Preparing for planting the new apple orchard
When to plant: Trees do best when planted as early in the spring as possible. Early planting will allow them to initiate new roots before the heat of the summer arrives. Wait until the soil is in good condition, not too wet, and when soil temperatures begin to rise. New roots will form when soil temperatures reach 7°C, and existing roots start to grow at temperatures lower than 7°C.
Ideally, the site was well prepared the previous fall, with only row marking to be done. Communicate with your nursery to ensure that trees arrive early in good condition. Use a tarp and water pails to ensure that roots stay moist.
Fall planting can also be successful in southern Ontario, but trees must be dormant before they are dug, with planting completed as early as possible after leaf fall to allow roots time to grow. Watering after planting is critical to ensure the trees stay hydrated through the winter.
What to plant: Inspect nursery trees on arrival, especially for damage, disease or insect pests. Crown gall, root rots, cankers or storage molds may be found on the roots or bark. If trees are not in good condition, contact the nursery immediately. It is better to return diseased or infested trees than to take a chance on your investment.
Be prepared to store trees if weather turns inclement. Trees need
to be maintained in a dormant condition, and roots need to be moist
at all times. Cold storage is excellent but make sure it is free
of any ethylene gas from previously stored apples. Ethylene can
severely damage new trees and prevent budbreak. Heeling in the roots
in a trench outside is preferred to common barn storage.
Equipment required: Using a tree planter and crew can be a very efficient way to get trees in the ground quickly and accurately. Take the time to mark rows accurately or use GPS technology to ensure rows are straight. Transporting trees to the planting site, while protecting roots from drying out is a major challenge. Be prepared with water, barrels to soak roots if needed, and a good source of water both during and after planting. Good soil-root contact is most important on planting date to ensure good tree survival, and this is achieved by physical stomping and by soaking afterwards.
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