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Fruit Tree Care: Planting Fruit Trees

by Elmer on 03/08/2011
Digging a Hole 1

When it comes to planting fruit trees, we can never stress enough the importance of planning before you plant. This includes choosing the best spot for your new planting above the ground and below the ground. It is highly recommended that you contact your local utility department before digging to prevent damage to cables, pipes, and other underground structures.

Too often we encounter troubles because we act first and think later. That’s why, when planting an orchard or even a few trees in the back yard, it’s a good idea to take a step back and visualize how our efforts will look 10 years from now. Remember, the time difference between a vegetable garden and productive fruit trees can be years! It’s also well worth the wait, so, to start things off right, let’s avoid future problems by considering a few key things before planting.

I. The Planting Site

Have you chosen a place free of interference? Is it far enough from power lines, sewer lines, sidewalks, etc.? Visualize your tree 10 years from now in the location you’ve chosen, and ask yourself those questions.

If your tree could talk, it would ask for a well-drained, fertile location with plenty of sunlight. While a full day’s sun is great, trees can still thrive and produce on a half-day’s light; and most trees are forgiving of imperfect soil conditions. If your ground is a little heavy, consider using our Coco-Fiber Medium. Just drop the “brick” into 1 1/3 gallons of warm/hot water, 30 minutes before planting. When refilling the hole, work the coco-fiber into the soil and finish planting. This will give the root system air and allow for water absorption as the roots develop.

Questions to Ask Before Planting Planting Tips

II.  Digging the Hole

When digging the hole, a good rule of thumb is to remove a space nearly twice the width and depth of the roots. You don’t want the roots cramped or circled. The area you loosen is the area the roots will quickly grow into to anchor and sustain the tree’s top. This simple task helps determine both how good the foundation will be years later and how well the plant utilizes two much-needed ingredients: air and water.

Digging a Hole 1 Digging a Hole 2 Digging a Hole 3

III.  Planting the Tree

Coco-Fiber Brick in Water

The Soil

You know the soil you dug up first, right underneath the grass? When refilling your planting hole, it’s always best to place that soil in first. It’s usually more fertile, as well as more porous, and when placed down near the roots, it will help the tree grow better. The remaining soil (from the bottom of the dug hole) is heavier and works well when mixed with the Coco-Fiber Medium. From top to bottom, work the soil with your hands to avoid large clods that create air pockets.

Graft Placement

Mind the GraftWhen you refill your planting hole, hold the tree up a bit to allow loose soil to fall beneath, as well as around the sides of, the roots. Center its position so there is adequate space on all sides for the root system to grow out. If you are planting a dwarf or semi-dwarf apple tree, hold the bud union up above the refill line — this is the “bump” above the root system of the tree where the rootstock was grafted to the varietal top. If given the opportunity, grafted apple trees will self-root; if the variety self-roots, you’ll lose the size-restrictive nature of the rootstock. (Did you know the rootstock is responsible for the mature size of your tree, i.e. dwarf, semi-dwarf, standard? We don’t want to lose that sizing characteristic — it would definitely throw a rock in your long-term plan!)

Finishing Touches

Through the process, keep the tree straight (perpendicular) and, upon finishing, tamp the tree in with your foot to remove air spaces and seal it in. If the tree is planted on a slope, create a slight berm on the lower side to utilize water throughout the summer.  If it’s not pre-pruned before you plant it, be sure to prune your tree, and water it well.

Placing Tree in Planting Hole Finishing Touches (Pruning) Using Coco-Fiber Medium

Dear Gardening Friend,

There are few things in life that have the sustainability and bring the same satisfaction as growing a fruit tree. The years following will be spent measuring the tree’s progress and reaping its rewards. That’s a “10-year” vision — yep! I saw the future before I began; how about you?

– Elmer

Elmer and Apples on a Tree Shop all Stark Bro’s Fruit Trees »

80 comments on “Fruit Tree Care: Planting Fruit Trees

  1. John S.Henchey on said:

    Just curious if there is any information available on development time for fruit trees. Example would be what stage of development shoud be expected after the first second third year etc. How long after a tree is planted should we look forward to the first fruit?

    • Meg on said:

      John, different fruit trees will bear at different ages, with apples/pears being the earliest (say, 2-3 years after planting) & cherries being the late bunch (up to 7 years after planting). Which trees are you waiting on? Pruning, proper pollination, bees, and adequate sunlight are your best bets for the earliest harvests. :)

  2. Nancy Kopchala on said:

    I not only saw the end I planned the end.
    My motto “Plan your work and work your plan”

  3. Debra Winright on said:

    I am going to plant a Japanese Weeping Cherry Tree within a week or so,should we remove the burlap bag that is around the root bottom before we plant it in the ground?

    • Brenda on said:

      Hi Debra! Yes, I would definitely recommend removing the burlap from the roots of your tree. Removing the burlap will give the roots the growing and breathing room they need. In addition, burlap is non-biodegradable.
      I hope this helps!

  4. johnmayatte on said:

    i bought two peach trees from you all last years, one is doing ok, the other is bare with nobuds, it looks like it was attacked by bugs, they are 25ft apart. JOHN MAYATTE

    • Brenda on said:

      Hi John! I’m sorry to hear about your peach tree. I would recommend our Bonide Fruit Tree Spray for insect and disease control on your peach tree. You may wish to spray both trees as a preventative measure.
      I hope this is helpful!

  5. Robert A. Forman on said:

    i Have been buying your trees for 40 plus years never had a problem.

    • Meg on said:

      That is so encouraging to hear, Robert. :) Thank you. Do/did you have any trees that were “favorites” of yours?

  6. Eric on said:

    Just got my order of trees from you guys. I’m in Zone 6. Do they need to be hardened off before planting or can I open the box and plant them right away? Forecast for next seven days has highs in the 40′s-50′s and lows in the 30′s to 20′s.

    • Meg on said:

      You can plant them asap, Eric! :) The trees are dormant, and this weather is perfect for transplanting. Which trees are you planting?

      • Eric on said:

        Great- it will be done tomorrow. I got two apples (semi dwarf) to replace a huge standard that keeled over this winter. I couldn’t resist so I had to get a peach and a cherry as well.

        • Meg on said:

          Excellent choices! You should get about the same size harvest on those semi-dwarfs as you got on your standard. :) Is your cherry tree sweet or a pie cherry? Be sure to plant that one in well-drained soil, cherry trees do NOT like standing water. They’re high maintenance like that. ;)

  7. Susan Rogers on said:

    Can you give some quick general tips for spring pruning of fruit trees, other than eliminate crossed branches and open up the center for light and air? I have 7 semi-dwarfs from you: 3 apple and 1 each of pear, plum, peach, and cherry. Two apple trees are in their 3rd spring and the others were all planted last spring. Thank you.

  8. Joan Romano on said:

    I bought a cherry & a blueberry tree form you last year. The cherry tree I planted in the ground & the bluebrry I planted in an over size pot 24 inches circumference. When can I expect fruit on them?

    • Brenda on said:

      Hi Joan! Blueberries typically take 2-3 years to bear fruit, while cherry trees can take 4-7 years before they bear fruit. I hope they grow well for you!

  9. Angela on said:

    I ordered 2 semi-dwarf apple, 1 dwarf peach and one semi-dwarf cherry tree to arrive in a few weeks. I was wondering how close the apple trees need to be to eachother for cross polination. Also, how far apart should all the trees be from eachother? Thanks!

    • Brenda on said:

      Angela, the apple trees can be as far apart as one-quarter mile and still achieve pollination. I would allow 15-18 feet between the fruit trees to allow for their spread at maturity. Happy Planting!

  10. Eric Kues on said:

    I just recieved 4 apple trees and two peach trees from Stark Bros. yesterday and they look great. The only problem is that yesterday we also got around two inches of rain and about an inch of snow. Now everything is just mud. How long can I wait to plant them, or is there a good way to plant them now?
    Thanks.

    • Brenda on said:

      Eric, happy to hear you’re pleased with your new trees! The trees are dormant so they can be planted as long as you can dig and the temperature is above freezing. I would not recommend planting in holes that have standing water as this could lead to root rot. Your trees can be kept in the box in an unheated shed or garage for up to 2 weeks. Be sure to keep the roots moist. I hope this helps! :-)

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  12. Jessica Dow on said:

    Hello! I bought 4 semi dwarf Honeycrisp apple trees, a GoldCot apricot and a Giant Hardy Asian Pear Tree a couple of months ago. Do I need to buy additional trees for cross pollination purposes?

  13. Earlene Lockhart on said:

    I pruned my Oriental Asian pear tree purchased from Stark Bros putting the small ones in flower pots for winter, they are growing and have new buds coming out. Do I need to have another brand pear tree for cross pollination . The original tree is self pollinating.
    It is 2-N-1 self pollinating Asian pear tree. The sprigs I planted are doing great.

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi Earlene! Propagating your own trees is unlawful for patented varieties, but to answer your pollination question: The 2-N-1 tree is technically “self-pollinating” because it has two varieties grafted onto one tree to pollinate one another. :)

  14. Steve on said:

    I purchased a Methley Plum Dwarf Supreme a couple of years ago, pruning as advised on your website. It’s quite large and nicely shaped and we eagerly anticipated a nice first crop this year. Unfortunately, it is producing very few blossoms, as the leaves are now coming on. The plant manual indicated you can usually withhold fertilizers until your trees begin bearing fruit (about 2-4 years), so I did not fertize this spring. The tree looks heathy; it just hardly any blossoms. Note: we had a mild winter, no hard freeze, so the tree dropped leaves late and only about a month before sping and buds began to appear. Is there anything you can suggest that would help encourge increased production of spring blossoms?

    • Sarah on said:

      Hey there, Steve! The plum trees actually take about 3-6 years before they start producing (usually closer to 3 years with a dwarf-sized tree, depending on the environment). This year, and this being its first attempt at a fruit crop, it is not uncommon that your tree hasn’t attempted to put on more than a few blooms. It is preferable to the tree stressing over more than it can handle. ;)

      I wouldn’t worry about the small amount of blooms that have formed this year, especially if they become pollinated and you get fruit. Since you didn’t apply fertilizer this spring, it will increase your tree’s chances at more flower production next year (rather than green/vegetative growth that nitrogen in the fertilizer encourages). I hope this helps!

  15. LT on said:

    Question really; Can a walnut tree pollinate with a pecan tree?

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi LT! The general rule to follow is to stay within the same type of tree for proper pollination (walnut with another variety walnut, pecan with another variety pecan, almond with another variety almond, etc.) — while there are exceptions to this (like how the Stark® Bountiful™ Butternut is used as a pollinator for
      Westfield Heartnut) walnut trees don’t pollinate pecan trees.

      Fortunately, there are many varieties of walnut and pecan that are self-pollinating, so if you only have room for one of each, I would suggest opting for one of the self-pollinating varieties. :)

  16. mark blosser on said:

    I have had many of my new stark apple trees die over the winter, down to the root stock. the root stock lives but the tree dies.stark has replaced the trees sometimes twice they all failed . they are all dwarf with no inner stock graft. all the dwarf i ordered before had inner stock graft those thees grow and bear great. I have 50 trees in my orchard , No dieses in my orchard . I thought it might be winter kill. so i called my county extention agency, he said we have no trouble growing those varity of apples in our area. the ones that keep dying are little jewel,candy crisp, sweet sixteen,red fuji.some of them you replaced 3 times.the last replacements were dead the spring of 2011, i replaced those trees with trees from another company and this spring they were alive.I have no clue as to what caused this problem or has any one else . thats why I am contacting you maybe you can shed light to this problem. ps I live in zone 5 Bruceton Mills W.V.

    • Sarah on said:

      Mark, when you contacted your extension agent did you have someone come examine the trees that keep dying so that you could get an idea of what keeps going wrong? It is difficult to advise you further when the cause is still unknown. What we know is that the trees have died from the top down.

      Since we can’t physically be there to examine the trees or the location to determine a cause, we recommend having a local expert provide this service in person. We also encourage you to provide us with photos of the trees that are being problematic, to give us a chance to examine them or their planting sites for any potential issues. If you happen to have helpful photos after this time, please send them to us at info@starkbros.com. :)

      After so many replacements and no success, if you have managed to find a nursery stock supplier whose product grows for you, I encourage you to stick with them. We want you to be able to have trees that grow and produce for you more than anything! :)

  17. patrick on said:

    Tomorrow I am preparing my holes for planting in anticipation of the delivery of 10 of your finest apple and four each of your pear, peach,plum and cherry trees! Much research has gone into the selection for each”brand” of all species to ensure my family and myself will enjoy fresh fruit from early summer untill late fall… even winter. We are looking foward to our trees producing inthe next few years… and future orders.

    Thank you for this very informative site.

    • Sarah on said:

      It sounds like you are well-prepared for planting and growing your own fruit trees, Patrick! We look forward to hearing about your progress with your new trees as they grow. :)

  18. gary haggard on said:

    i just planted 4 trees and i was questioning if i should spray with dormant oil for the winter

    • Sarah on said:

      We always insist reading the labels on the sprays you are about to use as a guide, Gary. As long as the conditions (temperatures, weather, trees, etc.) match what the spray recommends, you should certainly be able to use it while your trees are dormant!

  19. Tom Jones on said:

    My question has to do with fruit trees that i have purchased from someone other than Stark. I have just received 2 apples and 4 blueberries from you. While looking up the Sweethart Blueberries on another site, it says that they are for zones 4-8. I live in close to 9 zip 34491. Did i goof on the zone here with your site?
    other question is i have from seed, 2 Sugar Apple, how long till they produce here in my zone 9? and then Sapadilla (sp) how long if you know about them? thanks

    Tom Jones
    zone 9

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi Tom! The recommended hardiness zones are exactly that: recommended. I know some people who take that as a challenge, to intentionally grow outside of these zones, and hope for the best. A lot of the time the plants and trees struggle as a result.

      We have you listed as zone 8B/9A — so you’re on the cooler size of a zone 9. You might not have to be too overly concerned growing this blueberry there. If you want to play it on the safe side, what you might want to do is plant the Sweetheart Blueberry it in a container (many people prefer a container that is 12″ deep, usually 5-gallon sized) so that you may move it into an area with filtered sunlight during the hottest temperatures of the season. You may also still choose to plant the blueberry plant in the ground and construct a shade-cloth cover for the same effect.

      As for your apple question, it’s really difficult to judge how a seed-grown fruit tree will act. The fruiting time can vary between one seedling apple tree and the other, even if their seeds came from the same piece of fruit originally. The seed-grown trees may not bear worthwhile fruit at all, or they may simply take many years to become fruitful. Seedling trees aren’t backed by science or research like grafted varieties are, so along with not guaranteeing the fruit characteristics will be similar to the fruit the seeds came from, the bloom times, ripening times, or fruiting maturity may be unpredictable.

      I wouldn’t feel confident trying to advise on Sapadilla since we don’t grow or sell any Caribbean fruit trees here in Missouri, and I wouldn’t have a resource for expert advice. If you know any local growers who might be more familiar with that fruit’s habits, I think that would be an ideal place to find out more info on what to expect. Or you can try to get in touch with your local county Extension Service here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

      I hope this helps! :)

  20. Ellen on said:

    I have just ordered 2 apple trees from you, a Cox Orange Pippin and a Golden Delicious. I have never grown apples before, and am very excited to try. Both the trees are semi-dwarf.
    My question regards my soil. I live in a lake district with extremely sandy conditions not far below the surface. How will my trees adapt to this? Is there anything I can do to help them in their first year or two? (My neighbor had a very old and neglected apple tree that he unfortunately took down a few years back that was still going gangbusters in this soil, so I am hopeful) My other non-fruit trees all do very well.

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi Ellen! Your neighbor’s success growing their apple tree could mean good news for you; however, soil changes all the time and one area can greatly differ from another even if it is in close proximity. For soil-related questions, your best resource for accurate information would be your local county Extension (find yours here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/). These experts, local to and familiar with your area, will be able to run a soil test (for nutrient deficiencies and other concerns) and advise you on what is best for your trees.

      I can tell you that, if your soil composition is sandy loam, it is excellent for growing most fruit trees, since it tends to drain well and roots have an easy time growing in it. This is different from heavy clay, for example, which tends to hold water and can cause root-system health issues. Heavy sand could drain too well so that you’re watching the water needs of your new trees more frequently to avoid a drought-like condition. A representative from your Extension should be able to identify the type of soil you have there and give you advice on amending it if it is needed. :)

  21. zack collins on said:

    I have ordered a few apple trees for my yard here in kentucky. I plan on moving in a few years so I planned on planting them in old whiskey barrell halves in hopes f bringing tem along whenever I do move. I was wondering if you could give me any info on if they may need to be moved indoors during the winter months. I’m hoping they wouldn’t. Those are pretty big barrells. thanks

    • Sarah on said:

      Those barrels can get very heavy once the soil and the weight of the tree all adds up! As long as the varieties you planted were suitable for your zone (and most apple trees are, for Kentucky), then you’re in luck, Zack — you won’t need to worry about moving them indoors for the winter. That method applies to trees that are not hardy enough for winter temperatures like Citrus, Figs, and Asian Persimmons, in certain areas. Bringing those indoors protects them from winter elements.

      Apple trees naturally tend to be more on the cold-hardy side, so, as long as you keep the soil in those barrels from drying out (frequent watering isn’t necessary, but dry soil leaves roots prone to cold injury), and add a layer of mulch over the top of the soil in the barrels, your apple trees should be set for winter!

  22. Amy on said:

    I planted a Georgia Belle peach tree 3 years ago. Last year, it was loaded with peaches. I made the mistake of not thinning out the fruit enough. The main vertical branch split because of the weight. I taped the branch back together hoping it will heal over the winter. I have removed the tape this spring and the branch seems like the sap may be healing. Can I clamp the branch to give it support this season, or is it best to cut it off? My main concern about cutting this branch is that it is the main vertical branch. Or do I have to cut my losses and cut down the whole tree?

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi, Amy! The kind of damage this limb suffered is one of the main reasons we suggest to thin the fruit. This split may leave the rest of the tree open to disease/infection, so your best option would be to prune off the damaged limb.

      There is no reason to cut down the whole tree. Peach trees actually do better if they have an open, vase-shape, structure like what is described in our blog post here: http://www.starkbros.com/blog/successful-tree-pruning/ — so it doesn’t need a main leader/limb to grow well.

      We also have a video on pruning to a vase shape here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WXqEObS8Iw

  23. Leila on said:

    Hi there,

    We’re thinking about buying one of your semi dwarf HoneyCrisp trees. We’re new to gardening and have been doing some internet research to get ourselves somewhat ready for a purchase and planting. Would a crabapple be a good pollinator? Do you carry crabapples? Or would you recommend another tree? How much space between the two shoud we account for (these will be in our backyard, we have about 30′ to work with in the area we’d like them)?

    We are in Northeast Massachusetts. How long does shipping to our area take? Your site is great and very imformative!
    Thanks!

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi Leila! We have recommended pollinators listed for varieties that require one — check out our recommendations for the Honeycrisp™ apple tree here: http://www.starkbros.com/products/fruit-trees/apple-trees/honeycrisp-apple

      A crabapple tree will surely work as a pollinator, too! We offer crabapple trees as well, and you can find those here: http://www.starkbros.com/tags/crabapple-trees

      Our crabapples are available as semi-dwarf sized trees, and you were already interested in a semi-dwarf Honeycrisp™, so it’s useful to know these trees grow 12-15 feet tall and wide, so they will need 12-15 feet of space between planting holes. It sounds like the space available is just perfect for these apple trees!

      Since we’re already shipping to your location this spring (we begin shipping there around mid-March), we usually estimate 7-10 business days from when you place your order to when you receive it by mail.

  24. James on said:

    I purchased a cherry tree last fall and planted it. This spring it is producing leaves nicely. The problem is, we are moving and I would like to take the tree with me. It is only across town so the zone isn’t different. What is the best way of moving the tree.

    • Sarah on said:

      The best time to move the tree would be when it’s dormant, which happens after it loses all of its leaves in the late fall/winter/early spring before it leafs out again. I’m not sure when you intend to move, or how likely it is that you can wait for the tree to go dormant before trying to transplant it, but the dormant state helps to reduce transplant shock as much as possible.

      As for getting your cherry tree from one location to another, the important thing is to keep as much of the root system intact as possible. The most essential roots are the fine, hairlike, feeder roots that are easily damaged or lost when things are disturbed. We recommend contacting a local licensed tree-care professional to assist you with the transition if it is cost-effective. They will be able to help make the move as smooth as possible for your young cherry tree. :)

  25. john thornton on said:

    I am a beginner in the fruit growing game. I was hoping you could give me some advice on selecting the type of trees i should begin with, how many,type for taste and quality, apples ,pears plums and peaches, i believe i am in zone five Dayton, Ohio

    • Sarah on said:

      Certainly, John — The best piece of advice I can give you is to first consider growing fruit trees that produce fruit you’ll like to eat! No sense putting in the effort for a fruit you’re not a big fan of. ;) Then, determine if the trees you’re interested in grow well in your zone. Some of the easiest-to-grow fruit trees, chosen by our experts here, are what we call our “Stark Picks”. You can browse all of our Stark Picks here: http://www.starkbros.com/tags/stark-picks

      While you’re there, enter your zip code where it asks for one so that you’re sure of your hardiness zone. Make sure that you select two different varieties for proper pollination (unless, of course, you opt for “self-pollinating” trees). We list recommended pollinators for each fruit tree variety, and we tell you if the trees are self-pollinating, in the descriptions. Apple trees and pear trees tend to need pollinators, grow similarly, and require similar care. Peach trees and most plum trees are self pollinating, grow similarly, and require similar care. This should help give you an idea of where to start, especially if you only want to give a couple types of fruit trees a try at first!

  26. terry copley on said:

    What is a safe distance to plant apple trees near black walnut trees? I have a fence row with several small to very large black walnut trees.

    • Sarah on said:

      Since the root system of the black walnut tree is where the toxin that affects neighboring plants and trees resides, it’s best to plant outside of the root zone of the black walnut tree. Mature trees can be very tall, and their root system, on average, can have about a 100-foot diameter, so 50-60 feet on either side of the trunk should be a safe distance to plant other trees. This should also help to avoid some shading issues that may be caused by the much-taller black walnut trees as the young apple trees mature.

      There are also handy videos on planting near black walnut trees, like this one from the Oklahoma State experts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9XYyIFo4tI

  27. terry copley on said:

    Thank you!

  28. Doug on said:

    Do you recommend staking fruit trees?

  29. Trevor on said:

    I painted the trunk of my dwarf gala apple with a diluted mixture of white latex paint. after its first summer in the ground I noticed the trunk is cracked and hollowing out on a few spot that face south. I’m not sure it was the sun or perhaps insects, but there is now a spot that the exterior bark is “rotted” away. will this tree be able to recover or is it going to struggle from here out? Any suggestions?

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi Trevor! A lot of the time this type of injury is caused by borer-type pests or by water molds/fungus. Do you happen to have a photo of the spot of injury? It will be helpful for us to determine what you should expect from the tree healing itself and its future performance.

      You can post a URL for the image here if you can upload it somewhere, or share it with us on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/starkbros.co

  30. Jim G. on said:

    I have ordered two (2) dwarf pear trees from Stark Nurseries for Spring 2014 planting. The varieties are Bartlett and Starking Delicious. I will be growing these two trees as espalier. In other words they will be grown on a trellis wires. How far apart do I plant. I have hear that they do well on 3 1/2 foot centers. What’s your opinion.

    Jim G.

  31. Jim G. on said:

    Correction on my last post. I meant 7 foot centers.

    Sincerely,
    Jim G.

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi Jim! There are numerous designs for espaliering fruit trees, so it’s up to what works in your space and with the espalier design you have in mind. Spacing is also determined by the vigor of the variety and the mature size of the tree, so 7 foot centers should work fine for your new dwarf pear trees!

      We have a Pinterest Board specifically for pins about espalier, if you want to take a look at what some people have done with their pear trees and other fruit trees!

  32. Jeff on said:

    I am thinking of purchasing the Plumcot and the Starking delicious. Will those two cross pollinate successfully or will I need to purchase another plum variety?

    • Sarah on said:

      You got it, Jeff! A plumcot will be able to cross pollinate with a Japanese plum like Starking® Delicious™ :)

  33. Alyson on said:

    Hello, I ordered an Asian persimmon, and I have heavy clay soil. Would it be better to plant the tree in an area where it would get sunlight all day, but which is flat, (which means if we get heavy rain will temporarily be soggy) or would it be better to sacrifice half a day of sun to plant it in a location with some slope which will allow for better drainage?

    • Sarah on said:

      That sounds like a “rock and a hard place” conundrum, Alyson! I will always lean toward a well-drained soil myself, because the water-logged root issues far outweigh the issues with less-than-full sunlight. 6-8 hours daily is best for good quality fruit and production, but if your tree is struggling with “wet feet” and related water molds and fungi, it’s probably not going to be encouraged to bear fruit at all. If you have any other options, like planting in a container or choosing a different location all together, I would recommend exploring them!

      It’s far better to start off as close to “ideal conditions” as possible than it is to have challenges from the beginning. :)

  34. Oscar Bryson on said:

    When is the best time to plant a pear or apple that is not dormant I live in zone 6.

    • Sarah on said:

      Still in the spring, the earlier in the spring the better. After the ground has thawed and before temperatures get too warm.

      The danger with planting “awake” trees, especially if they are large, fully leafed-out, or with fruit on — often found at local garden centers and big box stores — is “transplant shock”. By nature, trees are designed to stay in one place and not move. It’s more ideal to plant younger, dormant trees to avoid the shock of being moved to a new location.

      Another danger with planting older, larger, fully awake trees is that they are more at risk of losing water they need (through “transpiration”) while they get established and grow, especially when it’s hot out. These trees require more frequent attention to make sure you water as needed without over-watering.

  35. Gary on said:

    I read from internet, a lot of people suggested to soak bare root tree overnight before plant it. However you recommended that just do 1hr or 2 hr soaking. What should I follow for the bare root tree bought from you.

    • Sarah on said:

      When you receive your bare-root plants and trees from Stark Bro’s, the planting instructions recommend soaking the roots for 24 hours max. Soaking the roots for 1-2 hours is sufficient if you are ready to plant that same day. :) Whatever works best for you and also avoids risk of “forgetting” about the soaking trees.

  36. richard renaud on said:

    how far from a well should i plant a dwarf pear tree how far will the roots grow

    • Sarah on said:

      Pear trees tend to have a tap-root growth habit compared to most other fruit trees — meaning the roots will grow downward more than they spread out. Dwarf pear trees have a narrow mature width of 6-7 feet, so I wouldn’t recommend planting your pear tree any closer than that to the well. If you have a location to plant the pear tree that isn’t near the well at all, I would highly recommend that.

  37. June D. Johnson on said:

    Our little mtn. community of 1100 has been hit extremely hard by the economy. Our
    5 local churches are feeding approx. 150 people each week. We are beginning a series of community gardens – the first of which is an apple and cherry orchard of 20 trees – with local bee keepers placeing hives amidst the trees. For apple trees we have selected Granny Smiths (for cooking) and Honeycrisps (for munching). We have selected North Star and Montmorency cherry trees. Over the summer we will be building trellises for Concord and Muscadine grapes. We also have tomato, pumpkin, and potatoe fields available from former gardeners who are no longer able to tend their fields. Very few of us are expert gardeners and are dependent on “experts” to advise us. Please review, comment, and advise re. our selections and possible pitfalls.

    • Sarah on said:

      Hi June! It is wonderful what you’re all getting together and doing for your community. Your selections sound great.

      If I had to make one suggestion, I would recommend that you select one more apple tree for pollination. I only mention this because Honeycrisp tends to bloom early and Granny Smith blooms later. They should pollinate one another, but it’s always better to aim for the optimum so that you get regular fruit production down the road.

      A good choice is a Golden Delicious Apple tree, since it’s self-pollinating and also a good all-around pollinator for other apple trees. Its fruit is good for fresh-eating and baking — a pleasant apple when picked ripe and fresh, compared to their underripe representation in grocery stores!

      I wish you and your community well in your growing endeavors! I just know it will bring everyone closer and teach important lessons about growing your own food — a piece of knowledge that is especially important to pass on to new generations.

  38. Jerry McClanahan on said:

    We have purchased 8 dwarf fruit trees and would like to know how far apart we should plant them.

    • Sarah on said:

      The mature width of a fruit tree (which is provided on our website for each variety) will be the recommended distance between trees without crowding.

      You can also read about fruit tree sizes on our blog here: http://www.starkbros.com/blog/fruit-tree-sizes/

      For example, a dwarf apple tree that grows 8-10 feet tall and wide should allow at least 8-10 feet between trees. This can be easily figured as 8-10 feet between planting holes.

      As far as pollination is concerned, fruit trees can also be planted further apart than 8-10 feet and still pollinate one another. The optimum distance for pollination occurs between trees planted within 50 feet of one another. Pollination can still happen even if they are farther apart than 50 feet, but it’s not as ideal.

  39. W. Widmer on said:

    I just received several (dwarf & semi-dwarf) trees (3 apple and 1 nectarine) from Starks as well as some lilacs and they look great. We have heavy clay soil here in Virginia and have worked in some compost and made a raised bed with some topsoil for the trees. How high should my raised bed be for the trees. Thanks

    • Sarah on said:

      You should try to break up the clay as much as possible so that the roots can penetrate it as the plants and trees become established. When building raised beds for fruit trees, most people choose to build raised beds anywhere from 8-10 inches (more common) to 1-2 feet above the ground (more extreme cases).

      • W. Widmer on said:

        Thanks – did break up the ground down to ~18″, added compost, charcole, & lime. Raised bed currently is ~18″ & Land also has a mild slope, just wanted to make sure it was enough.

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