SITE PREPARATION FOR TOP FRUIT
Choosing the Site. Most top fruit likes a sunny, sheltered site with good drainage and not in a frost pocket. In other words, probably your best areas of your garden or allotment. Fruit trees frequently end up planted towards the boundaries of your ground, so leaving the rest of your ground available for all the other soft fruit and vegetables that you want to grow. Remember that trees take up a lot of ground, so consider how much ground you can set aside for that use.
If your space is very limited, consider choosing trees with dwarfing rootstocks.
Sunny sheltered location. It is no accident that in Scotland and the North, fruit trees are found trained against boundary walls or fences. This cuts down the amount of space taken up by each tree and walls and fences provide some protection from cold winds. Indeed a wall has the added benefit of providing some passive heating to the tree, by radiating out the sun’s heat that the wall may have absorbed during the day. This has the effect of increasing the length of time each day that the tree can grow and ripen the fruit.
The best aspect for fruit trees planted against a wall or fence, is South or West facing. This is because after a night’s frost, fruit blossom is not so likely to be damaged by the rays of the early morning sun, before the air temperature has risen.
Frost pockets are to be avoided for fruit. A frost pocket is ground where cold air tends to linger and cannot drain away. You would not want to plant fruit at the bottom of a slope, but it would be alright to plant the fruit further up the slope.
Most fruit hates being planted in boggy ground. Therefore try and choose a site that is naturally well drained. If you have to use boggy ground, you will have to improve the drainage. An easy way would be to dig a trench on the upper side of your tree planting location and allow the water to drain away to lower levels. In addition you could mound the soil from the drainage trench and raise up the planting site.
Dig over the general area of the site to loosen up the soil and improve the drainage.
Preparation of hole for tree. Dig out the area for a depth of 2 spades, if possible. Break up the soil at the base of the hole with a pick or heavy metal spike, again to allow water to drain away. If your ground is naturally dry, consider placing a perforated plastic pipe in the hole, extending to the natural ground surface, through which you could directly water the tree roots, especially during the first year after planting.
The hole should be deep and big enough to allow the roots to spread and for the “union” or join of the tree and its root stock to be about 15 cm above the final finished ground level.
To plant the tree, hold the tree in position while you drive a raking stake or post into position. A raking stake is considered better support for young trees, as it encourages the growth of the tree roots by allowing limited movement of the head of the tree. Align the stake into the direction of the prevailing wind, most probably South West, to give best support. Backfill the hole with free draining material, to which has been added a slow release fertiliser, such as Blood, Fish and Bone meal. Firm the soil round the roots, attach the tree to the stake using a proper tree tie, making sure that the tree cannot damage itself by rubbing against the stake. Make sure that the tree is well watered.
Consider covering the area of the roots with porous ground cover fabric to prevent weed growth. It is not use bark chips, unless they have been sterilized, as the bark may contain honey fungus spores which could kill your new tree.
Pruning of any broken or damages branches should be carried out at this stage, except for plums if during the Winter.
Make a note of the variety name of the tree and the rootstock, and keep in a safe place for future reference. The labels soon blow off the tree in the Winter gales, and you will forget details of rootstocks especially if you have a few fruit trees.
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