Planting fruit trees

The past three weeks on our homestead have been all about fruit trees.  When I placed my orders in February, perhaps I was a wee bit overzealous, and I ordered a lot of trees (18 to be exact), fruiting bushes (a modest 6) and raspberries (only 12!)  Planting fruit trees is like a celebration of finally owning our little piece of land and an investment in the future, so the more the merrier, right?

Well, sort of right. The thing about fruit trees is that you really need to take care siting and planting them.  All winter long I’ve been placing markers at potential sites, reading books about orchard management (The Holistic Orchard is my favorite), and drooling over fruit tree catalogs (I ordered from One Green World and St. Lawrence Nurseries). Yet somehow, with all that dreaming and planning, I kind of neglected to think about how much time it takes to properly prepare a hole for planting.  Thank goodness for my strong Homestead Hubby and a lot of great tips from St. Lawrence Nurseries’ planting guide. If you are getting ready to put trees in the ground, I would highly recommend reading their guide before you begin.

Here are some highlights of our planting experience, including some ways that we made planting flow more easily and quickly. Fruittree1

Brian prepares the site by first scraping and removing the sod in a 2-3 foot diameter circle.Fruittree2

Digging deep!  Topsoil is moved to one pile, and subsoil to another.  In our holes, the topsoil was rich and brown, while the subsoil was a heavy reddish clay.

We found it easiest to lay cardboard down next to the hole and place the soil upon the cardboard, making it really easy to lift and shake the last bits of dirt into the hole.Fruittree3

Three piles: sod, subsoil and topsoil.  After digging to a depth of 1 1/2 – 2ft, we roughed up the bottoms and sides of the hole, which makes it easier for roots to penetrate the heavy clay. Fruittree4


Trees and bushes were kept heeled into our big compost pile until we were ready to plant.Fruittree5

We used a long stick across the hole so it was easy to determine the proper level at which to plant the tree.  The contents of the hole go back in the opposite order: sod first, topsoil around the roots of the tree, and subsoil last.Fruittree6

After planting, I heaped a large wheelbarrow load of composted horse manure in a bowl shape around the tree. Then the tree gets a nice big drink of water. Fruittree7

Voila! The beginnings of an orchard!



12 thoughts on “Planting fruit trees

    • The sod goes in grass side down. So the idea is that it will decompose and make some nice rich compost below the roots, and as they grow, they can access the nutrients. Then you gently tuck the topsoil around the roots.

    • The fruits will be a long time coming! I wish it was as simple as just putting them in the ground and then eating lots of fruit! I did plant some fall-bearing raspberries that should fruit this year, and I’m going to grab some strawberry plants from our neighbor, so hopefully we’ll get to enjoy those too. Oh, and I almost forgot the gooseberries that I dug up from my garden in Oregon and transplanted here. They look great and are of bearing age. Luckily there are wild gooseberries, black raspberries, and autumn olives on the property, so I should be able to forage a bit in the wild!

  1. St Lawrence Nursery is only about 45 minutes away from where I live! The folks who teach sustainable ag and permaculture here love taking our students to the nursery for field trips and we have a bunch of their fruit trees and berry bushes in our college garden 🙂

    • That’s so cool! I’d love to see their set up. They have great plants and fantastic resources. And I love that I had to fill out the order form in pen and send it in with a check. When you’re ready to plant your own fruit trees, they have a great selection of cold-hardy fruits!

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