How to Plant a Fruit Tree or Berry Bush

Easy Instructions for Successful Fruit Tree Planting

  1. Dig the hole – Remove the plant carefully from the pot and set it next to the hole.  When digging, the initial hole should be nearly twice as big as the root ball itself.  Put most of the dirt you are removing in a wheelbarrow or the pot it came in. 
  2. Place the plant – Set the root ball in the hole.  The top of the root ball should be flush or 2-4” higher than the soil level (especially for sandy soils). 
    1. Do NOT let it go lower that the soil level. Remember, the plant will settle into the hole, so it’s always better to plant it a little high.
    2. Backfill the hole with the native soil.
    3. Do NOT put fertilizer or compost into the hole.  Doing so will cause the roots of the plant to want to stay inside the hole instead of venturing out and establishing a wider root system.  Amendments should be applied to the top of the soil only.
  3. Compost – Apply a 1” layer of organic compost to the top of the soil.  Keep all top dressing away from the truck / stem of the plant.  The width of the ring should be twice the width of the canopy of leaves.
    1. Soft stem plants:  Use a compost that is plant and bacteria based.
    2. Hard-stemmed bushes / trees:  Use a mushroom or fungal based compost, when possible.
  4. Manure – Apply a ½ – 1” layer of composted manure (Do not apply fresh because it may burn your plant).
  5. Weed Barrier – Apply a layer of cardboard (remove all tape and staples) to suppress weeds and retain moisture.  Use a pitch fork to poke holes in it for water penetration.  If using newspaper, use at least 6 sheets of newspaper, otherwise it will decompose too quickly and the weeds will come through. 
  6. Mulch – Use a good quality or wood chips as your top dressing (4” deep)
    1. Wood chips:  Better for woody stemmed and/or mature plants.  Benefit is that it takes longer to break down and provides a cleaner look.  Drawback is that for annual vegetables it can tie up nitrogen when it initially breaks down.  It will often la
    2. Straw or grass clippings:  Better for annual flowers and annual vegetables.  Benefit is that is breaks down faster and helps heal the soil quickly.  Drawback is that is needs to be reapplied annually.
    3. IMPORTANT NOTE: Never use colored or dyed wood chips. This is not only bad for the soil and microorganisms, but will also end up in the fruit that you eat.
  7. Watering – Water well the first time, using a probiotic spray (like BioAg by SCD Probiotics).
    1. After the initial watering, always use the finger / soil test to determine when the plant needs to be watered.  In general, most plants like to dry out between watering.
    2. Put your finger into the soil at the base of the tree down to the biggest knuckle.  If the soil is moist, do not water.  If it is dry, then consider watering.
    3. Plants like to be watered less frequently with a deep watering.
    4. After the first year, with proper mulch application, you should rarely need to water.  Once established, let the tree roots do their job and only water during drought times or when the trees look overly stressed. 
how to plant a fruit tree

REMINDER:  Fertilization in subtropic and tropical climates is best done in February, June, and September on fruit trees and berry bushes.  In cooler climates, it should be done in March / April (just before flowers emerge) and again in June just before fruit set. After the first year, fertilization is best applied as a quality compost or manure.  Chemical fertilizers are unnecessary and do not help the soil in the long run.

For additional benefit you can also apply a compost tea or late spring foliar spray during the same months listed above

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Late Spring Orchard Foliar Spray

apple orchard care in kansas city

Whether you are growing apples, peaches, cherries, or plums, this is a recipe for an organic late spring orchard foliar spray.  Learn to spray holistic and organically in order to keep away from pesticides, herbicides, and other nasty toxins.  This spray will feed the plant, the soil, and healthy microorganisms.  This method works both on the small or larger scales, and will prevent / treat a multitude of bad fungus, insects, and blights.  Not to mention, this incredible spray will help feed the “good guys” and healthy microorganisms within your food forest or orchard.  Get ready to kick some butt with this one.

What you’ll need:

  • 5 Gallon backpack sprayer (or a smaller one will do, but amount will need to be adjusted accordingly)
  • Emulsified fish / kelp (I use Neptune’s Harvest brand) = This helps give nutrients to the leaves, nitrogen to the stems, and feed microorganisms and healthy bacteria.
  • Liquified Mushroom inoculant (Mushroom Stuff by Earthright is often readily available) = Feeds the soil and increases mycorrhizal activity in the soil.
  • Compost Tea (CLICK HERE for my recipe) = It’s all the nutrients, minerals, and food your plants needs to kick butt.
  • Neem Oil (concentrate is fine, but always best to order online because greenhouses will charge an arm and a leg) = helps get rid of the bad bugs, treat blights, etc.
  • Free & Clear Dish Soap (I use 7th Generation) = serves to mix all the ingredients together, especially the neem oil into the other water-based additives.  

Easy Steps for an Organic Late Spring Orchard Foliar Spray

apple orchard care in kansas city

  1. Add 10 tablespoons of emulsified fish / kelp
  2. Add 8 tablespoons of Mushroom Stuff
  3. Add 10 tablespoons of compost tea
  4. Add 8 tablespoons of neem oil
  5. Add 3 tablespoons of soap (to help it all blend together)
  6. Fill the backpack sprayer up with water.  Use higher water pressure or move the hose around inside as it sprays to mix the ingredients well in the tank.  Bubbles from the soap are normal – just make sure it’s all mixed well, otherwise you’ll need to get out a whisk.
  7. Close the sprayer and strap up.  Give it a few pumps so you are ready to go.
  8. Spray leaves, branches, trunk, and soil around the drip line of the tree.  It’s best to do this in the morning, so it can dry out during the day.  Ideally, you want to spray on a cooler day, otherwise it will “cook” the nutrients.  I like to do it on a day when it’s supposed to rain 2-3 days later, because then the nutrients get washed into the soil as well.
  9. Clean out your backpack sprayer by rinsing it out and then filling it back up 1/2 way and swishing it out.  I clean it out a second time and run clean water through the sprayer a bit to keep the nozzle clear.  This will really extend the life of your sprayer.

Good luck and happy orcharding!  Let’s get cracking on these food forests!

Leave a comment below if you have some great orchard spraying tips for those of use looking to keep it organic and holistic.

Like what you are reading there?  Maybe you should read our article on what else you should be doing in your garden in early June?  Get ready to become a dirt ninja…