While many people think of spring as the ultimate time to get out in the garden Winter is actually the best times to get out and plant fruit trees such as stone fruit, apples and pears. Getting fruit trees in the ground during the winter months gives them plenty of time to establish before the hot summer. If planting deciduous trees, you can minimise transplant stress by planting when the tree is dormant. You can also source bare rooted trees in winter, the advantage to buying a tree like this is they are often cheaper and more advanced to a potted tree and have a root system that will not be root bound by a container.
Getting trees in the ground - good preparation of the hole and surrounding ground is essential to ensure your fruit tree has the best start
If soil is very heavy clay and not well drained/prone to flooding it is advisable to make a circular mound 1.5 metres across and 20-30 cm high using some loamy soil and planting tree on top, Avocados are particularly sensitive, and will suffer if they are in soil that does not drain. Alternatively, if the ground is well drained, dry and you are planting on a hillside, you may wish to create a dish like hollow in the ground and plant the tree in the centre to help prevent water run-off.
Dig the hole at least twice the depth and width of the container but if the soil is poor bigger is better, a square hole is better than a round one as it encourages the roots to push out into the surrounding ground. Set the soil that is removed from the hole aside and using a spade Combine Compost, rock minerals and if the soil is sand add a clay product such as soil solver to the soil. Mixing is important so that the tree’s roots don’t meet a sudden boundary between compost and regular soil.
Whilst preparing the hole soak the roots of the tree in water or a seaweed solution such as Eco-seaweed, this will help prevent dry brittle roots being damaged.
When planting try and carefully spread the roots out in a natural position. If planting a bare rooted tree, it helps to mound a pile of soil at the centre of the base to help support the root system, then back fill the soil, add water as you go to remove any air pockets. Don't fertilise deciduous species until the tree starts growing in spring.
In the weeks after planting water the soil well to stop the roots drying out and to further settle the soil around them.
If you would like to plant some fruit trees this winter visit Thrive Sustainability – The Edible Gardens Nursery, you will find a huge variety of containerised and bare rooted fruit trees available and friendly advice is always available.