Our trees and bushes are here! Not only are they here, but they are in the ground. The package arrived late Thursday afternoon. Too late to plant them unfortunately, unless I did it with a flashlight. So I got to work early Friday morning. And a long day’s work it turned out to be.
I had planned to have all the holes dug before the plants arrived. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I had to finish digging the rest of the holes -I had 9 left -first thing. Then I went to the store for mulch and topsoil. The clock had almost struck noon before I ever planted anything.
I’m going to describe the process of planting fruit trees and berry bushes for those who don’t know. Don’t worry -there will be lots of pictures!
Step 1.) Choose what type of tree you want to get and select a variety that does well in your area.
You can buy trees and bushes either in containers or bare-root. Bare root trees are cheaper and have a wider selection; potted trees have a better survival rate. Make sure that any varieties you select do well in your area. Just because the tree is listed for your zone doesn’t mean it will work well in your specific region. If you are only planting one of a species, make certain it is self-pollinating or you won’t get any fruit. I also select varieties based on ripening time and disease resistance.
Your local nurseries will have container grown trees in the spring and fall. You’ll have to order bare root trees from a mail-order nursery. There are many fine mail-order nurseries, but I recommend beginner’s stick with those on the Top 5 list at Dave’s Garden.
Step 2.) Dig a hole at least as deep as the roots and at least twice as wide.
You don’t want to skimp on the size of the hole; it could be fatal to the tree or bush. Newly planted trees need loose soil to expand into. My holes always end up being far too big. Here’s a picture of one of the holes I dug for the blackberry bushes.
Step 3: Gently remove the plant from its wrappings and place it in the hole.
The crown of the plant should be at or above soil level once the hole is filled. Most bare root trees will have a paint mark to indicate planting depth. If all else fails, look for residual dirt on the trunk to see how deep it was planted in the nursery. Remember that it’s always better to plant a little too shallowly than too deeply.
If the hole is too deep, go ahead and backfill some of the dirt.
Tip: Exposure to air, especially wind, can be fatal to bare root trees. Keep their roots wrapped in plastic or newspaper right up until you go to plant them. Even a few minutes of exposure to high winds can dry out fine root hairs enough to kill the plant. To remove a container grown plant from its container, turn the container on its side at a downward facing angle and gently slide the plant out.
Our trees were a mixture of bareroot and container grown plants. I expected the berry bushes to all be bare root, so imagine my surprise when I opened the box containing the blackberry bushes and found this:
Hello gorgeous! Sure they were smaller than I expect, but I’ll trade a flat for size any day.
Spread the roots of bare root trees out in the hole. If a potted plant is root bound, gently tug at the bottom of the plug to loosen the roots, like so:
Step 4: Backfill the hole with soil.
Amending your native soil with topsoil is optional unless you have really poor soil. Do not replace your soil with topsoil; this will create a “flower-pot” effect that will eventually weaken or kill the plant. Aim for less than a 50/50 mix. If you choose to use topsoil, get good quality topsoil. It should look like this:
If you’re at the home improvement store and you’re trying to choose topsoil, the good stuff is usually around $2 for 0.75 cubic feet and the cheap stuff is about $1.50 for 2 cubic feet. Don’t skimp on the quality of your topsoil. If you need a lot, call your local farm supply store and ask about a truckload.
Step 5: Water and Mulch
Water deeply and then spread a layer of mulch 2-3 inches thick around the newly planted tree or bush. Keep the mulch away from the trunk so the bark won’t rot.
Newly planted blackberry bushes. That’s my flannel overshirt off to the side. I’m a real fashion plate!
Step 6: Stake and Guard if necessary
Most trees don’t need to be staked unless they’re really small or in areas with high winds. Guard the trees if rabbits or deer are a problem. You can make inexpensive guards out of a roll of window screening and some zip ties.
That’s it! Some more pictures:
Everything is in the ground and alive right now. We’ll see how they do.