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Newbie needs help with Fruit Trees

 
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Twice in the past 4 years i have attempted to grow some fruit trees and shrubs. 4 years ago my well broke and after spending months running around with watering cans i finally gave up and let them die, couldnt do it. This time i around i just bought alot of plants from Lowes and Home Depot (The first time around i spent alot of money online at the various main sites. I didnt put in any real research and minimal prep work (some had some mulch, or miracle grow etc...). Everything grew wonderfully for months and then one by one disease, fungus, insects or something or other started killing them off one by one. Now i know i should have spent more time researching each type of plant and its particular needs. I also know that buying from Lowes and Home Depot i probably got bottom of the barrel quality. Problem is i have a brother, one of those guys that does everything like i did and it turns out wonderfully. I also had some people question my lawn which looks kind of rough. But four years ago i tested the soil it and it was pretty much right in the middle of the range for most of what i was planting. Should i decide to give this one more try next year i have a few questions...

1) "Generally" speaking is there something i can do (Compost? Manure? Fertilizer? etc...) to "pre" treat the soil, say in the Fall? or Winter? Before i plant in the spring...

2) Is there anything "Generally" i can do to limit/deter or protect from disease, fungus and/or insects....either to the soil before i plant? or after the trees have been planted?

I use the term "Generally" as i understand certain plants will have certain requirements...

Thank you!
 
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To better answer I need a bit more info from you.
What's your location/region. Rainfall, coldness, hotness, soil type, sunshine, GDD, etc.
I an in new england region of usa,
I get about 4inches of rain every single month,
i and a zone 6/7 with min temps of 0F,
and in the summer I get about 5 days above 95F,
my soil is silty sandy loam,
I get about full sun on 70% of my garden
I get about 2,700 GDD
my garden size is 3,000sqft


 
Troy Docimo
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Im in SC (originally from CT), rain varies year to year. This time i listened to my brother (the green thumb) and basically made sure i watered my plants everyday. I wonder if that was too much, but we get alot of 90+ wicked heat days here. My Soil is mostly that sandy stuff but down under it must be pretty good because everything grows, alot and fast. I couldnt believe how fast some of my plants grew. I have about 150 x 150' area or so in my backyard i used for planting. Alot of direct sunlight...
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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So we have very similar environments, except that, you are a zone warmer than me (zone 7/8) and your summer a bit more humid and hotter than mines.

These are my recommendations for starting out.
Don't buy from home depo/etc
Don't plant any cherry/plum/apricot/peach/nectarine/almonds or any apples. Maybe in a year or two you will get to that level.
Don't amend the holes that you plant your trees into. Do sprinkle compost/rockdust/woodchip/biochar/etc over the entire 150x150' (half an acre) area.

Do cover the entire ground with dutch clover and daikon/tillage radish.
Do plant natives and exotics like, muscadine grape, concord grape (but not regular grape), hardy and fuzzy kiwi, maypop/passion fruit, akebia, blueberries, blackberry/raspberry juneberry, currants, gooseberry, jostaberry, elderberry, jujube, asian persimmon, asian pear, quince, seaberry, goumi, fig, dwarf mulberry, wine jelly, loquat, pomegranate, pawpaw, hazelnut, there are some native bush/sandcherry and plums that you can grow.

With 15ft centers you can plant over 100 different sets of plants. For plants that require a pollinator like pawpaw, I put two plans in one hole.  

I highly recommend planting in the fall, where you don't have worry about the root system/watering or initial pest pressure stress.
I recommend the following nursery:
https://ediblelandscaping.com/ my 1st pick for you
https://www.starkbros.com/  I love their supreme draft plants
https://onegreenworld.com/  my all time favorite nursery

Other than the blanket of nitrogen fixers and daikon radish. I recommend planting garlic chives/chives  (by seeds) right under the fruit tree, and other onion/garlic family all over the garden. I also think that having alot of herbs from the mint/thyme family helps alot with my fav being winter savory and sage.
 
Troy Docimo
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Thanks for your reply, let me try and address your suggestions....

1) Yes I wont buy on the "cheap" anymore
2) The trees are really what i am interested in. I am interested in certain shrubs (blueberries) and have dabbled in them. Not sure if i want to get into "viney" plants (I wasnt aware raspberries and blackberries grew that way, i tried them). I really am mostly interested in the trees (Apple, Pear, Plum, Peach, Cherry etc...)
3) When you say sprinkle the compost etc... When? I likely will not be able to take on this project again until spring, i simply wont have the money and have other projects occupying me now... So if i plan on planting in the spring, when do i sprinkle?

4) Im not a proponent of planting alot of stuff i have no interest in, thus i stay with most of the traditional. My Grapevines btw were out of control they grew great, i took them out. I didnt set up my trellis system the way i ultimately would have wanted to and preferred a different location.

Thank you for the nurseries. I have used Stark brothers before, wasnt aware of the others.

My questions still pretty much stand....if i plant in the spring and basically go with the stuff your telling me not to how do i improve my chances of success. Clearly better quality from better sources i get, but ammending the soil, keeping disease and fungus and insects away, fertilizing etc...

Thank you again. I used to go to Mass quite alot. Im a Red Sox fan, plus i used to Coach Basketball and travel alot through New England.
 
S Bengi
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Okay if you are going to focus on just the rose family, esp. the prunus subfamily and malus subfamily. These would be my recommendation
Don't add fertilizer, it makes the plants weak.
Plant in the fall, vs in the spring. In the fall there are less pest and the plants focus on root and defense buildup. You will also avoid having to water the plants which breeds pest.
Plant dutch clover/legumes to add natural fertilizer and better soil microbes
Plant onion/garlic family herbs it protect from soil nematodes, and other pest
Plant mint/thyme family herbs, they bring in protector/predatory insects
 
Troy Docimo
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Thank you again for your help. I wish i could plant in the fall, which is almost upon us sadly i will not be able to. If i wasnt 56 years old i would wait until next fall, but id like to get this stuff in the ground and get it going. Plus i enjoy doing it. So for me it will likely be spring unless if something changes and then it would have to wait a full year until next fall.

When you say plant the other plants, i get the reasoning....but do you mean just sprinkle them throughout the property? Or around the plants? I'll be mowing regularly wont that reduce their effectiveness if im constantly cutting them? Or do i need to let them actually grow? In which case that presents a different problem.

Thank you for the suggestions!
 
Troy Docimo
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What did you mean by not having to worry about watering/root system if i planted in the fall? You dont water them? The Roots dont grow? Do they go dormant at some point? How then exactly would you take care of them?
 
Troy Docimo
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I am now considering waiting a year until next fall, didnt want to but if in the long run it will improve my chances im going to seriously consider it. Id like to learn more. Im going to read up whatever i can find.
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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If you plant the fruit tree in the fall. The roots keep on growing even without leaves, creating a huge root system by the time tree leaves out in Spring. The leaves then start requesting water+mineral, and the root system can keep up with the request naturally.

However if we plant in the spring and the leaves start requesting alot of water and the roots can supply it naturally the tree gets weak and sickly, and easily taken over by fungus/pest and we will also have to have an "IV" for the tree aka watering the tree non-stop to keep it alive.


For the dutch white clover. You just buy a bag of seeds and throw/broadcast it over the entire half an acre. You can mow it like a lawn and walk on it heavily, no need to baby it.
For the chive/garlic chives seeds, I would throw/broadcast them directly under the tree. And for the mint/thyme family. I would plant them within 3ft-5ft of the fruit tree.

And here is another tip: probiotics/soil life
1) Apply a worm compost tea foliar spray to the fruit tree leaves.
2) Apply a native mushroom slurry splash
3) Inoculate the bare roots of the fruit tree when you plant them
 
S Bengi
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Another option would be to plant hundreds/thousands of cherry/plum/apricot/peach/apple/pear/etc seeds, and then just let the 'weak' ones die naturally, followed by actively culling some more of them. Then after they start bearing killing the ones that dont taste as great as you would like.

You can also graft or plant an air-layered clone of a very successful plant that is nearby you.
 
Troy Docimo
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Great ideas thank you im definitely changing my approach. I saw an article but it seemed extreme. It said to draw a circle around the tree the likely mature width of the tree. So in some cases we are talking 25’. It said cover the ground with cardboard to stop weeds and then pile on 18” all the way around mulch or compost, there were multiple ways of doing it. And then they talked about planting some stuff like you said. But that seemed extreme and expensive for a bare root tree. A few more questions. So i shouldnt prepare the ground in anyway ahead of time? And if you plant in the fall how often do you water? What about winter? Thanks again!
 
S Bengi
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If you plant in the fall you dont have to water, other than when you put it in the ground, because there are no leaves requesting water. In 5 months when spring does come around and the plants have leaved out you shouldn't have to water, maybe if there is a freak drought you would water once week. Otherwise never or just once a month.

Dutch White Clover will supply your 250lbs of nitrogen fertilizer per acre, so by planting the clover you are 'preparing' the soil, but the beauty is that you do it once and it keeps on giving. And you are only importing seeds onto your soil vs mysterious biosoild in compost. Tillage radish is also preparing the soil in that it digs down 6ft into the soil, "pre-drilling" holes for the fruit tree roots to easily follow and thus get water. The radish leaves are also high in minerals, and once they rot, the fruit tree roots now have access to minerals that are very bio-available and easy to absorb. When you add the pre0biotic and probiotic soil life, you are preparing the soil. Trees trade sugar nectar with bees to do pollination work for them, likewise trees trade sugary root extrude with soil life in exchange for minerals, and messenger chemicals from other nearby trees. Not leaving the soil bare is also preparing the site too.

For me the problem with digging a hole in poor/horrible soil and then filling it with premium/wonderful soil filled with water, is that the root of the tree will never leave that initial hole, and then the tree becomes root bound, warping around itself avoiding the poor soil outside the hole. This is then going to force you to water the plant because it doesn't have roots far and wide collecting its own water.

While some folks might say unless someone has 30 acres and make their own milk, cheese and beef in addition to growing their own vegetables, oil and fruit, they aren't permaculture enough. I think that someone living in a penthouse suite in Manhattan fermenting some cabbage is permaculture enough, and they are making forward movement. Similarly I think that the cardboard/sheetmulching thing is okay too, it is just lower down on the permie scale, but it still has value. However if possible I would avoid adding the toxins in the carboard plastic, tape, glue, binder and ink however little it maybe. Personally I would spend all that energy digging bigger holes for the trees.
 
Troy Docimo
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You really seldom have to water your plants? simply because the root system is so advanced? Even down here were we get wicked 90-100 degree heat? The one "green thumb" in my family always believed in watering daily....

You have taught me alot. Thank you very much!
 
Troy Docimo
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You posted this:

And here is another tip: probiotics/soil life
1) Apply a worm compost tea foliar spray to the fruit tree leaves.
2) Apply a native mushroom slurry splash
3) Inoculate the bare roots of the fruit tree when you plant them

What do you inoculate the bare roots with? Or are you referring to #2?

I saw a site that said to put cardboard down to keep the weeds away. But it didnt really explain how much cardboard, how wide etc.. it said then pile the compost or mulch on top of the cardboard. It said keep it from the trunk of the tree. It made me wonder how you water the tree, but you sort of answered that.

What do you suggest to keep weeds away from bareroot trees? Or will the compost/mulch etc... handle that? If so how close to the tree should it be piled? How high?

Thank you again for all your help
 
Troy Docimo
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If im going to go Fall, it will be a year from now. When do i start planting all the other items you suggested then???

It appears the worm tea is something that can be bought.....what is a native mushroom slurry splash?


Thank you
 
Troy Docimo
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What about the Tillage radish ? where would you apply that?
 
S Bengi
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I would plant the support species now this fall.
Legume: Dutch White Clover (broadcast every where on the 1/2 acre plot, basically replacing all existing grass/weed/etc)
Mineral/Aerator: Tillage Radish (broadcast every where on the 1/2 acre plot, basically replacing all existing grass/weed/etc)
Biomass: What ever grass/plant/etc that is there that is mowed,
Pest Control: Garlic family for soil nematodes, mint/thyme family to attract the good bugs, celery/carrot family for good measure (I broadcast right under the tree, but for the mint/thyme family I transplant cuttings)

I recommend aerated compost tea. My version is a bit more advance it has the following:
-Fresh/Local worm compost
-Local compost
-Milk kefir
-Amazake
-Aquarium Tank water or pond water (contains purple non-sulphur bacteria)
-Soil from a wonderful lush tree near you.
-Insect, insect frass, chitin (breeds microbes and molecules that deter soft shell insect like aphids)
I take all of the above and put it in a bucket with an aquarium pump to increase the oxygen level in the bucket of water. I let it brew for 24hrs and then spray the leaves of the plants. Life happens and if you can spray hat day, you can just let it continue brewing up to 48hrs and spray the plants the next day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fEzfpsmRlM&vl=zh-TW

When it comes to mushroom slurry. You make it by harvesting any mushroom that pops up in your garden or from a forest near you. you then "mash/blend' it up into a slurry, maybe dilute it if you want and then spread/splash it all over your site. These mushroom that you are now 'planting' into your food forest will trade with your plants and protect your plants.

When it comes to inoculating the roots of the trees that you have just both I recommend the following, https://fungi.com/collections/mycogrow/products/mycogrow_soluble
But you could have just as easily used the mushroom slurry that we made above.

It is recommended that you dig a 3ft wide hole for your fruit tree, you then plan the tree, backfill and compact. Other than the already 3ft weed free zone, you don't need to kill any other weeds. And the weeds really aren't a problem. And with any luck the weeds under the tree are now legumes that is providing the tree with nitrogen, garlic chives which has tiny short roots which is protect the fruit tree roots from soil nematodes, and a nearby thyme/mint that is housing lady bugs and other good bugs. So the goal isn't to create a barren area but to replace the existing plant life with something that helps us.

And yes, when I plan in the fall, I hardly if every have to water the spring/summer, because fruit trees, now behave more like regular wild trees that fend for themselves vs like demanding pets that die without us feeding and watering it.  
 
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Troy Docimo wrote:I didnt put in any real research and minimal prep work (some had some mulch, or miracle grow etc...).



Not to beat you up, but I think you've identified a pretty big part of the problem.

Researching what plants will grow where you live, and where on your land you want to put them, pays off. Do you have walnuts (etc) that apples, for example, won't tolerate? We have oodles of black walnuts, so cherries go near them instead. Cherries don't mind the juglone the walnuts produce. How much sun does each area get?

Prep work: we dug much larger holes than the root system itself needed, broke up the soil, added some pine bark and rock phosphate, mixed it around, planted the bare root tree and watered it in very well (gave it a big drink after planting). Then about 1" per week of water. I would have added compost if I'd had access to any when we did it.

Keep an eye on what's eating your trees. Does Bambi see them as a tasty treat? Build a tree guard around them. Are ants endlessly climbing up and down them, showing that you have an aphid problem? Use sticky stuff on a piece of impermeable material (not directly on the bark) wrapped around the trunk. Aphids won't live without the ants and the ants can't get to them. Etc, etc.

Is there anything "Generally" i can do to limit/deter or protect from disease, fungus and/or insects....either to the soil before i plant? or after the trees have been planted?



Healthy soil and appropriate amounts of water help the trees to be healthy, which reduces their susceptibility in general. Beyond that, paying close attention to them and figuring out what's going after a given tree at a given time is very helpful.
 
Troy Docimo
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Thank you both very much.

Unfortunately like i said i wont be doing anything this fall or likely winter. Can i plant all the support stuff in the spring? I wont be planting the trees until NEXT fall...
I doubt i will be doing anything so complicated as your Tea id need something simpler/less time/money consuming.
Do your support species stop the grass/weeds from growing?

Charles- I watered every day, which it turns out i didnt need to do if done properly. Mostly i have had problems with my roots not developing/leaving the hole, which Bengi has cleared up for me in a lot of ways. I never see ants or anything and yet i get diseases/fungus or some type of critters (no animals have access to the trees other than squirrels and rabbits which i have never seen near them). So im not sure what is the main cause....my ignorance/cheap quality trees/poor root development etc etc etc

I want to start over next year and try and do it properly from the beginning.
 
S Bengi
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I would buy and broadcast just the clover now (as soon as possible) The rest you can do later
 
Troy Docimo
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I think i can manage that. Just sprinkle the seeds all over the yard? They dont need to be planted? Do i water it? Pretty big section. Now these will be effective for me trees even if i mow over them? I read some people use them in place of a lawn. It grows in the fall and winter?
 
S Bengi
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Yes dutch clover grows best in the fall/winter.
Get the 50lbs sack of seeds for about $150.
https://hancockseed.com/products/white-dutch-clover-seed
https://www.outsidepride.com/seed/clover-seed/white-dutch-clover-seed.html

Broadcast half of the bag now in September/fall.
Store the rest of the in, keeping it dry.
Then March 1st, broadcast the remainder.

The seeds require water to germinate, so if the forecast said no rain for the next 7days don't plant it. but if it says rain in the afternoon and overcast sky and drizzles for the next 3days, that would be the perfect time to plant them.

If there is no rain please water daily.
Broadcast seeding is simple the easiest way to do this but if you already have access to other implements, you can use those to get even better seed to soil contact.
Before you broadcast your seeds, cut the existing grass as low as possible, like you are trying to kill it. Then remove the grass clippings, broadcast the clover seeds, then you can re-spread the grass clipping if you want to help lock in moisture/etc.
Everyone is buying up the clover seeds so buy them as soon as possible.

Yes mowing the dutch clover lawn will still help the fruit trees. In fact that is when the fruit trees get the most nitrogen from the clover. When you do mow it, try to keep it at 4inches or higher. If possible only mow it once per month.
 
Troy Docimo
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I appreciate all the info i have a plan now formulating. Unfortunately it appears i wont be able to plant the clover until Spring. Finances and time are just too tight at the moment.

Thank you again.
 
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