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How to properly plant/care for a fruit tree

 
Posts: 163
Location: 9A Marion County Fl
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We plant fruit trees cause we want less dependence from the outside world, we want optimum fruit production, this means alot more than just buying a tree and sticking it in the ground!

Im assuming some of you do not wait until you have a tree that has issues before you address these issues.

We all plant in a substrate that could be improved so how do you improve that?

Digging a hole, amending the soil with some sort of compost is possibly like throwing darts in the dark and hoping to hit the bullseye.

My scenario is that I have at this point, dug a hole, done a 50/50 soil amendment with pine bark in the sand that I have for earth, placed my trees slightly above the soil line, made a ring of more mulch and then top dressed with a cow manure.

I dont want to wait 3-4 years only to find out that the tree isnt happy, its never gonna fruit or the fruit is substandard so what can I do to give a better chance that Ill have some decent fruit and lot of it?

Some of you are gonna possibly say have the soil tested.....ok then what? My understanding is fert in a bag ( such as 10-10-10 ) isnt suggested. How do I correct the soil?

How often should I be correcting the soil, ect ect.

Im gonna guess that alot of you are like me, Ive planted many fruit trees on my property here is Brandon FL and never done a thing, just hoped for the best and sometimes Im happy and others not so much.....I have another piece of land Im developing that dosent have brown dirt, I think Im gonna have to do a little more than nothing if I expect to have any gains and Id like to better understand the eco friendly way of doing it.

Thanks for any time

 
gardener
Posts: 566
Location: Central Texas
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I'm definitely not any kind of expert, but here's some feedback based on my experience and personal quest for knowledge....

Jason Walter wrote:
We all plant in a substrate that could be improved so how do you improve that?
My scenario is that I have at this point, dug a hole, done a 50/50 soil amendment with pine bark in the sand that I have for earth, placed my trees slightly above the soil line, made a ring of more mulch and then top dressed with a cow manure.



I try to constantly build the soil, and typically don't amend the planting hole. I generally backfill the hole with the soil (or dirt) that came out of it and top-dress with compost or rabbit manure, along with some mulch.

I dont want to wait 3-4 years only to find out that the tree isnt happy, its never gonna fruit or the fruit is substandard so what can I do to give a better chance that Ill have some decent fruit and lot of it?


It's going to vary, depending on the type of tree, variety, and it's preferred growing conditions. Generally, if you provide the optimal & preferred conditions for the type of tree it'll be productive. While soil is important, one also has to consider things like sun, temps, humidity, etc. For instance, peach trees tend to be productive in my climate, while cherries aren't usually as productive. Furthermore, I can grow 'Anna' apples but, if I tried to grow a 'Fugi,' it likely wouldn't do well. So growing something appropriate for the environment is probably one of the biggest factors, or creating an environment where the tree you want to grow can thrive.


Some of you are gonna possibly say have the soil tested.....ok then what? My understanding is fert in a bag ( such as 10-10-10 ) isnt suggested. How do I correct the soil?


Soil building and conditioning should be a constant process, with the goal of developing a strong soil microbial system. Soil tests are great for giving you a snapshot of the current status of the soil, which goes far beyond the NPK status. A test will reveal the pH, % organic matter, CEC, and trace minerals (Mg, Ca, Na, Zn, Fe, etc). I try to get my soil tested every January to see how it's changed over the previous year, but I'm still learning which specific amendments can be used to correct which deficiencies, so I usually just focus on adding organic matter and building a balanced soil life. Going back to my input about the preferred growing conditions (above); I know my soil is naturally alkaline (pH around 8 ), so I don't waste my time and space trying to grow things, like blueberry bushes, which thrive in more acidic conditions. I've tried to grow them in the past by trying to change the pH by adding to the soil, but they just kind of sat there until I gave up on it, with maybe a yield of 4-5 berries in 2 years. Had I not gotten the soil tested I might have continued to waste that time and space trying to get a decent yield, instead of replacing them with goji berries, which have thrived in that space.

How often should I be correcting the soil, ect ect


Try to look at it more as "building," instead of "correcting." For me it's a constant process, steadily amending a little bit, instead of shocking the system with a sudden, big amendment. Soil will also build over time as the trees and plants are growing and establishing the relationships with the soil microbial life.


Im gonna guess that alot of you are like me, Ive planted many fruit trees on my property here is Brandon FL and never done a thing, just hoped for the best and sometimes Im happy and others not so much.....I have another piece of land Im developing that dosent have brown dirt, I think Im gonna have to do a little more than nothing if I expect to have any gains and Id like to better understand the eco friendly way of doing it.



You are definitely in the right place! When I first joined the site I spent a lot of time reading through the entire forums of the topics I wanted to learn more about, like soil, plants, trees, etc. With the new piece of land you're developing, I would probably get a soil test, just so you know what you're starting with. But, also, you can start adding organic matter to the surface and getting a good system of soil life going. Being in FL, I assume you have high temps/humidity through the year, meaning the organic matter should break down fairly quickly and need more added to feed the soil.
 
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I put this in another thread:

I agree completely with the advice not to amend the soil you plant trees into. Unless you amend the entire area you are talking about, you will create little fertile pockets. When the tree roots hit the edges of those pockets, they will stop going out and will circle in the holes. That will stunt them at best. I always plant trees in native soil, and them add mulch and any amendments to the to of the soil afterwards.
 
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did you check the ph of your soil. pine chips or bark are acid, good for blueberries, and compare ph level with your potted trees before putting them in the ground
 
bruce Fine
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also non composted wood chip and mulch will gobble up nitrogen. your local extension office will test your soil for you and give you good info on planting dooryard trees in your area.
 
gardener
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Jason, Everyone,

Regarding the use of wood chips, if they are being used as a mulch on the surface around the tree trunk, the nitrogen loss will be minimal.  Wood chips gather nitrogen about 1 mm from nearby soil, the rest is basically untouched.  And that bit of nitrogen that has moved into the wood chip will be available again over time as the wood chips break down.  If you mix up the soil and chips, there will be a somewhat greater (temporary) loss of nitrogen as the interface between soil and wood chip is much greater, but a simple layer of wood chips on the top of the soil does not substantially affect nitrogen levels, but having the soil mulched is wonderful.  Simply having wood chips means that the microbes on the soil and on the chip will migrate towards each other and help the decomposition process, while the soil gets conditioned.  Simply having wood sitting on top of soil, in my experience, only helps out the soil.  I heavily mulch all my plants with fresh wood chips.

Eric
 
Jason Walter
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Thank-you to everyone, Im gonna leave this alone for a while, as some of you may realize and as many more of you can been there done that sorta thing Ive worked extremely hard so far to make the property a paradise for myself and wife, I want everything to be perfect but the reality is Im gonna have unhappy trees, some may even die, I should not let that discourage me in any way.

There is prob no ideal way to do any of this unless I had a Walt Disney budget ( which I dont ) so Im just gonna keep planting my trees/hope for the best and deal with the issues hopefully appropriately.
 
Kc Simmons
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Jason Walter wrote:I want everything to be perfect but the reality is Im gonna have unhappy trees, some may even die, I should not let that discourage me in any way.


One thing about gardening (especially with trees) is that things die all the time. An oak, pecan, peach tree, etc., will produce thousands of seeds in it's lifetime with the hope of having one or two sprout & survive long enough to reproduce. And, since permaculture is based on observing & emulating Mother Nature, those who practice it tend to lose their fair share of plants/shrubs/trees.


There is prob no ideal way to do any of this unless I had a Walt Disney budget ( which I dont ) so Im just gonna keep planting my trees/hope for the best and deal with the issues hopefully appropriately.



One tip I can offer is to start looking for more cost effective methods of obtaining trees/shrubs. Propagating seeds & cuttings is a good way to get a lot of stuff to work with at a low price. Last autumn I picked up a bunch of half-rotted persimmons off the ground and got a couple dozen trees from the seeds. Some folks down the road have a pair of pear trees by the ditch that are always totally neglected but never fail to be covered with pears each year, so I'm planning to stop by and ask if I can pick up a few of the spoiled pears from the ground to try and germinate. Grocery store fruit is another way to get seeds and, while the variety may not be suitable for your climate, it doesn't cost anything to try if you eat the fruit. Some things take well to being rooted as cuttings. Several of my citrus trees came from broken stems I picked up from the home depot parking lot one time.
Grafting is another way to get trees for less $, but it is not something I've tried yet, so can't offer much advice on that.
So try not to get discouraged and look outside the route of buying full-priced trees from nurseries or garden centers.
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