So you’ve picked a healthy fruit tree that’s well suited to our region – let’s get planting! It’s well worth taking the time to plant your tree correctly, otherwise its health and productivity can be seriously compromised. We plant our fruit trees as follows:
It’s important to find out each fruit tree’s particular needs before deciding on a planting site. Things to consider include needs for sun, space, wind tolerance, soils, the needs of surrounding trees, and your needs for harvesting
Dig a hole as deep as the pot the tree is in, and twice as wide as the pot. This wide, shallow hole will encourage horizontal root growth. Fork the bottom of the hole and score the walls to allow easy root penetration and minimise the possibility of root bounding
Thoroughly water the planting hole and surrounding soil. By allowing the surrounding soil to absorb water, you’re ensuring it won’t rob moisture from your newly planted tree
Come back to the site after 30 minutes and check if the water has drained away. If it has drained completely it’s suitable for most fruit trees, as they don’t like to have their roots soaking for too long. If the water hasn’t drained away, make a circular mound 1.5 metres across and 20-30cm high, to raise your tree up away from the water
Water the tree thoroughly and gently remove it from the pot. Lightly tease and spread the root system outwards. If the tree is root-bound, separate the root system by making three vertical cuts. Also, cut away the bottom of the root ball to remove any matted roots. Better still – never obtain root-bound fruit trees!
Place the tree in the hole, making sure it’s standing nice and straight. If the tree is grafted, make sure the graft faces the prevailing winds. Avoid staking the tree unless absolutely necessary. You want to encourage a strong, healthy root system that can support itself
Backfill only half of the hole, then give a good water. Do not add compost or any other fertilizer at this stage. You want to encourage the roots to spread out to search for food and build up a healthy root system that will survive during harsher years
Mix a couple of handfuls of humus, worm castings or other organic fertilizer in with the remaining soil from the hole, then backfill the rest of the hole. Using the palm of your hands, press down lightly to collapse any large air pockets in the soil. This helps stabilize the tree
Apply a 1cm layer of compost or worm castings from the trunk of the tree to just beyond its drip-line (the outer leaves on the tree canopy)
Water the surface lightly, then apply a thin layer of mulch, only 3cm deep – not 2 feet! It’s important to allow air and water to reach the soil
To ensure happy, healthy trees with bountiful harvests, think about:
Weed Control – It’s imperative to keep the grass away from your fruit tree to ensure good, strong growth. Weeds like grass shouldn't be allowed to come within one metre of the drip line of the tree (the edge of the canopy). At Happy Earth we mulch the area to the drip line. Past the drip line we grow soil improving crops such as lucerne and pinto’s peanut that are beneficial for fruit trees.
Feeding- Fruit trees require regular feeding with compost or worm castings during the growing and fruiting months of the year. How often and how much depends on the particular fruit tree’s needs and the soil type. At Happy Earth we add biodynamic compost containing trace minerals, and worm castings to most of our fruit trees in spring and mid-summer. Our free-ranging animals and orchard cover crops work year round to create rich, fertile soils.
Mulching - Living cover crops, straw, tree mulch, and even dried grass clippings all make suitable mulch. Mulch prevents the soil from drying out and weeds from germinating. It also adds valuable organic matter that feeds and maintains soils biology. As the mulch breaks down it feeds the tree with valuable nutrients.
Watering - The amount and frequency of watering depends on a number of factors, but a good, deep watering once a week during the growing and fruiting season is a good guideline.
De-suckering - Remove any shoots growing from below the graft on grafted trees. This removal promotes growth of the grafted variety only.
Pruning – Most fruit trees need pruning to produce good crops. It also keeps trees to a manageable size, so you can reach the fruit! Deciduous fruit trees in particular need annual pruning.
See our fruit tree article for information on the incredible range of fruit trees (from acerola to white sapote) that can be grown successfully in Wollongong!