Volume 8, Week 22, January 18-24, 2015
I’ve had three different people ask me about planting a tree in their backyard this week, or why did the tree in their backyard get sick, or not grow? So there must be some interest out there in Abundant Harvest land on these farmerly topics. They say an authority is somebody who’s at least 50 miles from home which qualifies me for most of you.
Do your farmin’ before you plant the tree is probably the best advice I could give. Once a puppy’s stunted, it’s hard to get him to thrive again so start with the soil. Most fruit trees need a deep, well drained soil, so if you’re the wise man who built his house upon the rock, it’s gonna be tough. What’s way more common is soil compaction.
The guy who built your house used some heavy equipment to raise your house pad, cut in the streets curbs and gutters and crane the trusses up for your roof. I see it all the time, even around here where homes are built on the best farm land in the world, yet when I help a friend plant a tree, my shovel rings like concrete.
Here’s the simple way to know if your soil’s well drained or not. Dig a hole about a foot deep and fill it with water. If you come back in a few hours and it’s gone, your top soil’s okay. If you fill it again and that goes away in another three hours, you’re golden. If not, don’t waste your time planting there without one of the following: 1) Try digging deeper to get through the compaction and repeat the above. 2) If that didn’t solve the problem, you’ll need to build a raised bed or mound a good 4 feet square and 30 inches deep.
Any good planting mix from the nursery is how your tree spells love. Make sure and mix it 50/50 with your existing soil. Please don’t fertilize it though for a month or so until it gets going or you’ll burn the bare roots. The hole you plant in should be bigger than the roots and the tree shouldn’t be deeper than that blonde nursery line. After planting, make sure you get all the air from around the roots by filling the hole with water clear to the bottom.
Now here’s the most funnest part. Your family can’t eat all the fruit from a tree and you’d like to have fruit for several weeks. So buy three trees of different varieties that harvest 2-3 weeks apart (Early June, mid June, and early July, say) and plant them in the same hole. Take two branches out from each tree to make a six branched vase shape. It will look like one tree by the second year and everyone will be amazed how you have all these different varieties. If you have space, you can do 3 peaches in one hole, 3 Nectarines in another, 3 plums, 3 cherries, 3 apples, 3 pears. They need to be on resistant rootstocks.
So how do I know what varieties taste good, which will grow in my area and where do I get ’em Uncle Vern? Probably 80% of the varieties I’ve planted over the past 40 years were bred by a salt of the earth, quite humble fellow named Floyd Zaiger and grown by Dave Wilson Nursery. I was amazed to see the effort they’ve put into the retail side of their business. Just search Dave Wilson. Check out the “taste test” section and anything else you need to know. They’ve always treated me fairly.
Right now is bare root planting time and nothing’s more therapeutic than dirt under your fingernails. Go get some therapy and