I am, at heart, a planner: even the simplest weekend getaway is deserving of a long detailed list from me to ensure no essential item gets left behind. The same goes for projects. I need to know every detail, tip and potential snag before I get as far as tying my shoelaces. That said, it should come as no surprise that I won’t touch a shovel before I am completely prepared for fall planting. The trees I plant are going to be around for a long time; much longer than the annual vegetables I put out in the spring!
For zones 5-10, our fruit trees thrive from fall planting. It gives the trees plenty of time to settle their roots before the massive growth seen in spring. Now is a great time to survey your potential planting area and make sure you have everything ready before your bundle of planting joy arrives.
Most trees need full sun to provide you with the biggest, juiciest harvests. “Full sun” means at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Consider the tree’s surroundings. Are there larger trees nearby that will limit its sun exposure? What about buildings? Does the area get mostly morning or evening sun?
By now, you probably know your soil’s strengths and weaknesses. Do you have heavy, clay soil? Now would be a good time to dig in some coco-fiber or compost to loosen things up. How are the nutrients? Consider using a soil meter to gauge your soil pH. Most county extension offices also offer inexpensive soil tests, and you can use these results to determine if nutrient or pH balancing will help your future plant.
You may want apples, but indoor plumbing is nice too! Your tree will grow up to be much, much larger than the sapling you plant. Consider power lines above, and underground pipes and cables below. Most utility companies provide details of buried items free of charge. In a similar vein…
Fall planting or otherwise, it’s safe to assume that your fruit tree will eventually grow as wide as it does tall. The same goes for its roots — most roots will grow just as far, or farther, as the last leaf on the furthest branch. If your tree doesn’t have enough space to spread out, sidewalks, statues and walls could become nuisances. Make sure you steer clear of these obstacles when planning your fall planting, or any planting, area. Learn more about spacing in our article, Fruit Tree Sizes.
Fall planting should not be intimidating. Instead, it should be exciting to add new life to a landscape that’s winding down for the impending winter! Come spring, the first tiny budding leaves will be encouragement that you have done everything just right for your newest addition.