Potted Planting Guide
Blending the Best of Old and New Techniques
for BAREROOT Trees
This information is intended as an aide to your success in growing your own fruit, and derives from over 100 years of experience as a leading fruit and nut tree nursery supplying and advising commercial agriculture. This guide presents the most up-to-date information and techniques laced with the ‘tried and true’. Our variety selection is also up-to-date, featuring our favorite heirloom varieties, and offering the latest selections from around the world.
Planting Site: Your desire for a fruit tree must be balanced with the availability of an appropriate site for the tree. The planting site should have good drainage in summer and winter, and not receive excessive waterings during the summer. The best site is on a small mound, which will insure good drainage. Avoid low spots or areas where water is known to accumulate. A lawn is not ideal, but can be used, especially if you keep that “F^$%#&@” weedeater away from the trunk.
The space used by your tree will depend upon your pruning and training techniques. Summer pruning and multiple trees per planting hole can reduce the space requirement per tree to as small as 5’ x 5’, and a height of 8’.
Planting more than one or two varieties will yield fruit over a longer period of time. To maximize the use of available space, more than one tree can be planted in an enlarged hole, spaced about 18” apart. Also, trees can be ‘espaliered’ (some of our varieties originated in France, and respond well to hearing French spoken in the garden) on a fence; close-planted in a line along a property line and pruned to keep them narrow and out or reach of your neighbor. Close-planted trees will compete with each other, thus reducing tree growth. It is important to prune close-planted trees to allow good light into the center of the trees. Close-planted trees should all be the same fruit type (peaches with peaches, apples with apples, etc); and they should be on the same rootstock. Summer pruning is crucial to success with close-planted trees.
Planting: We will place the roots of your tree in a plastic bag to keep the roots moist. Direct sunlight on the bagged roots may damage the roots with heat build-up. We strongly recommend that you plant the tree within a day of your purchase, according to the instructions below. Because we are not open on Sunday, you have that day to plant!
The planting hole should be dug deep enough to accommodate the roots and no deeper (planting is not an exercise in macho-ism). The planting depth should place the tree at the same depth as in our nursery. This places the final soil level at the color change in the bark below the ‘dog-leg’ in the trunk. The width of the hole should accommodate the roots without bending them to fit into the hole. The only fertilizer applied should be the packets supplied with your tree. Place the packets around the hole after back-filling about half way, evenly space them around the sidewall and not directly touching roots. When back-filling the hole, do not allow any clods, weeds, vegetation or treasure to be buried with the tree roots. Air pockets will remain in the hole after back-filling and need to be removed by flooding the back-filled hole with 3 to 4 gallons of water. In order to hold the water, construct a temporary basin around the back-filled hole. When the soil settles after the flooding, add soil to any depressions that appear and remove the temporary basin. This flooding procedure is very important to successful planting. When finished planting, the tree should be at the same depth as it was in the nursery; and the soil level should be the same or higher than the surrounding soil level.
The tree should receive a pruning after planting. We recommend pruning back the trunk to leave about 30” above ground and trimming all limbs back to within 1” of the trunk. After pruning, the tree protector supplied with the tree is slipped over the trunk until resting on the ground. The protector will help provide some shade to the trunk during winter and spring. It will not protect the tree from that dang-blasted weedeater. If you want to apply whitewash, this should be done after planting and pruning. Be sure to remove the tree labels and store them for future reference.
Pruning: Your pruning objectives are 1) strong support for the fruit load, 2) control of tree size, and 3) encouraging annual high-quality fruiting. Any number of pruning styles will be successful provided certain basic requirements are met.
A. All pruning should be performed during the growing season. Generally speaking, pruning should be performed mid-spring, early summer and late summer. Pruning during the growing season stops or slows growth. If the tree is maintaining the desired height and an open airy appearance, then a pruning may be skipped over.
B. The tree must be structurally strong to support the weight of the fruit. The strongest trunks are those nearly vertical. The further fruit is borne away from the trunk, the more difficultly the trunk will have supporting the fruit load. (Atlas supported the world on his shoulders, not in his outstretched hands.) Keep the tree short with fruit borne low in the tree. (Atlas was very short too, I think.)
C. Allow strong light into the central parts of the tree (around the trunks). This is necessary for continual fruit set close to the trunk and low in the tree. Remove limbs or twigs that block strong light from reaching the center of a tree. Prune to keep the tree open and airy in appearance, avoiding a dense, compact appearance.
D. Tree size can be controlled by pruning vertical shoots back to a weaker growing vertical shoot or to a bud on the shoot. The objective is to make the tree less vigorous. This process will need to be repeated during the summer when the tree re-establishes new vertical shoots. Remember to thin out limbs that are providing too much shade to the center of the tree.
E. With more than one tree per hole, the stronger growing ones will require more pruning to keep them from out competing the weaker growing trees.
F. Start pruning in the first year to keep the tree size reduced. A tree that is allowed to get too large is extremely difficult to be brought back to an acceptable size. Don’t allow the tree to get out of control. We would hate to see this happen.
G. Don’t be intimidated by pruning. Make your decision and move on to the next chore or the chaise lounge. Observe how the tree responds to your decisions and experiment. Discovery is one of the joys of gardening.
Fertilizing: The packets supplied with the tree will be adequate for the first year growth. Fertilization should be kept to a minimum. High levels of nitrogen fertilization will stimulate excessive growth and reduce fruitfulness. The roots will likely supply the trees needs by picking up nutrients from other parts of your landscape.
Fruit Thinning: Removal of fruit or flowers will improve the size of your fruit and avoid limb breakage caused by excessive weight. With semi-dwarf cherries, too much fruit can also reduce tree growth and may actually cause decline of the tree health. Avoid being too ‘fruit greedy’.
Thinning is best done by removing juvenile fruit a few weeks after the flower petals have fallen. The rule of thumb in thinning is: ‘Don’t look down’. The sight of all that fruit on the ground will cause you to not thin enough. The second rule is: ‘Don’t listen to kibitzers whining about no fruit’, especially if its that neighbor again. Old fruit bearing limbs can be pruned off at this time, leaving younger fruit bearing limbs.
Variety Selection: See our “Backyard Tree Catalog” for specific information or a member of our knowledgeable staff. Varieties are selected because they are FLAVORFUL!!! These are "tried and true" HEIRLOOM selections and also the latest and greatest from around the world.
Pests & Diseases: We suggest obtaining a copy of UC Cooperative Extension Placer/Nevada Counties “Guide to Home Orcharding for the Sierra Nevada Foothills” UCANR Publication #31-701. This guide is the product of many years of experience by past Farm Advisor Garth Veerkamp. We will have copies for sale during our sales event.
Supplies: With your tree, we will furnish the recommended fertilizer and a temporary tree protector. We recommend caution when using soil amendments and other ‘planting aides’ in the planting hole. Applying a whitewash to the tree trunk and limbs after planting can be beneficial, but not necessary. Whitewash can be prepared by diluting interior grade white latex paint with 2 parts of water with one part paint. The supplies we are offering are all that is necessary for successful planting. Our commercial farm customers use these same supplies with better than 99% success. What we do best is to grow and offer high quality trees. The provision of ancillary items is best done by stores who specialize in those items.
NOW IT'S TIME TO ENJOY THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR!