John R. Pyzner | 4/21/2005 9:31:41 PM
February is a good time to plant fruit and nut trees. Planting trees in February allows roots to become established before shoot growth begins in the spring, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. John Pyzner.
Most fruit and nut trees produce some root growth when soil temperatures are above 35 degrees Fahrenheit, Pyzner explains.
The LSU AgCenter horticulturist says the first step is choosing and preparing the planting site. Adequate drainage is the most important factor to consider. The soil’s internal drainage rate can be determined by digging an 8-inch wide hole 2 1/2 feet deep. Fill the hole with water. If the hole drains within 24 hours, the soil has excellent drainage and is suitable for all fruit and nut crops.
Peach, nectarine, plum, apple and chestnut should be planted only on sites with excellent drainage. If the hole drains within 36 hours, the soil internal drainage is adequate for the more tolerant crops, such as figs, persimmon, pear, citrus, mayhaw and pecans. If the hole is not drained within 48 hours, the site is not suitable for fruit and nut production.
Planting fruit trees on a mound or ridge is a common practice in Louisiana. This will prevent water from standing around the trees during periods of heavy rainfall. Peach trees can be killed by standing in water for only a few days.
Fruit and nut trees require sunlight for fruit production. Plant trees in locations that receive at least half a day of sunlight. Sunlight and good air circulation lower humidity around trees and can help reduce disease problems.
Pyzner advises inspecting trees immediately upon delivery from the nursery to be sure they are in good condition. Open bundles to inspect for damage and to check the general condition of trees. Do not accept trees if roots appear to have dried out. Trees should be kept moist and planted as soon as they are received. Trees can be heeled in if you are not ready to plant. This is done by digging a shallow slanted trench. Place the roots of the trees in the trench, cover with soil and keep moist. Mound the soil over the trench to prevent water collecting around the trees.
Dig planting holes only deep enough to accommodate the complete root systems of the trees. This will prevent trees from settling deeper than their original depth in the nursery. Submerge roots in water for several minutes before placing in the planting holes. Trim or remove broken roots. Place trees in holes and carefully spread the roots as near their natural position as possible.
Fill holes with the same soil that was removed from the holes. Do not add fertilizer to planting holes. Diluted fertilizer may be added around the tree once growth begins. Work soil around roots, and thoroughly water the trees to settle the soil and remove air pockets.
Make sure trees are not planted deeper than their original depth. Figs are an exception to the same-planting-depth rule. They are usually planted 2 inches deeper than original depth for tree-form figs and 4 inches deeper than original depth for shrub-form figs. The extra planting depth is encouraged in figs to protect root systems from freeze injury. Figs killed to the ground by unusually cold weather can often recover quickly from below-ground root systems that are protected by the soil.
Roots circling the root balls in container-grown trees should be cut or spread out in planting holes. This will encourage roots to grow out of the container potting mix and move into the soil. It will also prevent roots from girdling trees after they get larger.
Barefoot trees should be planted by March 1. Container trees do best when planted in January and February; however, they can normally be successfully planted through May with little problem. Container trees can be successfully planted during most times of the year, but the success rate frequently goes down during the heat of the summer. Special care is often required in the form of extra watering and the addition of shade. Pyzner discourages summer planting.
"The addition of a little loving care to your new trees can lead to a delicious harvest," the horticulturist adds.
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.