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!