Water the tree thoroughly at least a few hours before and preferably the day before you plant the tree to minimize transplant shock.
Also to minimize stress, dig the hole before you remove the tree from its container, wrapping or previous location.
Dig the tree's hole only as deep as the tree's root ball because the tree will need a firm foundation so it will not sink. Most trees will benefit from an improved soil.
Dig the hole so that it is at least two times wider than the root ball. Make the side of the hole jagged rather than smooth, so the roots can break through more easily.
Amend the soil. If you have loamy soil or clay, mix in at least 40 percent compost into the soil. If you live in a rocky area, fill in the hole with improved soil and compost. Also use compost to backfill as needed.
Remember most trees roots are shallow and will eventually extend to the drip line, the area that the tree's canopy covers.
If you are planting a tree from a container, lay the tree on its side and gently remove the root ball from the container. Always remove the tree from the container by the root ball and avoid pulling on the tree trunk. If the pot does not come off somewhat easily, carefully cut the pot off the root ball.
If the roots are tangled tightly together or wound around the root ball, gently loosen some of the roots to allow them to more easily penetrate the expanded area into which the tree will be planted.
Moving the tree by its root ball, position the rootball in the center of the hole and spread out its roots as best as possible.
The tree should also be positioned so that its highest root coming from the trunk, known as the root flare, should be just above the existing soil surface. Add or remove soil from underneath the root ball until the tree is vertically aligned properly, firmly packing down any soil that needs to be added to increase the height of the tree. The majority of the roots on the newly planted tree will develop in the top 12 inches of soil. If the tree is planted too deeply, new roots will have difficulty developing because of a lack of oxygen. It is better to plant the tree a little high, 2 to 3 inches above the base of the trunk flare, than to plant it at or below the original growing level. This planting level will also allow for some settling.
When the tree is at the proper level, fill in the hole using the amended backfill soil, ensuring that the tree is straight. If the tree is a bare root tree wrapped with wire or a sack, once you have filled the hole 1/3 full, cut the wrapping material and remove it from the tree.
Once the tree has enough soil around it to stay upright, step away from the tree and inspect it from all angles to ensure it is standing straight and adjust as necessary.
Gently and firmly press down on the soil as you add it to the hole and continue until you filled the hole up to the existing soil surface level. Only partially cover the first root at the top of the root ball leaving it just above the level of surface of the existing soil.
Create a berm in a circular fashion outside the line of the root ball all the way around the tree. The berm will help retain water around the treeing, allowing the water to soak through the ground into the root ball and the surrounding soil.
Immediately water the tree thoroughly, allowing the entire berm area to fill with water and soak into the soil. If sink holes appear in the soil, fill them in, pat firm and fill with water again, again taking care not to cover the first root.
If you are going to run an irrigation line to the tree, install it at this point. A line in the form of a circle the size of the drip line works best, Don't forget you will need to adjust the size of the drip line in accordance with the trees canopy and drip line as the tree grows.
Cover the area with 2 to 4 inches of mulch, taking care to bury the irrigation line well. More than 4 inches can cause a problem with oxygen and moisture levels. The mulch will act as a blanket to hold in moisture, moderate soil temperature fluctuations and reduce competition from grasses and weeds. If the irrigation line sits above the much the water won't make it through the much and soil down to the root ball. Take care to not cover the root flare. If you don't have your own homemade mulch available yet you can use leaf litter, coarse hay, pine straw, composted wood chips, shredded bark or peat moss. When spreading the mulch, be sure to leave a mulch-free area of 1 to 2 inches wide at the base of the tree which will help avoid most bark conditions and prevent decay.
It is preferable not to stake the tree. Research has shown that trees will establish more quickly and develop stronger trunks and root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting. However, if the tree is in windy conditions, it may be necessary to stake it for additional support. In this case use two or three stakes in conjunction with a wide, flexible tie material on the lower half of the tree to hold the tree upright, provide flexibility and minimize injury to the trunk. Remove the takes and ties after the first year of growth unless the tree is not yet able to support itself in high winds.
It is often helpful to leave the identifying tags on the trees or attach the tags to the stakes or fencing. Although in the summer time it may be obvious which tree you planted where, if you plant quite a few, in the winter you may find yourself trying to remember exactly which tree variety it is you are looking at.
Put protective fencing around the tree if required. Young trees offer tender and delicious leaves for wildlife such as deer, who can strip a young tree bare of leaves in short order. It may also be necessary to guard the tree against damage such as landscaping equipment or vandalism may occur. In this case, use fencing material such as fine, but sturdy wire mesh and secure to the ground with sturdy stakes such as t-posts. Deer dislike jumping into small spaces, so 6 foot by 6 foot fenced squares leave plenty of room for smaller trees like peaches, pears and plums. The space is easy to open and access for caring for the tree and harvesting and comfortable enough for humans to easily move around in.
After planting, water the trees (in the absence of a good, soaking rain) every 4 days for 2 weeks, then every 5 days for 2 weeks, and so on until you can water the tree every 10 to 20 days without placing the tree under stress. The key to watering established trees is to water deeply and infrequently. Slow drip irrigation is key.
Newly planted fruit trees should be pruned back rather severely to compensate for loss of roots during transplanting and to begin the process of training the new growth into a good form for that particular type of tree or vine. It is not generally recommended to prune fig trees.
A layer of mulch helps retain moisture
A cage made of fencing helps protect this dwarf apple from hungry animals. Tags are retained to help identify young trees.
This plum is transitioning from flowers to leaf buds and will product fruit in about 3 more months