sized trunk and canopy by the end of the season. Because of this, we typically loosen the ties at this stage to give them some breathing room.

With the fruit tree firmly in place, your helper can finally let go of the tree and lend a hand in the final planting process. 😀  Before you begin covering your roots with soil and filling the hole, you’ll need to add some amendments (see next step). Just remember to keep your roots wet. You can also begin adding some water to the planting hole just underneath the root ball to help the soil settle under the roots.

What if you’re planting two or more fruit trees in one hole? Simple. Just follow the steps above leaving 18″ between each tree ~ plenty of room for both to grow. For holes where you plan to plant four or more trees in, you will need a much wider hole than the 3-feet I recommended to you. Use the 18″ spacing as a guide.

Two Fruit Trees in One Hole

Step 4 ~ Add Amendments & Soil

Now, with your fruit tree firmly in place, it’s time to add the amendments to get your fruit trees off to a great bionutrient start. For those of you who dug their planting holes and prepared the soil with amendments in the fall, feel free to follow the instructions below. Adding a few more amendments at this time can be of benefit to the tree and soil.

With the bare root fruit tree roots exposed and moist (I know I keep repeating myself but it’s that important), sprinkle a high quality endo mycorrhizae inoculant directly onto the bare roots (check the package for the recommended quantity ~ it’s usually about a tablespoon per fruit tree). An important thing to mention here is that in order for the mycorrhizae to perform its symbiotic magic, it’s best if the inoculant makes direct contact with the roots.

Next, sprinkle over the roots about 1 cup of bone meal and a portion of each rock dust (about 1/2 cup or so).

With those amendments in place, go ahead and begin covering the roots with the 50/50 soil mix making certain to water in the soil as you go. Add the water from the side of the root ball to try to prevent too much of the mychorrhizae inoculant from becoming dislodged from the roots. Once the roots are completely covered with soil, sprinkle an additional cup of bone meal over the area as well as another small portion of the rock dusts. Wet down the soil as usual. Refrain from tamping down or stepping on the soil as you fill the planting hole.  Adding water will naturally (and perfectly) compact the soil.

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

When the hole is just about filled with soil (about 4″ from the top), stop watering the soil and sprinkle around what’s left of the rock dusts. Also, be sure to sprinkle and mix in some of the rock dusts into what’s left of the 50/50 soil mix you will be using to fill the rest of the planting hole. If you’re adding the Alaska Humus and/or Worm Castings, now is the time to broadcast it onto the soil, mix it in and finish filling the hole ~ remember avoid tamping down or stepping on the soil.

As a final step to filling the hole, we leave the top few inches of soil dry and then level the soil surface within the entire planting area by scraping a 4′-6′ long piece of flat wood across the surface. This step is optional, but it really helps to finish things off for those with OCD challenges 😀

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The Desert

Step 5 ~ Build a Water Basin

With the fruit tree planted and the planting hole completely filled with soil and leveled, it’s helpful to build up a water basin barrier around the entire perimeter of the original planting hole for deep soaking.  This is where setting aside two to three 5-gallon buckets full of your 50/50 soil mix comes in handy.

Using your hands, mound up a 3-feet in diameter ring of 50/50 soil mix around the base of the fruit tree, firming the mound as you go along. To finish off the soil ring, I like to mist it with water to make it hold together better. As long as you avoid blasting the water basin ring with water, it should hold in place nicely for the entire year.

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertOnce the water basin is watered in well several times, a natural “water basin” (a.k.a. slight bowl) will form as the soil settles a bit. This is a good thing. As you know, water in the desert is a precious resource and taking advantage of mother nature’s gift any way we can is ideal. Plus, the water basin allows us to deep water our trees focusing the water at the root zone and avoiding wasteful run off. With deep soaking, the water will soak in and penetrate out into our native soil. Planting a fruit tree into a mound of soil or in an elevated planter is far from ideal in our hot and arid climate and can ultimately lead to more frequent watering ~ and wasting our precious resource.

Step 6 ~ Water Your Newly Planted Fruit Tree

Shortly after finishing the planting process and building the water basin, it’s important to water in your newly planted fruit tree. To do this, simply place the end of your hose into the water basin and turn the water on to a gentle low stream and let it slowly fill the water basin to the top with water. Your goal is to allow the water to slowly soak down deep vs. filling the water basin quickly.

As your water basin is filling, take note of any areas that may be low or high. This is especially important if you have more than one tree in the planting hole. The goal is to water the tree(s) evenly versus the majority of the water traveling or settling to one side. To fix this, simply add a little more 50/50 soil mix to any low spots until you see the water filling more evenly within the water basin.

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertHow To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertOnce the water reaches near the top of the water basin barrier, turn off the water and let it completely soak in.

In one hour, repeat the watering process above. When the water basin soaks in the 2nd time, be sure to check that no roots have been exposed. If they are, simply add a little bit more 50/50 soil mix to cover them.

When the second watering is soaked in, repeat the watering process one final time that same day. After this initial triple soaking, plan to water your newly planted fruit tree 3x per week until the tree has a nice flush of new growth (typically by March/April), then you can back off the watering to about 2x per week until summer. Then you will need to go back to watering 3x per week.

After a few days of watering your new tree, you may notice some cracking on the soil surface. If these do appear, especially cracks around the root zone area which can dry out the roots, simply add a little more 50/50 soil mix to the area to fill the cracks.

Also, take care to avoid a breach in the water basin wall by timing your water sessions properly. Too long and the basin will definitely overfill and breach ~ yikes! I like to hand water my baby fruit trees with a hose until they get settled in. Basically, I set the hose within the water basin, turn the water on to a gentle low stream and let it soak in for about 10-15 minutes or so (about 10-15 gallons). Just keep an eye on it to avoid a breach.

Step 7 ~ Now The Hard Part

Unless there’s an abundance of space in which to grow your fruit trees to full size (about 20 to 25 feet high/wide), you will more than likely need to actively manage the size of your tree’s growth in order to keep things tight and tidy to ensure a wee bit of wiggle room. This means maintaining fruit trees at a reduced height and width than they would normally grow and is quite a normal practice for a lot of residential orchards. There are a few options to keeping your tree’s growth “in control”.  One way is to espalier the fruit tree along a wall or support and keeping it well pruned. Another way is to prune the fruit tree as a small maintainable bush. My favorite way to keep my orchard manageable is to keep them “ladderless”. This means maintaining the tree’s top growth to a height that does not require a ladder to harvest. For most, this is about 6-feet high. 7-feet if your tall, like hubby and I.

The first step to maintaining a fruit tree as ladderless is to encourage low branching so that any fruit harvesting activity will take place anywhere from about knee height to about 6-feet high. Initially, this requires a bit of bravery on your part.

Now comes the hard part. In order to encourage this ideal low branching it requires one to suck it up and ignore any “existing perfect fruit tree branching” and…

Chop…

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertThat…

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertTree…

How To Plant A Fruit Tree In The DesertMaking this initial single heading cut along the trunk of the fruit tree will set the stage for future growth of a ladderless open vase-shaped fruit tree. A word of caution. When you make that initial cut, just be certain it’s at a height you can live with down the road. We used to cut our trees at exactly knee height and after some time, found this to be a bit too low for us tall folk. In order to harvest the literal low hanging fruit, it requires us to get on hands and knees and scootch along the ground. In some cases, actually lay down in order to harvest the low interior fruit getting up close and personal with our soil aerating fire ants. Quite sub-optimal. Besides the occasional itchy painful fire ant bite, we also feel like a bit of a contortionist at times to harvest. So just keep this in mind when making that initial cut.

A key point to note here is that when making that initial heading cut, it’s the cut that helps you to determine where the first layer of new fruit-bearing branches will emerge. This new branching structure will appear within 6-8-inches below the heading cut. Knowing this should help you to determine where you want to make that first cut. Also, when making that initial cut, some folks like to make a straight cut, others a 45 degree cut facing down and away from a bud. Whichever you choose, be sure to make that initial cut about 1-inch to 1-1/2-inches above a bud to begin training your tree to form an open vase shape and to allow for any die back immediately below the cut. When die back does occur, if the cut is too close to a bud, you risk losing the bud as well.

As your tree begins to leaf out and become established in the orchard, the results of that initial cut will become quite apparent and sets the stage of forming an ideal open vase shape which allows optimum airflow and sunlight penetration into the future canopy of the fruit tree for awesome fruit color and flavor.

Another goal of that first heading cut is to encourage the tree to form a solid branching structure to help support future fruit harvests. Think of a bicycle wheel. In a perfect world, the spokes (a.k.a. branches) will be evenly spaced around the tree. That is if mother nature cooperates. As your tree forms its new structure, let it grow. Refrain from scratching off or cutting off growth within the 6 to 8-inches (plus a few extra inches just in case) below the cut. You’ll be choosing your future scaffolds at the end of the first year. In a future post, I’ll explain how to care for your baby fruit tree during its first year to include pruning. So for now, make the cut, sit back and watch God’s glorious work firsthand as your tree begins to grow and leaf out.

Up next

My next post will be all about what to do for your newly planted fruit tree(s) 1-week after planting. I’ll explain how to protect your tree from the elements (and critters) as well as kick off our preferred first year’s maintenance program. Keep a look out for this important post. Happy planting!

God Bless,

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Fruit Trees: My Trees Arrived, Now What?

Bare Root Fruit TreesHi dear friends,

Seems like ages since I last chatted you up about gardening. May 18th to be exact. I know. I know. It’s hardly ideal for keeping in touch, but believe-you-me, you and my blog are always on my mind. I take hundreds of photos in the orchard and garden, jot down notebooks full of ideas, even start a post or two only to be distracted mid-way through. “Bein’ a busy boo” is an understatement this time of year for me (and I’m sure for you as well) ~ but I feel totally and completely blessed for it. I’m also so grateful that my health is at a point that I can be crazy busy in my orchard and garden. To top it off, I’m tickled to have such wonderful friends, like yourself, who get it.

Gardening is simply amazing, isn’t it? And the rewards… to literally eat the “fruits” of your labor. And, if you’re growing biologically, like me, to achieve the highest brix/nutrient dense foods possible, every time you eat the fruits of your labor the cells in your body lights up and sparkles health 🙂  Right now, hubby and I are gorging ourselves on figs, pluots and a rainbow of incredibly large and juicy heirloom tomatoes. I feel the only way to describe our feasting joy is to say it in Italian… “Delizioso il mio caro amico. Delizioso!” (yeah, I looked this one up on Google).

My Bare Root Fruit Trees Arrived, Now What?

The purpose of this post is to help you properly stage your fruit trees for planting if you’re unable to plant immediately after arrival. Personally, I like to give my trees at least 24 hours to settle in before I plant them out in the orchard. I do this to help my new fruit tree arrivals recover from the stress of travel in less than ideal conditions (a.k.a. a box) in addition to being banged around during shipping and who knows what else. Yes, the bare root fruit trees are dormant at the time of shipping, but it’s way outside of their normal environment and conditions. Also, it gives you the opportunity to prepare yourself for planting, clear your calendar, thoroughly inspect your new arrivals, etc.

Keep in mind that the process I’m about to share with you is more specific to bare root fruit trees though if you’ve made the decision to plant a containerized fruit tree, I’ve got you covered. I’ve jotted down a few things just for you at the bottom of this post, so feel free to read on with the rest of us either for the entertainment value or as a source of information and inspiration for future fruit tree plantings 🙂  For those of you who are planting bare root fruit trees, let’s forge on.

With your hole dug and ready to go ~ you’re prepared to receive your new bare root fruit trees. Regarding the timing of their arrival, most reputable online nurseries will let you select the delivery month at the time you place your order. Typically, bare root fruit tree pre-orders begin late August/early September. I usually request an early February for my deliveries. January always seems too cold or unpredictable weather-wise. March is just too late for my liking. I like to give my new baby trees a little more time to get settled in before the onslaught of heat and wind is upon them plus, everything is starting to bloom and leaf out in March. So February is my preferred month ~ the weather is starting to warm up, it’s generally nice outside, and the ground is more workable… it’s just nice.

Be Prepared!

Whether you plan to pick up your bare root fruit trees at a local nursery or have them delivered to your door, there are a few things I highly recommend you pull together a few days ahead of time to help make the arrival and/or receiving process go much more smoothly.

  • Make sure someone is home to receive your new baby fruit trees if they are being delivered or make certain you add a shipping note when you place your order that instructs the delivery person to place the box in a shaded area. Here in the desert, a box sitting in the direct sun for a few hours can cook its contents, even in cool weather.
  • 1+ yards of quality compost (depends on how many trees you’ll be receiving). This is for those of you who will be unable to plant their fruit trees within 1-2 days after receiving them.
  • Trash Can(s) or 5-gallon buckets setup in a shaded area or in a garage filled with fresh clean water (fill the containers with water as soon as you receive your trees)
  • Air stone and small pump (helpful, but totally optional)

Step 1: Rip Open The Box

Well, maybe not rip open the box. I know, you’re pretty excited to see what your new babies look like, but relax, take a deep breath, and open the box without hurting yourself or your new fruit trees.

Bare root fruit tree rootsVoila! Your new bare root fruit trees.

Typically, when you open your box, you’ll see that the nursery has cut back some of the branches and roots in order to fit several fruit trees into one box. This is absolutely normal and in no way harms the fruit tree, though some of the cuts may not be ideal for your planting situation ~ we’ll discuss that in just a bit. Occasionally, the fruit trees will have a broken limb or two that may have occurred during shipping. Simply trim those off with a sharp pair of hand clippers versus pulling it off, which could tear and damage the fruit tree.

After you opened the box, you may have noticed that the roots are covered with plastic or a plastic bag. This is quite normal and is done by the nursery to help keep the roots moist during shipping. Inside this plastic, the roots are typically wrapped in some type of wet material like newspaper, sphagnum moss or saw dust. For now, just leave the plastic and wet material in place until you’re ready to inspect the roots ~ the roots must stay moist at all times.

Step 2: Help your tree to recover from its travels

With your trees safe and sound in your loving care, it’s time to help the bare root fruit tree(s) recover from the stress of travel and prepare them for planting. To do this, simply remove the plastic and all of the wet material wrapped around the tree’s roots then set the fruit tree roots directly into the bucket(s) of water. Note that the water level should be slightly below the graft union. This can be easier said then done when you have multiple trees soaking in the same bucket, but do your best. Let your tree roots soak for a couple of hours ~ or up to 24 hours.

For those of you who purchased more than one bare root fruit tree, begin this step by carefully separating the trees to prevent unnecessary damage.

Want to take it up a notch and give your fruit tree an extra added boost? Earlier, I mentioned an air stone and a small pump. Placing an air stone into the water helps to oxygenate the roots ~ you can certainly skip this part, but it can help to rejuvenate and rehydrate the trees after being boxed up for a few days in a dark oxygen-deprived box.

Soaking Fruit Tree Roots

Over the years, I’ve encountered some debate around the need to soak the roots prior to planting. In my research, I have yet to see any strong arguments against soaking. Usually, the folks I’ve come across who are advocates for the “no-soak approach” are unable to provide reasons that would negate the benefits of soaking. I use the technique of soaking to refresh and rehydrate the roots for all of my newly purchased bare root fruit trees. I look at it this way… the bare root fruit tree received is dormant ~ not dead. It is alive! A living thing that is strongly connected and grounded to the earth, that just traveled by plane and/or truck for, in some cases, hundreds of miles. Give the poor thing some water. I’ve been soaking my bare root fruit trees before planting for years now with no issues ~ and my fruit trees have performed beautifully for me and given me more fruit than I know what to do with. Abundance baby!

Soaking Fruit Trees

Now certainly, if you receive your new trees and the roots are very wet and you plan to plant them out within an hour or two of receiving them, you can skip the soak. This is for those times when you know there’s no way on earth you’ll be planting out the same day you receive them – or – if the roots could use a bit of hydration. Personally, I’d still make the time to soak even if it’s only for a couple of hours.

In my opinion, soaking is a good idea even when bare root fruit trees are purchased locally from a nursery, farm or big box store. A lot of times they’re dealing with bulk orders of fruit trees and just do not have the time for individualized care for each fruit tree. On top of that, lots of people may be sifting through the trees exposing the roots to the elements more than they should be, etc.

Step 3: Inspect your fruit trees

The majority of the time, the bare root fruit trees you’ll receive from a reputable mail-order nursery will be top quality and worthy of a place within your beloved orchard or garden.  But, life is life and as we all know things happen. Order enough fruit trees on-line and there will be a time or two (or three) that you will receive a fruit tree that fails to meet up to your standards. It will happen. For this reason, inspecting your fruit trees shortly after they arrive makes perfect sense.

Inspecting New Fruit Trees

Okay, for those of you who are new to fruit tree growing and lack the skills necessary to complete a well thought out inspection, take a deep breath, sip some cool water and chill a moment. I’ll walk you through some of the basics and provide you with a few tips. For you fruit tree aficionados out there who’ve been around the block a few times selecting and planting bare root fruit trees, this list may serve as a simple refresher.

So, while your fruit trees are rehydrating or receiving a spa treatment :), it’s time to inspect your new arrivals.

Inspect the trunk and limbs

Be sure to check your trees from top to bottom noting any obvious scaring, large fresh wounds, splits, any oozing, dark-colored bark (could indicate disease), etc. Also, carefully inspect the roots and graft union (the point where the rootstock and scion are connected). If something looks suspicious or you’re just not sure about what you’re looking at, take a photo and call the nursery. Reputable nurseries will be more than happy to assist, even if it’s over the phone.

Roots ~ the roots (even the hair-like roots) should be moist and healthy look. As I mentioned before, nurseries often times trim down roots for shipping. This is okay and will not harm the tree. What’s bad is if you find the roots are dry and brittle. If this is the case, call the nursery and request a replacement.

Fruit Tree Roots

Graft union ~ the graft union should be firmly intact (though the plastic wrapping around this area may be loose, slightly coming undone or completely missing ~ this is okay). The graft union should also be free from major scaring and injury.

Crooked or curvy trees ~ no need to panic. A crooked or curvy trunk is nothing to worry about if you plan to lop your tree off at about knee height after planting. This is an ideal approach for growing “ladderless” (a.k.a. shorter) fruit trees. Now, if you plan to grow your fruit trees to full size and the trunk is far from straight-ish and you’re concerned about the aesthetics of your fruit trees, you could certainly request a replacement.

A note about caliper size (caliper refers to the girth of the trunk). There are a few schools of thought on this. Some say 1/2″ caliper is excellent and will produce fruit sooner, others prefer whips (small sized trunk with no branches) because they like the flexibility in training the tree exactly how they want it from the get-go. It’s a personal choice and either one will work.

What do you do if you find something unacceptable with the bare root fruit tree? This is when a fruit tree warranty comes in handy. When purchasing online, always order from a reputable nursery who offers a replacement warranty. I purchase the bulk of my fruit trees from Bay Laurel Nursery who has such a warranty and has backed it on a number of occasions for us ~ with no issues.

Now, if you’re buying your fruit trees locally, you will be able to sift through the fruit trees until you find one that works best for you.

Step 4: Beyond the 24 Hour Soak Period

With the inspection of your fruit trees and 24 hour soak period complete and any replacements noted, it’s time to do one of two things…

1. Plant your tree

OR

2. Heel-in your fruit trees until you’re ready to plant

Heel-In Fruit Trees

Heeling in your bare root fruit trees buys you a little extra time if you’re unable to plant them right away. To heel-in your fruit trees, simply bury the tree roots in a nice pile of moist non-manure compost or loose soil (compost added to the soil works well). Some folks keep their trees in an upright position or lean them up against a fence while they are heeled-in. Typically, hubby and I just lay our new fruit trees down and prop-up their tops by placing the trunk (just below the branches) on a small mound of compost/soil. This allows the branches to remain off the ground (less chance of damage) and prevents the trees from being completely horizontal.

A few things to also remember when heeling in your bare root fruit trees, is to make sure that the graft union is not buried in the compost/soil and to keep the compost/soil moist at all times. This will help keep the roots nice and moist.

When heeling in bare root fruit trees, choose a shady spot or loosely cover your trees with a light tarp in such a way that air is allowed to circulate underneath during the day-time and can be sealed up at night if a light frost is expected. A heavy frost or freeze will require some additional protection.

How long can the trees remain heeled in? Personally, I try to shoot for no longer than 1 maybe 2 weeks tops, but I do have to admit that I’m only human and have left trees in longer. Thank goodness the trees fared well despite my neglect. For those of you who need to heel-in your bare root fruit trees, just keep a close eye on the weather. Here in the desert, our weather can be quite temperamental during the months of January and February. It’s not unusual for us to have a “false spring” where things begin to warm up and prematurely wake up our garden and orchard only to knock it back again with a heavy frost or freeze.  The last thing you want your new bare root fruit trees to do is start coming out of dormancy and begin to flower or leaf-out while it’s heeled in. They’re now awake and must be handled much more carefully. Nor do you want your trees exposed to freezing temps while their roots are only covered by a few inches of compost/soil. It’s best to have them in the ground before this happens.

Step 5: Now You’re Ready To Plant

The next post in my Fruit Tree series will give you the complete low-down on how my hubby and I plant our bare root fruit trees… our foundation for growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit and super healthy fruit trees!

Bare Root Fruit Tree

A special note about Containerized Fruit Trees

Though I prefer to plant bare root fruit trees (see why), some fruit trees are only sold in containers. Fruit trees like figs, pomegranates, citrus, avocados, tropical fruit, etc. Typically, figs and pomegranates can be shipped at the same time your bare root fruit tree order ships (depends on the nursery), while other tropical fruit trees, like citrus and avocados, are available later in spring (around the month of April).

Taking care of your newly purchased containerized fruit tree before it is planted is simple and is the ideal time to begin prepping the tree for high brix/nutrient dense fruit down the road. Here are a few tips:

  • Upon arrival home, immediately prepare a sea kelp extract powder tea (such as Maxicrop or Down To Earth’s KelPlex) and give your baby tree a nice soak with it. I usually add about 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. Do this 1x per week until you are ready to plant. The sea kelp helps your tree recover from stress, and enables the tree to fare better through cold and hot weather.
  • To kick-start the soil microbes, the foundation of biological gardening (a.k.a. growing high brix/nutrient dense food), be sure to add Effective Microbes (like EM-1) in with your initial sea kelp extract soil drench. 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) per gallon of water. After the initial drench, you can also do a weekly foliar spray of EM-1 using the same dilution rate.
  • Be sure to place your tree in a protected area at night (indoors would be best if a frost or freeze is expected). During the day, your tree should be placed outdoors to soak up the warm sunshine.
  • Keep the soil moist until you’re ready to plant.

With a little more knowledge under your belt, you’re off to a great start!

Happy summer gardening!

God Bless,

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Fruit Trees: How To Prepare Soil For Planting

How To Prepare Soil for Planting Fruit TreesHi dear friends!

Thank you for being so patient awaiting the next post in my Fruit Tree series. In my last post I covered the all-important topic of how to dig a hole in the desert for your beloved baby fruit tree(s). Now, we’ll take a closer look at how to prepare your soil for the big planting day. This process can be used for both bare root fruit trees as well as containerized fruit trees.

An important note before we begin… For those of you who live in a similar climate to Las Vegas, Nevada (a.k.a. hot, arid and windy), your bare root fruit tree planting opportunity has come and gone for this year. No need to fret though. After following along with my Fruit Tree series this year, you will be well-equipped with the knowledge you need to be successful and fully prepared for next season’s planting in February.

Still want to plant a fruit tree this year? You can certainly plant containerized fruit trees this season, but I highly advise against planting them now or during the heat of summer. I’m also not a huge fan of containerized fruit trees, but that’s just me being super protective of my orchard. Be sure to check out my three-part post on bare root fruit trees vs. containerized fruit trees to see the pros and cons of both. Planting now allows very little time for your new trees to recover from the stress of planting and to settle into its new home before getting blasted by our heat and wind. The best time to plant containerized fruit trees is in the fall when our weather begins settles down.

For those of you who wish to review my Fruit Tree series at a later date, it’s easy! I’ve setup a blog navigation page dedicated to this series and placed a convenient link in the top navigation bar under Home Orcharding. As I fine-tune my current processes or discover and test out new techniques that support growing delicious and uber-healthy high brix/nutrient dense fruit, I’ll be sure to share that info with you by updating the appropriate page in my Fruit Tree series.

Tools and Supplies

Before you begin, be sure to gather together all of the supplies you’ll need to complete this step and set up everything near your planting site. The items I listed out below will help to make the soil preparation process go along smoothly.

  • Compost ~ Forest Waste / Green Waste Compost ~ buy the best quality compost you can afford (approximately 1/2 to 1 yard per fruit tree) ~ avoid compost that has additives or chemical fertilizers added (such as Ammonium Sulfate)… these do quick work of killing off precious microbiology for your soil and sets up a huge roadblock in growing nutrient dense fruit.
  • Wheel Barrel (or two)
  • Something to sift dirt through ~ a few years back, hubby put together a large sifter using 2×4’s and 1″ welded wire screen. It’s held up wonderfully and has taken lots of abuse over the years. It really does the trick sifting out rocks.

Soil Sifter for Fruit Trees

  • Three or Four 5-Gallon Buckets ~ 1 bucket to cart off rocks, 1 bucket to hold and measure out native soil, and 1 bucket to hold and measure out compost. Having that extra bucket helps save your back ~ will share more about that below.
  • Shovel
  • Steel Bow Rake
  • Standard Garden Hose with a Spray Nozzle Attachment
  • Local / native soil ~ you should have a nice big pile after digging your planting hole.
  • Heavy Duty Gloves
  • Mask ~ helps to keep the dust out of your nose and lungs.
  • Protective Eye Wear
  • Plenty of water ~ stay hydrated.
  • High Brix/Nutrient Dense Amendments (see below)

A special note about compost

When it comes to buying compost, be sure to select the highest quality compost your budget can afford ~ your soil and fruit trees will love you for it. Need to buy a budget-friendly manure compost? Organic is always best with this type of compost and it should be free of GMO’s including GMO-corn/grain fed cattle or poultry waste. It may still contain antibiotics and other veterinarian-type pharmaceuticals along with organic pesticides, etc. Even some forest waste/green waste compost can contain contaminants you may not appreciate in your compost. Just make sure you do your research first before buying. When buying bulk, always ask to see soil testing results of the compost you wish to purchase and pay careful attention to the section where they list the acceptable levels of contaminants such as biosolids, harmful bacterias and pathogens, etc. Also ask for sodium levels. High levels of sodium/salts can lead to soil issues later on.

When estimating how much compost to purchase and how much native soil you’ll need to use, keep in mind a couple of things: 1) how many bare root fruit trees you’ll be planting, and 2) how deeply you dug your hole(s).

Our time-tested soil preparation process uses a soil mixture of 50% non-amended native soil and 50% compost. You may also need extra compost if you plan to ‘heel-in’ your newly purchased bare root fruit trees shortly after their arrival.

How to Prepare Your Soil For Planting

What I’m about to share with you is our “go-to” process, but you can certainly accomplish this task using whatever approach works best for you. We tend to be on the, well, picky side. For those of you who prefer a more flexible and “loose” approach, by all means, do it your way as long as the end result is the same.

Let’s get started…

Step 1 ~ Get Those Gloves On

You’re gonna need em’.

I’m gonna be upfront with you. This process is work. I wouldn’t say grueling hard work, but work all the same. And for us, well worth it. Soil prep makes a huge difference and our orchard speaks volumes to this fact. Our trees are very happy, healthy and fruitful in part to this preparation step.

Step 2 ~ Load Up The Compost

After setting up all of the tools and supplies needed to begin, we usually start off by loading up one wheel barrel with compost and placing it near the planting site. Chances are your pile of compost is elsewhere on your property, so plan on making a few trips to grab more. With this in mind, its helpful to keep a clear path for your travels back-and-forth.

Soil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Next, we place a second wheel barrel near the first one and set the homemade sifter on top. By looking at the photo below, you can see our setup… wheel barrel with compost on the right ~ wheel barrel for sifting on the left. Makes the process go along smoothly. Easy peasy. Planting Fruit TreesAs I mentioned earlier, hubby put together a sturdy sifter when we first started planting fruit trees on our property and it’s held up admirably through many fruit tree planting sessions.  The 1″ squares on the welded wire screen works beautifully to sift out unwanted rocks and debris. Keep in mind that you do not need to remove all of the rocks, just the larger ones. I also remove any obvious caliche chunks, which are creamy or whitish in color.

Step 3 ~ Start Sifting and Mixing

This step is a no-brainer. To do a 50/50 mix of native soil and compost, we simply grab a 5-gallon bucket full of native soil and a 5-gallon bucket full of compost and mix/sift them together through the sifter. Just do equal amounts of each as you go along. The result… a 50/50 mix 😀

Tip: Lifting several buckets full of native soil can quickly become exhausting. To help with this, hubby usually fills two buckets 1/2 way up with the native soil vs. full buckets to offset the weight.

To help blend things up better, we alternate the compost and the native soil when we load up the sifter. When the mixture gets close to the top of the wheel barrel, we remove the sifter and do a quick final mix with either a shovel or by hand. This is something that we do, but you could certainly skip this extra step. As the mixture is poured into the planting hole, some natural “mixing” of the native soil and compost will automatically occur and is probably sufficient.

Soil Preparation for Fruit TreesSoil Preparation for Fruit TreesSoil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Step 4 ~ Start Filling The Planting Hole

With the first batch of 50/50 soil mixture ready-to-go, we simply roll the wheel barrel up to the edge of the hole and pour the mixture in.

Now, using a bow rake, we roughly level out the 50/50 soil mixture then water it in with a hose. Make sure your hose has a sprayer nozzle attachment. The goal here is to help the soil settle by wetting it down versus flooding it.Soil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Soil Preparation for Fruit TreesWe continue the process of sifting, dumping, smoothing, and wetting until the 50/50 soil mixture is a few inches above the soil surface to allow for settling. At this point, be careful not to step on the soil of your freshly filled hole. If you plan to plant your fruit tree immediately after filling your hole (which I do not recommend ~ see below), avoid saturating the top 12 to 18-inches or so with water to make it easier for digging and planting.

Be sure to mix up one to two 5-gallon buckets full of the 50/50 mix to set aside for building up a water well around the base of your fruit tree.

Step 5 ~ Kick Start Those Soil Microbes!

Note ~ This Is The Foundation For Growing High Brix/Nutrient Dense Fruit

An important part of growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit is to build up the soil microbiology within the soil your fruit trees grow in. Why? Bottom-line is this…

“If you want to maximize yield, plant health, and nutrient density (quality) then you must maximize the nutrition/energy given to the plant.”

~ Jon Frank, International Ag Labs

To accomplish this, one must build soil health which also means building the soil microbe population. These miraculous microscopic soil super heroes breakdown important nutrients in the soil and pony-express this nutrition directly to your beloved fruit trees. Though more complex than we have time to discuss here, this symbiotic relationship brings so much more to your fruit trees than any type of hand-delivered “fertilizer” ever could.

In this super hero group I also include earthworms. These small organic matter munchers are a powerhouse in and of themselves, bringing a multitude of benefits to the health of your soil and boosting your microbe population with their beneficial nutrients.

So, here’s how we kick-start our soil for planting…

One of the best ways we have found to do this is by using the John & Bob’s suite of products. For our orchard and garden, we purchase the Lifeless Soil kit. The 4,000 square foot quantity will last us about two years. A little goes a long way and is only required 2x per year. The application of this product alone has resulted in a very high microbe population in our soil ~ confirmed by recent soil testing through International Ag Labs + our own Brix testing. Just follow their instructions to apply.

Another way to boost the microbes in the soil is to use a high quality microbial tea. Just spray it on or water it in lightly onto the surface of the soil and let these soil super heroes do their work. We have just recently started incorporating home-brewed tea into our regimen and our trees and garden are responding quite favorably so far. This topic is certainly worthy of a dedicated post, so stay tuned. Interested in learning more about this topic? Leave me a comment below.

For those of you who decide to purchase a pre-mixed microbial tea blend make certain that the manufacturer is able to provide proven results. Steer clear of folks who “talk-a-good-talk”, but fail to deliver actual data on the number and types of microbes from tested brew. Again, more on this important topic to come.

Now might also be the perfect time to introduce some worms into the soil if you feel so inclined. We’ve tried to incorporate worms after the planting process with little success in the past. Probably a result of the wrong type of worms, heat of summer, etc. For future soil prep, we would like to try Alabama Jumpers. Hopefully they will do much better then their predecessor. What types of worms are you using successfully in desert conditions? I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.

Plan to do one or all of these high brix/nutrient dense kick-start recommendations a couple of weeks before planting so you can super-charge your soil with microbes and be well on your way to growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit!

Ready to Plant Now?

Personally, I like to wait a few weeks to let the microbe population build-up and for the soil to settle before planting. Certainly, the tree can go in the ground just after filling. Just kick-start your soil at the time of planting or shortly afterwards.

Soil Preparation for Fruit Trees

Next up in the Fruit Tree series I will be discussing what to do once your tree(s) arrive. Until we talk again, be sure to visit your garden and orchard often 😀

Be sure to check out the next post in my fruit trees series ~ My Trees Arrived, Now What?

God Bless,

AG_Signature_Color_Transparent

 

 

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Fruit Trees: How To Dig A Hole in the Desert

Dig A Fruit Tree HoleHi dear friends!

As promised, here’s the first post in my Fruit Tree How To series that is dedicated to helping all of you budding (and experienced) home orchardists out there who want to grow high brix/nutrient dense fruit. Especially those of you who live in a hot and arid climate like Las Vegas, Nevada and thought you would never be able to grow a fruit tree let alone quality fruit.

Just like my Orchard Calendar series, as I release each post, I will place a link to it in the top navigation bar under a new category called Home Orcharding.  This way, you can easily revisit each topic as the need arises.

I’m always experimenting and testing out new organic and holistic techniques and refining my processes in my orchard to both bump up my brix numbers even further and to enhance the health of my fruit trees. If something works well, I’ll be sure to share it with you by updating the related topic page.

Tools and Supplies

  • Demolition Jack Hammer ~ you can certainly rent one from a local home store or rental facility or purchase a Heavy Duty 1240W Electric Demolition Jack Hammer on Amazon or Ebay for a reasonable price with free shipping

Demolition Jack Hammer

  • Shovel attachment for the Demolition Jack Hammer
  • Rebar ~ 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch diameter about 3-feet to 4-feet long ~ use to mark the center of each planting site
  • Hammer ~ to hammer the rebar into the ground
  • Twine or String ~ a 2-foot long piece that can be easily tied onto the rebar or metal stake
  • A long Nail or Stake ~ to attach the twine/string to for use as a compass to draw a circle on the ground
  • 1 to 2 five-gallon Buckets ~ to cart off rocks
  • Shovel

Shovel

  • 3-foot long piece of wood or stick ~ to measure the depth and width of the hole
  • Heavy Duty Gloves
  • Protective Eye Wear
  • Ear Plugs
  • Plenty of water ~ stay hydrated!

Step 1 ~ Understand the Unique Growing Challenges in Your Area

When it comes to sifting through the myriad of fruit tree planting information available to us via the web, books, magazines, local nurseries and such, keep one very important thing in mind…

One size does not fit all

It’s a fact. Fruit tree planting methods that work for one area of the U.S. may not necessarily be ideal for the area you live in. This is especially true for Southwest gardeners and home orchardists. It’s a rare thing indeed to be able to find quality fruit tree growing information that is specific to gardeners who grow fruit in hot and arid climates. Following planting instructions initially intended for another area could lead you down a path of frustration and disappointment. Sure, your fruit tree may grow and even give you fruit, but it is unlikely that your fruit tree will thrive in its new home and produce high yields or quality nutrient dense fruit.

Home Fruit Orchard in the DesertNow, don’t get me wrong. The instructions I’m about to share with you will not produce nutrient dense fruit solely based on this step alone nor will it do so immediately. Fruit trees are an investment in time and care and as you build and nurture the soil beneath your trees, the higher the chance your fruit trees will produce nutritious and delicious fruit. Orcharding is a test in patience and understanding. In my opinion, the effort is well worth it.

A fruit tree can sometimes take a while to exhibit any negative symptoms as a result of an improper planting method or poor planting site. Or, in the case of improper drainage, its demise can be quite immediate. Fruit trees that survive the initial planting stage and continue to grow and leaf out, will definitely have at least a 3 year wait before you can begin to test the quality of your fruit and determine its potential yield. Think about it… that’s a long-term commitment. And if during that 3+ year period the fruit tree begins to show signs of poor health or appears to be struggling, one of the causes for this could be directly related to the hole you dug.

To me, it just makes sense to jump into this investment with your eyes wide open and armed with tested and proven fruit tree planting information specific to your area. Who wants to replace the same fruit tree year-after-year because one day they decided to plant a fruit tree armed with nothing more than a shovel and information from a book written by someone who lives in an area that receives tons of rain each year and summer temps that hover around 80°F.

F? Anyone? So, for those of you who are truly interested in producing high quality fruit and growing healthy fruit trees rather than just growing another tree in your backyard, please, continue reading.

This step, in combination with the other steps I will share with you throughout this series, will help guide you and improve your chances of success in growing high brix/nutrient dense fruit for you and your family’s health.

Nutrient Dense Fruit TreesSo, what are some of the challenges we face in hot and arid climates? Now mind you, all hot and arid climates are not created equally either and can be faced with its own set of unique challenges. But for the most part, they are similar enough that the planting and care techniques I will be sharing with you can be applied successfully in your area. But before you begin, it’s always a good idea to check in with your local Cooperative Extension to see if there are other unique challenges you may encounter in your area.

Regarding the use of local nurseries as a source of information. It’s been my experience that unless the nursery is committed to hiring quality well-trained individuals whose knowledge goes well beyond the basics and are well versed and has hands-on experience planting, growing and caring for productive fruit trees in your area… it’s best to seek advice elsewhere. Yes, there are nurseries out there who pride themselves in being a step above the rest ~ usually the mom & pop or smaller niche nurseries. If you’re one of the fortunate few who happen to live near one of these rare gems, by all means, check-in with them. But most nurseries are not as dedicated and typically regurgitate mainstream fruit tree growing information.

So what are some of the unique challenges Southwest gardeners may be faced with when planting fruit trees?

  • Caliche ~ this is a type of soil concretion and is very hard, impenetrable and cement-like
    • Restricts root penetration
    • Inhibits drainage causing slow draining “bowls” and restricts aeration of the roots
    • Restricted drainage also encourages salt accumulation on the soil surface
    • It’s common for desert soils to be highly alkaline (pH 8.0+). Combine that with the calcium carbonate in caliche = “lock-up” of iron making it unavailable to our plants and trees = iron chlorosis
    • Caliche deposits can be found throughout the southwest to include the California desert areas, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and parts of Texas
  • High salt soils and water ~ can cause lower yields and quality of fruit (restricts nutrient uptake), salt damage, and stress on your trees leaving them vulnerable to pests and disease. Poor drainage only exacerbates this issue.

All of this can spell “bad-news” for our fruit trees. Fortunately, there is a way to successfully work around these challenges and create an inviting home for your home orchard.

With that said, let’s get started!

Step 2 ~ Gather Supplies

Gather together all of the supplies you’ll need. Be sure to set up a convenient out-of-the-way yet accessible staging area. A place where you won’t be tripping over everything as you dig and move around.

How To Dig a Hole For Fruit Trees

Step 3 ~ Mark Your Planting Site(s)

This is where a metal stake or piece of rebar along with some twine or string and a long nail will come in handy.

Planting A Fruit Tree

Mark the center of where you plan to plant your fruit tree by hammering in a piece of rebar or metal stake into the soil. Tie one end of the string to your rebar or stake then tie the other end of the string to a long nail or a short metal garden stake. Make certain that the string is 1-1/2 feet in length after being tied. Your goal is to draw out a 3-foot diameter circle. The nail or metal garden stake will become your drawing instrument to draw out the circular outline into the soil. When you are done drawing, you should end up with a circle that is about 3 feet in diameter that will act as a guide when you start digging.

Keep the center marker (rebar) in place until you are actually ready to start digging the hole.

Step 4 ~ Before You Start Diggin’

Before you get started with your work out :D, let’s talk about a couple of things first. First… always contact your utility company before you set shovel to soil just to make absolutely certain there’s nothing that you’ll dig through. Something dangerous like a buried electrical line or a sewer line ~ yuck. Most times, these things are buried quite deep and should not be an issue, but an ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold.

Here’s a link to the 811 website where you can find contact information specific to your state.

811 State Specific InformationSource: 811

Step 5 ~ Pre-Test Your Drainage

Before you go all out with your digging, I highly recommend that you perform a drainage test to make absolutely certain your selected planting site will work well for you and your fruit tree(s). To do this, do the following…

  1. Within your planting site itself, dig a hole l-foot deep and fill it with water
  2. Time how long it takes the water to drain completely

If it took about 1 hour or less to completely drain ~
you my friend have awesome drainage and are ready to start digging

~*~

If it took about 2 hours to completely drain~
it’s not the best draining hole around, but you’re probably still okay with planting there
you may need to adjust your approach on how much and how often you water your fruit tree

~*~

If it takes longer than 2 hours to drain ~
you have a drainage problem and
may want to reconsider your planting site or plan to dig deeper
(see below)

Step 6 ~ Ready, Set, Go!

With shovel in hand, start digging. From experience, it’s helpful to start the process by digging out the top 2 to 3-inches of soil within your marked circle to clearly designate the perimeter of your fruit tree hole. When done, the center marker you placed earlier can be removed and set aside so the real digging can commence. You can certainly skip this step, but since I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I find it helpful. Especially since lines drawn on the soil surface have a tendency to disappear once the digging process begins.

How To  Dig A Hole For Fruit Trees

Outline Fruit Tree HoleAlso, be sure to remove and discard any large rocks or bits of caliche.

Caliche and RocksWhen you’re done digging out the initial outline for your fruit tree holes, or not, the “question of the day” comes to mind…

How Deep Do I Need To Dig?

A lot of books, videos and such out there recommend digging down about 18″ deep or just a few inches beyond the height of the root ball or container size. That may be a fine approach if you have deeply amended loose soil and awesome drainage, but with our hardpan (a.k.a. caliche), it’s not highly recommended.

What is the recommended depth?  Here at the ole’ Asher homestead, we dig our holes 3-feet wide x 3-feet deep. This helps ensure we have proper drainage and aeration for our fruit tree roots, encourages the roots to go deep, and later, when we re-fill the hole with amended soil for planting, it ensures the soil surrounding the growing root system will not return to its previous cement-like status.

As we dig our fruit tree planting holes, we also make certain that the inside walls of the hole are kept rough rather than smooth. As the roots grow, the rough sides make it easier for the roots to penetrate into the outer soil. Slick sides can act as a barrier making it difficult for root penetration.

Planting A Fruit Tree

How To Dig A Fruit Tree HoleWe’ve been using this method successfully for planting bare root fruit trees directly into native soil for about 5 years now and our trees are doing fantastic! All 24 of them. Our fruit trees have had phenomenal growth over the years, are healthy with high yields and produce awesome tasting high brix fruit. We’ve never experienced an issue with the roots not penetrating out into the native soil due to the amended soil in the planting hole itself. The opposite seems to be true. Our carefully amended soil seems to ignite root growth.

Over the years, we’ve seen several different approaches to planting fruit trees around town. Some have had good success, but a lot of folks… they just seem to struggle year after year and go through an endless cycle of head scratching and planting and replacing the same fruit trees year-after-year.

The folks we’ve seen who plant their fruit trees in shallow planting holes in our desert virgin native soil, well, their fruit trees just seem to suffer for it. The fruit trees are small and never seem to grow and are less productive.

Now, I’m not saying that the planting hole in and of itself is the “magic” to our formula for planting fruit trees, but I firmly believe that it plays a key role in the process.

A special note on caliche/hardpan and/or poor drainage ~  For those of you unfortunate folks who have encountered caliche or poor drainage on your property you have two options…

  1. Select another site on your property that will work better for you and your trees, or…
  2. Dig deeper

Through my research, I’ve encountered recommendations from trustworthy expert sources that recommend digging down to 6-feet deep or until the hardpan is penetrated to allow for drainage. Personally, I’ve never had to do this and if I had to, I’d find another place to dig. If you find yourself in this situation, I highly recommend that you contact your local Cooperative Extension for planting advice in this situation.

Step 7 ~ What To Do With All That Dirt?

Digging a 3-foot wide x 3-foot deep hole will result is a large pile of dirt. As you dig, be sure to pile up the dirt a foot or two away, but not right next to the hole you’re digging. You will need easy access to this pile of dirt as you prepare the hole for planting. So for now, pile it up and keep your digging area safe by blocking off the area. It’s a pretty deep hole, so use your best judgement when it comes to safety and protecting family members and pets.

How To Dig A Fruit Tree Hole

Step 8 ~ Final Drainage Check

Once your hole(s) are dug, we recommend one final drainage check. This also allows the planting hole and surrounding native soil (deep within the hole) to be thoroughly wetted prior to planting.

Fill the hole to the tippy top with water and let it drain out completely. Again, as long as it completely drains out within 1-2 hours, your fruit trees will do just fine.

Fruit Tree DrainageFruit Tree DrainageFruit Tree DrainageHope you found this post informative and helpful. Next up in my Fruit Tree series is How To Prepare A Hole For Planting.

Fruit Tree Health

God Bless,

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Fruit Tree Series

Dorsett Golden AppleHi dear friends!  Now that the universe has pounded in the fact that 2015 is well underway a-n-d I’m finally able to pull myself away from the busy tasks of preparing my orchard for the upcoming fruit season ~ especially since the warmer weather has accelerated growth to the nth degree ~ I’ve got some good news for you. Later this week, I will be posting the first in a series of blog posts that will be dedicated to helping all of you budding home orchardists out there. Particularly for those of you who live in hot and dry areas like Las Vegas, Nevada. Yup, it’s my… wait for it… Fruit Tree series. I know, pretty clever name. Just tryin’ to keep it simple.

This series is also for those of you whose interests lie beyond simply growing a fruit tree for the sake of growing a fruit tree. It’s for those of you who want to grow fruit trees with a higher than normal potential for producing nutritionally superior fruit for maximum health benefits 🙂 Yes… I’ll be sharing my high brix/nutrient dense fruit tree growing techniques with you.

Santa Rosa Plums

In this series, I plan to share with you the steps on how to grow and maintain a home fruit orchard organically and holistically right in your own backyard (or as in my case, this also includes my front yard). I’ll share things like…

  • How to Dig and Prepare a Hole
  • What To Do When Your Bare Root Tree Arrives
  • How to Plant a Fruit Tree In The Desert
  • Soil Testing
  • Soil Amendments For Nutrient Dense Fruit
  • New Fruit Tree ~ 1st Year Maintenance Care
  • Irrigation
  • Holistic Foliar Spray
  • Brix Testing
  • How to Keep an Orchard Journal
  • Pest Control
  • Fruit Thinning
  • Harvesting
  • Pruning

I also plan to update a few of my previous orchard posts later in the year, too (i.e., Planning The Orchard, Designing The Orchard, Purchasing the Fruit Trees, etc.). If there’s a specific topic that you would like me to cover and it’s not listed above, please leave me a comment and I’ll make sure I add it to the list.

Throughout the year, you can quickly access my Fruit Tree series as well as my Orchard Calendar series, from the top navigation bar on my blog page under a new category called Home Orcharding.  I will also place a link in the right side bar so you can easily revisit each post as the need arises. I’ll also be sure to add updates as I discover and test out new information and techniques in my own orchard.

On my Fruit Tree Series page, I plan to include a section called Nifty Tools and T’s where I will place links to various tools and templates I have either collected and tested out in my own orchard or developed myself over the years. It’s a resource you may find extremely helpful as you tend to your own home orchard throughout the year.

As a fruit-growing enthusiast, I’m very excited about this series and am anxious to share my experience and techniques with you 🙂 Here’s to an awesome year of fruit!

God Bless,

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December Orchard Tasks

 

December Orchard TasksHi friends!

December is the month when I can finally pause for a moment, take a step back and breathe. With my orchard tools cleaned and stored away, it’s also the perfect time to take stock of my fruit orchard’s productivity for the past year, take a closer look at challenges I encountered, and reflect upon the successes.

Home Fruit Orchard

2014 was definitely a productive year. Only a few quick flips of the pages in my orchard fruit harvest record book is enough to reconcile my memory of last year with the actual harvest numbers. Not to brag or anything, but my fruit trees ROCKED their first full year of production. Only three years old and such abundance! Well done, trees! Well done.

Eversweet Pomegranate

Bees and Pomegranates

As I sit here in awe, I feel compelled to give thanks. Thanks to God for blessing us with such wonderful fruit trees and a place to plant them. Thanks for the phenomenal increase in nutrition that was easily confirmed by the brix numbers I recorded this past year. Thanks for the health of my fruit trees, soil, and abundance of good soil bacteria that was confirmed through soil testing. Thanks for all the wonderful natural healthy amendments that made my fruit tree and soil health possible and for the resources to obtain them. And thanks for the abundance in my life and for you, my wonderful friend and faithful blog follower.

Flavor Delight Aprium

So can you guess the first task item for the month of December? o_O

  • Take time to reflect on the abundance in your orchard, garden and life. And by all means ~ give thanks
  • Review your orchard’s harvest record and journal.
    • Identify the challenges faced throughout the season in addition to your successes and develop a strategy to resolve/address the challenges in the upcoming season.
    • Estimate next year’s harvest dates, jot down your goals, and develop a strategy to achieve your goals.
  • Make a “leaf storage bin” using wire mesh to form a barrel-shape then anchor it to the ground. Any leaves you collect this fall/winter will come in handy for use in homemade compost and/or for making rich humus in early spring.

Chojuro Asian Pear

  • Begin putting together your Orchard Harvest Record pages for the next harvest season, now. When January comes along, you’ll be hitting the ground running again.
  • After the fruit trees have dropped most of their leaves, start removing any mummified fruit.
  • Irrigation ~ reduce watering to every 7-10 days.
  • Continue to pick up any fallen fruit ~ that is, if you’re still harvesting fruit.
  • Fruit you could be harvesting this month:
    • Pecan
    • Persimmon
    • Citrus (lemons, mandarins, etc.)

Fruit tree in fall

  • The cold and frosty weather is here! Be prepared to protect your frost sensitive trees at a moment’s notice. Frost sensitive trees include most citrus, avocados and other exotic sub-tropical fruit trees. It’s also important to keep an eye on your trees throughout the winter months to ensure that your chosen frost/freeze protection solutions continue to work for you and your trees. For frost/freeze protection ideas, be sure to review last month’s task list.
  • Protect sprinkler/bubbler heads, waterlines, hoses and spigots from freeze damage.
  • Spray a microbial inoculant on fallen leaves ~ when 50% of the leaves have fallen off your fruit trees, spray the ground underneath each fruit tree as well as the bottom portion of each trunk with either a fresh brewed microbial tea or by using a mother culture. Be sure to target fallen leaves on the ground to help populate the area with microbes and facilitate leaf decomposition (making a wonderful rich humus for your trees, to boot!).

Flavor Delight Aprium leaves

  • FYI ~ the first day of Winter is December 21st @ 6:03 PM EST
  • Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy the Christmas holiday with your family and friends!

Give yourself the gift of health… plant a fruit tree next spring!

God Bless,

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November Orchard Tasks

 

Black Mission Fig

My Black Mission Fig is such a hardy over achiever in the front orchard.

Hi Friends!

Well, October is now officially behind us and with it came cooler weather into the Las Vegas, Nevada area. A welcome relief from the heat of summer. Sad though, too. The cooling weather is a sure sign that any summer veggie crops still growing in the garden will soon be coming to an end 😦

In the orchard, everything is definitely starting to wind down. The leaves are beginning to get a bit crunchy and drop off the fruit trees. And the soil microbes, though still hard at work, are wrapping up their work helping the fruit trees store critical nutrition for next year’s growth and harvest. Everything is definitely quieting down in the orchard this time of year with the exception of a few trees that still need to be harvested, such as our pomegranates and Pink Lady apples.

Pink Lady Apple

Before you decide to pull up a chair, sit back and relax, there are still a few important tasks to be completed during the month of November. For those of you who were wondering what happened to the October list of tasks, well, there’s no sugar-coating this one… things got away from me and I failed to post. No worries, though. October’s list translates well into November. When I have a bit more time, I’ll add a separate list for October under the Orchard Calendar link at the top of my blog page. So, without further pause, let’s get started.

Dorsett Golden Apple and Black Mission Fig

November Orchard Tasks

  • Irrigation ~ in early to mid-November, reduce watering to 1x every 7 days
  • Daylight Savings (Sunday, November 2nd). Be sure to adjust your irrigation timer and clocks back (1) one hour.
  • Bees ~ for those of you who have bee hives to tend to, it’s time to help your precious little busy bees get ready for winter. Be sure to have plenty of water available for them along with lots of their fav blooming plants in and around your orchard as they prepare honey for the winter months. I like to keep several basil plants growing in my garden as long as I can. They absolutely love it!
  • Gather together and organize your orchard harvest records and journal notes from this past season. You’ll need it for a task in early December.
  • Continue to pick up any fallen fruit ~ that is, if you’re still harvesting fruit.
  • Fruit you could be harvesting this month:
    • Fig
    • Pomegranate
    • Pecan
    • Persimmon
    • Apple
  • It’s time to plan for winter protection now! Buy winter protection for frost/freeze sensitive fruit trees ~ frost sensitive trees include most citrus and avocados. It’s also important to keep an eye on your trees throughout winter to ensure that your chosen protection tools continue to work for you and your trees.

Plum leaves in fall

  • In the Las Vegas area, we’re pretty fortunate to have relatively warm and mild winters compared to most other areas within the U.S., but it’s still fairly common to have several frost days throughout the winter months along with an occasional freeze. Here are a few things you can do to help protect your orchard this winter…
    • Be informed… know the first average frost date for your area. Here in North Las Vegas, NV it’s around November 15th.
    • String up UL-approved Christmas lights in the canopy of your frost-sensitive trees. Be sure to use the old style bulbs and not LEDs ~ the lights need to be able to generate heat to be effective at warming your trees during a frost or in freezing temps.
    • Purchase frost/freeze blankets that you can easily drape over your trees. It’s ideal for the blanket to be long enough to bunch up on the ground and secure down with a couple of heavy objects (i.e., bucket with soil or rocks, large rocks, etc.)
    • Spread around a thicker layer of wood mulch underneath your fruit trees to help protect the roots from the colder weather. Just be sure to keep the mulch about 6-inches away from the trunk for fruit trees that are less than 5 years old.
    • Keep in mind that it’s easier for winter injury to occur with dry roots than it is with roots that are moist. So, if a freeze is expected, run your irrigation for a few minutes to moisten the soil for added protection.
    • Renew whitewash in areas showing wear, especially on the trunk and main scaffold areas. Doing so helps to insulate your trees from really cold evenings and thawing in daytime ~ i.e., sun scald.
      • Sun scald is a common injury for trees during the cold winter months, especially on clear sunny days. The sun warms (thaws) the trees during the day and then, at night, when the temperatures drop and re-chills the tree, the trunk is at risk of cracking and/or splitting.
  • Protect sprinkler/bubbler heads, water-lines, hoses, and spigots from freeze damage.

Fruit Trees Dropping Fall Leaves

  • Spray a microbial innoculant on fallen leaves ~ when 50% of the leaves have fallen off your fruit trees, spray the ground underneath each fruit tree as well as the bottom portion of each trunk with either a fresh brewed microbial tea or by using a mother culture. Be sure to target fallen leaves on the ground to help populate the area with microbes and facilitate leaf decomposition (making a wonderful rich humus for your trees, to boot!).
  • Add a 1-inch layer of vegetative compost on top of any fallen leaves that are located directly under the canopy of the tree to boost soil microbial action. Be sure to avoid using high-nitrogen animal manure compost. Not only will the compost and leaves act as an insulator for the fruit tree’s roots it also gets the soil microbes jumping into action.
    To avoid holding moisture up against the trunk and putting up an “All You Can Eat” buffet sign for critters who love to munch on the bark of your trees under protective cover (i.e., mice, etc.), be sure to rake the leaves and compost back about 6-inches.
  • Make a “leaf storage bin” using wire mesh to form a barrel-shape then anchor it to the ground. Any leaves you collect this fall/winter will come in handy for use in homemade compost and/or for making rich humus in early spring.

Leaf catch

  • Inspect tree trunks for pest damage and address any issues promptly.
  • Permanently remove limb spreaders ~ only remove them if the secured limbs stay in place once the spreaders are removed. Otherwise, leave them in for another season.
  • Complete routine maintenance on all orchard equipment before storing for winter.
    • Deep clean pruners ~ sanitize, sharpen and oil
    • Clean rakes and shovels ~ remove any dirt and rust then apply a protectant
    • Make any necessary repairs
  • Do general clean up in and around the orchard.
    • Pick up piles of debris, fallen limbs and branches to help prevent over-wintering pests and diseases.
    • Empty out and sanitize buckets and containers you regularly use ~ use a mild bleach and water solution to sanitize.
    • Rake out any wood mulch that has “bunched” up or has been displaced throughout the season.
      For example, my border collie, Pinny, regularly does burn-outs around the orchard while chasing birds and squirrels exposing bare ground in some areas and creating piles of wood mulch in other areas. Yeah, I’m a little OCD that way, but I do like a tidy orchard going into winter. It just helps to mentally “wrap up” the season. Plus, it looks nice 🙂
  • Order/buy compost now for bareroot fruit tree planting in early February ~ Waiting until the last-minute is never a good thing. Also, be aware of the fact that a lot of bulk compost delivery companies will have a better selection / quality of product this time of year versus in January. Generally, spring is when new compost stock starts to come in for preparation of the growing season ahead. Keep in mind, that you’ll need a good-sized pile of compost if you plan to “heel-in” your new bareroot fruit trees before planting. Compost will also be required for the fruit tree planting process, as well. Just be sure to keep the compost moist by hosing it down at least once each week and covering it with a tarp. Using a few heavy objects to anchor down the corners of the tarp is a great idea, too since it’s inevitable that we’ll get a few blasts of wind this winter.

Vegetative Compost Forest Waste

  • Dig holes now for bare root fruit trees that will be planted in February ~ this step for November is optional, but something that I highly recommend. This is especially true for those of you planning to plant more than 1-2 fruit trees in early spring (i.e., early February here in Las Vegas). Doing this step now not only helps to expedite the planting process in spring, but it’s also much easier to do this laborious task while the weather is still decent versus in the finger numbing cold of January or February.Burrrr. Been there done that!
    • Safety Hazard Warning: For those of you who plan to dig the holes now and leave them empty/open until planting in spring, be aware of the potential safety issue/hazard of doing this and take precautions to secure and/or block the area (i.e., place cones and reflective tape, etc.), otherwise, follow the next step…

Fruit tree planting Check for drainage

  • Once your holes are dug and drainage checked, do the following:
    • Mix together 50% native soil and 50% compost; be sure to remove any rocks that are golf ball size and larger.
    • Mix rock dusts into the 50/50 soil mixture (I use about 16 ounces each of Azomite, Glacial Rock Dust, and Soft Rock Phosphate).
    • Refill the hole about three-quarters of the way up with the rock dust infused 50/50 soil mixture. Leave the remainder of the soil mixture either piled up next to the hole or in buckets. You’ll need this soil during the planting process in February.
    • Mix in a quality microbial inoculant (or the John & Bob’s suite of products) along with a couple of large handfuls of bone meal into the top 4-inches to 6-inches of the 50/50 soil in the hole, then water in well.
    • Now, let this sit and work its magic until you’re ready to plant.
    • Note: You’ll probably still want to block off the area, but it’s far less of a safety issue with the hole(s) partially filled.

Well, that just about does it for tasks in the month of November. Oh, one last task… make yourself your fav fall beverage, preferably something nice and toasty hot, then step outside with it, take a sip and enjoy the cooling weather 😀

God bless,

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September Orchard Tasks

092614_WonderfulPomegranateHi friends. It’s time to get started on fall tasks in the backyard orchard. Fall is the time of year our fruit trees begin to wind down from all their hard work producing delectable fruit for us earlier in the year. The process of storing up nutrients for next spring’s growth is well underway as the trees begin to ready themselves for their short winter rest before they get to do it all over again.

Before I get too far into my post, I want to make sure I give a warm welcome to all you John Kohler GrowingYourGreens fans visiting my blog. Thank you for stopping by and checking out my humble little gardening blog… I hope you enjoy your visit.

Before we get into the topic at hand, I wanted to quickly share with you something that happened yesterday. Mother nature decided to unload her cache of rain on us late yesterday afternoon wreaking havoc in my garden. The storm started with a bright flash of light and a loud crackling sound in the sky. I know this because I was outside gathering up the butternut squash I had curing on a homemade bench.  As soon as I brought in the last squash, the sky let out an intense thunderous rumble followed by a surge of super-sized rain drops. Within minutes of entering the house, hurricane force winds blew in and started thrashing my fruit trees around violently, then it started to rain like I’ve never seen it rain before. All I could think of as I watched the downpour in disbelief was “the hundred year storm”.  Most of my backyard turned into a lake with wood mulch floating around. I didn’t even want to think about what this storm was doing to my garden and orchard.

This morning, I assessed the damage.

092614_StormGood news is both my front and backyard orchards weathered through the hurricane force winds and torrential downpour like champs. No broken limbs or damage, only bunches of green leaves spread around everywhere. My vegetable garden is another story. Everything definitely got jostled around and a few plants were damaged. Nothing I’ll lose sleep over.

The heavy-duty 6″ metal stakes that secured our EMT shade cloth frame securely to the ground, were uprooted and the entire unit was lifted up and moved about 2′ tweaking and twisting the pipes and disheveling our 30% shade cloth.

Most of our vegetable plants sailed through with flying colors (no pun intended), but  a few plants, like my 7′ tall Molokhia (Egyptian Spinach) plant, broke in half and one of my trellised tomato plants was damaged beyond repair. Unfortunately, our roof took a hit, too 😦 It could have been a lot worse. Some clean up and yet another home repair job and all will be right in the world again.

September Orchard Tasks092614_Orchard

This month’s orchard task list is a bit more relaxed than in previous months, but there are still a few critical items that need to be tended to, especially for those of you who are still harvesting. I encourage you to review both August’s Orchard Tasks list and July’s Orchard Task list before proceeding with the content below.

Do not be alarmed if some of your fruit trees start to look a wee bit haggard (browning leaves, etc.) this month. Some trees may even experience a small spurt of tip growth this time of year if the weather is still warm accompanied by a good amount of rain. No worries… things in the orchard will start to quiet down soon enough.

As I mentioned earlier, our fruit trees are still actively storing nutrients for next season’s growth. And for us, well, sadly our fruit harvest season is slowly coming to a close with only our pomegranates and Pink Lady Apples left to harvest later this month and in October. Then it’s back to buying store-bought fruit until next May 😦  This will change in the near future. We already have plans in place to extend our fruit season.

Now, let’s get started with September’s task. Most, if not all, of these tasks should be started toward the end of the month (a.k.a. ~ now). Sorry for the late post folks ~ life happened.

  • Irrigation ~ continue to water 3x a week this month (15 mins for trees less than 1-year-old and 20 mins for older trees); Note: these watering times are for fruit trees that are grown ladderless and are kept at about 10 feet high or less.
  • Order bare root fruit trees now for delivery in February! Put all your orchard planning into action by placing your bare root fruit tree pre-order with a reputable local nursery or online source. I pre-order my bare root fruit trees from Bay Laurel Nursery ~ they sell quality tree stock and have an awesome guarantee (which they’ve honored for us on more than one occasion).
  • Inoculate your fruit tree soil with beneficial microbes ~ if you missed doing this task last month, be sure to complete it this month.
    • Spray effective microbes/mother culture or aerated microbial tea directly on the ground underneath each fruit tree every 7-10 days. When making your tea, be sure to avoid using animal manures ~ too high in nitrogen.
      and/or
    • Broadcast microbes and minerals underneath the fruit tree’s canopy ~ I like to use John & Bob’s suite of products. You will only need to do this 1x in Fall and again in early Spring. I like to do both. I’ll start by applying John & Bob’s Penetrate product, then broadcast directly underneath each trees canopy John & Bob’s Maximize, Optimize and Nourish products. I’ll lightly cover the soil surface with either a high quality fungal-based compost (no manure) and/or worm castings then water everything in. Next, I’ll begin spraying the soil with effective microbes/mother culture every 7-10 days during this month and into October. Also, be sure to read last month’s task list about kicking soil biology into gear along with some great how-to tips.
  • Add amendments to fruit tree soil ~ if you missed doing this last month, you still have time to do it this month. I always recommend applying amendments based on results from a soil test, if not… it’s just guesswork.
    • Avoid digging amendments directly into the soil as it may damage the feeder roots.  Lightly scratch the amendments in or simply broadcast the amendments under the fruit tree’s canopy and water in.
  • Fruit and Nuts you could be harvesting this month includes…
    • Almonds
    • Apples
    • Figs
    • Jujube
    • Peach
    • Pears
    • Pecans
    • Persimmons
    • Plums
    • Pomegranates
    • Quince
    • Walnuts
  • Now is the perfect time to prepare for fall’s orchard clean-up activities by gathering together some necessary tools…
    • A wheel barrel
    • Rake
    • Pitch fork (for spreading wood mulch)
    • Metal screening (to make a temporary area for holding dried leaves ~ which is perfect “brown” material for composting)
  • Order wood mulch from a local tree service for delivery in early October. We use First Choice Tree Service here in town and a truckload of wood mulch is free of charge ~ they do charge a delivery fee (around $50 or so). When scheduling delivery, be sure to request wood mulch that is free of palm, walnut (which contains growth inhibitors), and anything that has nasty painful thorns (i.e., Mesquite, Palo Verde, etc.). My experience has been that some of this stuff still makes it way into the wood mulch ~ so you just need to toss the stuff out when you come across it when spreading around the orchard floor.
  • Plan your freeze/frost protection strategy now. Here in North Las Vegas, Nevada our first average frost date is typically around November 21st – 30th. There’s a lot of conflicting info out there, and some say our average first frost date is November 7th – 14th, but the most accurate info that I’ve found (based on weather trending info for this area) is plantmaps.com.

Hope this list helps in your home backyard (or front yard) orchard 😀

God Bless,

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Weeping Santa Rosa Plum

Bumble Bee on Santa Rosa Plum flowerHi friends! Today I thought I would highlight one of my backyard orchard fruit trees… my Weeping Santa Rosa Plum. Of all my fruit trees, this one stands out from the rest not only because of its stately manner but for its beautiful weeping structure. In full bloom, the tree looks like it’s covered in a soft blanket of pure white snow. The tree also lights up in early summer with luscious burgundy color as the fruit begins to ripen. Fruit ripens on the tree at different times displaying a gorgeous contrast of colors which is especially eye-pleasing.

In the Beginning

I’ve mentioned this story before, so I’ll just highlight a couple of important events.  One was the fact that we joined up with an organic gardening group just weeks prior to our first bareroot fruit tree pre-order.  And two, joining the group and the events that quickly followed catapulted our long-time orchard dream into reality.

The first meeting we attended was actually a presentation about growing fruit trees in our area by horticulturalist Bob Morris, who at the time headed up the UNCE Test Orchard project in North Las Vegas. At this presentation, a list of recommended fruit trees was provided and reviewed in great detail. It was also mentioned that the group was putting together a bulk fruit tree order that would come directly from Dave Wilson Nursery in California. The best source for quality fruit tree stock. The timing and valuable information couldn’t have been more perfect. God’s divine inspiration. That’s the moment we knew our orchard was meant to be.

Upon receiving our order, we were quite fortunate to acquire the most beautiful plum specimen for planting in our long awaited orchard. Our baby Weeping Santa Rosa Plum stood about 6 feet high with about a 1-1/2-inch to 2-inch diameter trunk. Lower down the trunk was a bit thicker. The tree also had a handful of arching branches coming straight off the top.

I have to admit that we were a little intimidated by the tree at first.  It was so different from all the other trees and it obviously would require a much different approach to the initial cut at planting. This initial heading cut is especially important for those planning to keep their fruit trees ladderless (i.e., low enough to gather fruit by hand without using a ladder).Weeping Santa Rosa PlumWhen planting our other baby fruit trees, we lopped off their tops leaving the trees at a height of about 36” high or so. Keep in mind that if we had purchased a regular Santa Rosa Plum we would have made the initial cut in the same manner. But, when it came to our Weeping Santa Rosa Plum we were very hesitant in doing this. Especially since we had very little to no instruction or information on how to approach that first cut on this type of fruit tree. So to be safe, we left the tree pretty much as is and removed only a few small branches coming off the center of the tree, which were sticking straight out at eye level and a potential “eye-poke” hazard.

As I stand here today three years later, gazing upon my beautiful Weeping Santa Rosa Plum and its beautiful long weeping branches, I’m so glad we decided to keep the original height and had sense enough to leave those baby arching branches in place to grow. Today, the branches have plenty of room to weep downward toward the soil’s surface and is the perfect tree for Pinny to shade herself while I’m tending to the orchard.

Weeping Santa Rosa PlumWithin a few short weeks after planting, the new leaves appeared followed by a small handful of flower buds shortly thereafter. At bloom, we received a very nice preview of snow white plum flowers that we would definitely admire more of in the very near future. Weeping Santa Rosa PlumWith consistent regular watering, no additional pruning, and two applications of the John & Bob’s suite of products that first year, our Weeping Santa Rosa Plum was definitely on its way to being the healthy beautiful fruit tree it is today 🙂Weeping Santa Rosa Plum

2nd Year

During the second year, my fruit orchard was kind of on its own with minimal attention due to my health issues. In January that year, just before the onset of my illness, hubby and I were able to attend several extremely informative pruning demonstrations by horticulturalist Bob Morris at the UNCE Test Orchard in North Las Vegas. Then, just a few short days after pruning and white washing all of my own fruit trees, I became critically ill.

For the next year-and-a-half, my physical activity was extremely impaired and hubby had his hands full taking care of me and the household. During this time, I mustered up the energy to take notes of important events in our orchard, take a number of photos and write a small handful of blog posts. I think doing these few tasks gave me a wee bit of normalcy in my life. A really good thing.

As for maintenance that year, it was pretty basic… regular watering (using a hose), one application of iron (EDDHA) and two applications of the John & Bob’s products. Thinning the fruit and harvesting was very minimal since our fruit trees were still small.

By the end of the second year, with just the basic care, my young spindly Weeping Santa Rosa Plum emerged into a gorgeous statuesque tree with a trunk that nearly tripled in size.

All of our fruit trees were champs that year and weathered our medical storm (so to speak) with flying colors! A testament to their health and our loving dedication.

3rd Year

Our Weeping Santa Rosa Plum’s (and orchard’s) third birthday. While tending to my pruning and white washing tasks this past February, we had a decision to make regarding our plum tree. Early last year, I noticed a few “wild hairs” (branches) growing straight up at the top of my plum tree. With everything going on that year we just left it alone.

By the beginning of this year, those upward growing branches had grown a lot and turned out to be really nice potential producers with small fruiting spurs all up and down the branches. Something I definitely wanted to preserve.

Weeping Santa Rosa Plum

Weeping Santa Rosa PlumSo, rather than prune these branch beauties off, we decided to reel them in by carefully tying parachute rope onto the branches and staking it down securely into the ground. This has really helped to maintain the tree’s shape very nicely.

Fruit Tree Tie DownFruit Tree Tie DownWeeping Santa Rosa PlumWeeping Santa Rosa PlumYummy Plums!

I really cannot say enough nice things about this tree and its fruit. Besides being super sweet and delicious, the color of the fruit is just stunning.

Weeping Santa Rosa PlumWhen considering the Weeping Santa Rosa Plum or the standard Santa Rosa Plum tree, keep in mind that these plums have fruit spurs. These spurs are the points at which the flower blossoms will appear and then the fruit. For the most part, these spurs will last the life of the tree producing fruit year after year. Because of this fact, every effort should be taken to protect them from being damaged or worse yet, removed! Once a fruit spur is removed, it will never grow back. Ever. This is the reason I take it upon myself to do the bulk of the harvesting. Don’t get me wrong… hubby does a fine job harvesting, too, but is usually pretty busy working on other tasks in the garden or around the house and will help out when there’s a large haul. It’s more a rule for when others come to visit our property, especially during harvest time. No unsupervised picking of fruit on this tree please 😀

Weeping Santa Rosa PlumMind you, these spurs can take quite a bit of beating and will eventually cover the branches from top to bottom with their beautiful presence. Personally, I’m just a little over protective of my trees.  Okay, maybe super over protective.

Plum fruit spurFor those faint of heart, know this. You will have some spur loss over the life of the tree and in most cases, it will be by your hand! It’s inevitable and so easy to do, especially while harvesting deep inside the interior of the tree. Either a shirt sleeve will get caught or a pant leg and as you pull away you take out one or two fruit spurs. Or as you’re picking fruit, you sort of pick off the fruit along with the spur and leaves. Ooops. Been there done that. Just don’t sweat it. It happens to the best of us.

Weeping Santa Rosa Plum

Pests

The Weeping Santa Rosa Plum and plums in general, typically do not have a lot of pest problems, but they can be vulnerable to wood borers. So keep a watchful eye on main scaffolds, the trunk and the crotch areas.

Plum fruit can also be a target for thrip damage. To date, I’ve only seen some slight damage, not much, unlike my nectarine which gets lots of thrip damage each year. Thrips love nectarines! I’m not sure if they’ll go after my Nectaplum fruit, which is a cross between a nectarine and a plum. Only time will tell.

To date, our biggest “plum” threat has been from birds. The plum tree comes in second for the most bird damage. As soon as the fruit starts to change from green to burgundy, the birds start-a-peckin’ and it only gets worse as the color deepens. With our fruit orchard in full production this year, we’ve seen a lot more bird damage on all of our fruit tree’s fruit, but the bird’s favorites are still our fig and our plum. It’s just something about these fruits they just love.

Weeping Santa Rosa PlumTo help keep the bird damage down to a minimum, we starting installing our bird netting frame. I’ve never seen more frustrated birds in my life. Several birds, mostly finches and mocking birds, will gather at the top of the frame making their disapproval known to all who will listen.  They’ll test the netting in several places before giving up and flying away. It’s especially entertaining for us and an easy target for Pinny to bark at and shoo them away. Pinny agrees!Weeping Santa Rosa PlumWell, I’m sure I can go on and on about my wonderfully productive plum tree, but I’ll spare you the “my child does this or that stories”. So, before you go, I’ll share with you a few photos of the interior of the tree and provide a few quick stats.

Weeping Santa Rosa PlumWeeping Santa Rosa PlumWeeping Santa Rosa PlumWeeping Santa Rosa Plum

Quick Stats

Harvest Stat

Chart_Harvest_2014_Plum

Weeping Santa Rosa Plum Stats

Chart_SantaRosaPlum_Stats

Weeping Santa Rosa Plum

Until we chat again!

God Bless,

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Fruit and Nut Tree Planting Strategy

Weeping Santa Rosa PlumHi friends! Lately, I’ve had a few of you ask about my orchard planting strategy. More specifically, why I laid out and planted my orchard the way I did.  So with that in mind, I’d like to talk with you today about how I came up with my fruit tree planting plan. Basically, my approach to the pressing home orchard question ~ what will go where and why?

When planning out our front and backyard fruit orchards, we had several important decisions to make before putting pen to paper. Especially since we had already decided to take full advantage of the fact that our community was HOA-free. To do this, we decided to set up two separate and distinct orchard areas… the back yard and the front yard. It was so nice to be able to use our front yard this way without hesitation or without someone else’s permission. To celebrate our bureaucratic freedom, I did a little happy dance in our front yard, of course being careful not to trip over the bazillion-and-one large rocks and boulders we inherited from the previous owners o_O

Front yard orchard and rocksIn making the decision to use both the front and backyards for our orchard, we knew it would bring with it a number of planning challenges and questions that needed to be answered. Much of which involved lots of note taking, brainstorming, preliminary sketches, as well as hours of research. We wanted it to be as close to “right” as we possibly could get it.

From the very beginning, our hearts were set on growing a wide variety of fruits and nuts like peaches, apples, pomegranates, figs, apricots, almonds, pistachios and so much more. A good mix of stone fruits, seeded fruits and nut trees. We also wanted to leave room in the orchard for a few fruit trees that may appeal to us down the road.

Backyard OrchardWith this desire for variety, we really had to hunker down and do our homework to properly address the question ~ what will go where and why?

Answering this question for ourselves was far from straightforward and involved a good amount of research, brainstorming and sketching things out on paper. So to just pass along a snippet of info or to simply hint at our solution would be doing a disservice to those who would like more direction with this topic. For this reason, I’ve listed out our complete strategy below.

What Will Go Where?

We started to address this question by putting together our wish list of fruit and nut trees. With our list in hand, we could easily begin researching each tree’s requirements and attributes. Also, keep in mind that at this point we had already decided to maintain both orchards as ladderless by keeping our fruit trees at around 8’ high and 10’ wide. So the need to know each tree’s maturity size was rather pointless.

Backyard Orchard

Backyard OrchardAs I began my research, I thought it would be helpful to gather the following information…

  • Approximate harvest dates
  • Category of fruit (stone fruit, seeded fruit or nut tree)
  • Identify as Self-fruitful or Pollinator Required (+ a list of potential pollinator trees)
  • Root stocks (we used the UNCE Orchard’s recommendations)
  • Maintenance requirements (i.e., pruning, water, etc.)
  • Photos of each fruit tree in bloom as well as with and without leaves

Next, I decided to seek the advice of a master gardener here in Las Vegas, Nevada who had extensive experience working with fruit and nut trees at the local UNCE/Master Gardener Orchard here on the north end of town. Her advice was to keep the seeded fruit trees in one area and the stone fruit trees in the other. This advice appealed to my analytical side and seemed quite orderly to me at the time.

With the advice still fresh on my mind, I decided to dig deeper into my research. I wanted my decisions to be based on well-thought out and factual information versus something that just calmed my need for organization.

As I continued collecting data, I decided to enter it into an Excel spreadsheet to make life a little easier for myself. I also found it helpful to make a separate list of things I wanted to address with the orchard. Things like…

  • Shade
  • Privacy
  • and Visual Appeal (both inside and outside my home)

Important Considerations

Based on my research, I identified the following important considerations for fruit tree placement within a home orchard…

Pollination

As I reviewed my list of fruit trees and information, I realized that several of the fruit trees I chose required pollinators. My research had revealed that for the best pollination possible, the closer the fruit trees were planted to their pollinator the better. This fact alone dictated placement for several of the trees on my list.

For Example: my Pluots (Flavor King, Flavor Queen, Flavor Supreme and Flavor Grenade) all require a pollinator such as a Burgundy Plum or a Santa Rosa Plum.  Some of the Pluots can even be pollinated by another Pluot. I chose to go with the beautiful Weeping Santa Rosa Plum.

Flavor Grenade and Flavor Supreme PluotsOther trees on my list that required pollinators were the Asian pears.  My low-chill cherries also require a pollinator, but we planted these later in a couple of the “reserved” spots within our orchard.

While researching, I came across several knowledgeable resources that mentioned cross-pollination with the same fruit-type can produce better yields. I’m uncertain if this is truly occurring in my orchard or not.  Currently, I have just one Aprium (apricot/plum), one nectarine and one peach tree that are self-fruitful and I had a bumper crop with all of these trees this year.  So, unless my bees are tracking in pollen from other fruit trees in the area (which may very well be the case), my trees are super-stars at returning the love they’re given 😀

Maintenance

Here’s an important consideration that a lot of folks forget to think through. Maintenance. Which trees are going to require the most attention and care?  Will some of the trees require lots of summer pruning or have the potential for mushy fruit on the ground? Doing both a backyard and a front yard orchard? Where do you think you’ll spend most of your time?

For me, I knew that the bulk of my time would be spent in the backyard orchard since this is where my veggie garden is located and the bulk of our fruit trees would be. That’s why I wanted my front yard orchard to be lower maintenance than the back and chose seeded fruit like apples and asian pears.  Both have a tendency to grow much slower than some of the stone fruit though my Hosui Asian Pear’s new growth reaches for the sun and requires minor summer pruning.

In my opinion, stone fruit trees are much higher maintenance than seeded fruit trees. Stone fruit trees require heavier pruning in spring and one or more summer pruning each year. And from my experience, these trees, especially my peach, can make a yucky mushy mess with its more frequent fruit drop. Keep in mind that any fruit tree can make a gooey sticky mess under its canopy if the orchardist fails to pick up the dropped fruit in a timely manner. Just saying.

My ginormous white nectarine that I've already summer pruned extensively 3x this year

My ginormous white nectarine that I’ve already summer pruned extensively 3x this year

Now to be only fair, I must mention that my aprium, pluots and plum are fairly “mess-free”.  They are a preferred target for the birds and can drop bird pecked fruit on a fairly regular basis. To me, these trees would also be great candidates for a front yard orchard, except for the fact that they do require bird protection ~ which can look quite unsightly.

Keeping trees with similar maintenance requirements in the same general area can help make quick work of the “clean-up” process. After planting, I did find this to be true and I’m so glad we incorporated this into our plan.

I also found it extremely helpful, especially in the beginning, to have fruit trees with similar pruning requirements close by each other . It just makes pruning tasks go that much faster. Less “stop and think” action.

Saturn PeachFruit trees with similar pruning requirements:

  • Peaches and Nectarines
  • Apricots, Plums and Pluots
  • Apples, Pears and Quince
  • Figs, Pomegranates and Persimmons
  • Almonds and Pistachios

Citrus and cherries have their own set of pruning requirements.

Pest Control

Some fruit and nut trees require just a little bit different approach to pest control. Especially from the furry and feathery kind.

Early on, we knew that we would need to do some sort of bird netting setup on our fruit trees but had no clue as to what that really looked like at that time or how to account for it in our overall orchard design.

Our current bird netting frame system worked out quite well for us, in our backyard orchard, based on some of the other decisions we made in our orchard plan (see Harvest below). Because our bird netting frame is quite large and obvious, we have been extremely reluctant to use it in our front yard orchard. Our Black Mission Fig tree in the front can definitely use some help, though ~ and soon! It’s become a favorite dining spot for Mocking Birds of all ages to sink their beaks in and feast on our delicious sweet figs. When we’re lucky enough to be able to eat one, we can delight in how great they taste this year.

Black Mission FigHarvest

I think the key to our bird netting frame success and ease of use revolves around the fact that we took the time to consider harvest times in our fruit tree placement. It has worked out nicely being able to, for the most part, harvest our way consecutively down a row. There’s just something very satisfying about this process. Check. Done. Move to the left 🙂

Goldkist ApriumIrrigation

Another important consideration is water. Based on my research, I confirmed that most of our fruit trees have similar watering requirements, except for a small handful of trees that require either less water or a different watering approach (i.e., pomegranates, citrus, avocado).

Forgetting to plan this out properly could become problematic. Planting a water-thirsty tree, like a fig, smack dab in the middle of an orchard full of drought tolerant, low water usage fruit trees would not be ideal. It could work if an additional water source was available or if the water-thirsty tree was on its own water-line (an irrigation planning nightmare in the making?). Both would require more effort on the orchardist’s part.

We knew we needed to do something different for our pomegranates, citrus and future avocado, so we segmented a section off from the main backyard orchard just for these trees. A separate water-line was dedicated to this area so we could adjust the water specific to their needs.

Front Yard Orchard

Still using a temporary watering system in our Front Orchard and we give our water-thirsty fig an extra sip of water each week from a nearby hose.

Fruit Pilfering

Let me first start this section by saying that I tried to come up with a gentle term for this, but I guess I have to call it for what it is.

Fruit pilfering is wise to consider, especially if growing fruit trees in an unprotected area for all to see, like a front yard orchard.  It’s a very important consideration for those who are really bothered by the thought of others helping themselves to fruit.

With our decision to set up a front yard orchard, we felt fairly safe doing so since we planned to initially encircle our orchard with the bazillion hard to maneuver rocks and boulders in the front yard. Later, we plan to enclose our front yard with fencing or a wall of some sort and a gate. Also, our neighborhood does not have sidewalks, so onlookers have to admire our trees from afar.

It also helps to share fruit with neighbors. They can enjoy the harvest with you and will be more likely to keep another set of watchful eyes on the orchard 😀

Aesthetics and Privacy

Most people either overlook this consideration or focus most of their attention on it. Both actions can easily come back to bite you in the ole’ rumpola and it may be next to impossible to try to work this into the plan after all the fruit trees have been planted 😥

Myself personally, aesthetics and privacy are important to me. I love looking out the windows of my home to see my orchard trees. The orchard is quite beautiful throughout the different seasons, but especially in the spring when all of the flowers are blooming. I also love the privacy that some of my well placed fruit trees provide us.

One of my requirements was to plant a fruit tree with exceptional beauty qualities just outside my kitchen window. Something extra beautiful that I could gaze upon from my kitchen while chopping up fresh veggies or washing my freshly harvested fruit. Hence the placement of my newly planted Spice Zee Nectaplum. It has gorgeous dark red leaves in early spring and turns a nice shade of green in summer. It’s especially nice that the new growth in summer comes out red then changes as it matures.

Spice Zee Nectaplum

There’s a part of me that wishes I would have planted the Weeping Santa Rosa plum just outside the kitchen window with its lovely weeping structure, but I do have it planted fairly close by and can see it from the kitchen as well.

In addition to a few focal point trees in the orchard, we also wanted to shade the west wall of our home to help keep the house cooler during the summer months. Hence the pomegranates being planted up against that wall. We knew they could take the heat well and would grow quickly to provide the shade we wanted.

Pomegranates

Other Needs To Account For

Finally, we gave careful consideration to any “special requirements” that some of the fruit trees on our list have.

  • Wind protection (Pluots)
  • Winter protection (Citrus and Avocados)
  • Afternoon shade (Cherries)

A Special Note About Nut Trees

Before I conclude, I’ve listed a few points for those of you who are planning to grow nut trees.

  • Avoid planting nut trees right up against a wall if squirrels or other rodents are a problem; it gives them super easy “private” access into the tree
  • Beware of black walnut toxicity ~ it can hinder the growth of certain trees and plants around it (by several feet)
    http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/fruits/blkwalnt.htm
  • Nut trees can be planted just about anywhere or with any other fruit or nut tree, as long as it has plenty of sunlight, the right amount of water and room to grow.
  • Some nut trees, like pistachios, need a male tree that can pollinate several female trees

Conclusion

For the home orchardist, I feel it makes very little difference whether you group your fruit tree plantings by stone fruit, seeded fruit or nut trees –or- intermix your fruit and nut tree varieties… as long as you’ve properly planned and considered all of your likes and dislikes, options, tree requirements, etc. when making your final planting decisions. Planning is key!Orchard Planting Plan

 

God Bless,

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