I have begun my dwarf fruit tree adventure. In the beginning of Fall I ordered my trees from an online nursery catalog. I chose two apples, two pears and a peach. I needed two each of the apples and pears for cross pollination, but the peach is self pollinating. It took me a long time to decide which varieties to order because I didn’t want them to ripen all at the same time, since I intend to use them for jams and jellies as well as eating.
About a month and a half before the trees were to arrive, I dug holes for them and added some mushroom compost to enrich the soil. During this waiting time, I puzzled about how to keep the deer away from the trees. We live in an open area with woods on one side and a pasture on the other. There is always a family of six or seven deer that like to visit my yard and feast on my shrubs and vegetable garden. (That’s another story!) I looked at a lot of web sites to get ideas and finally decided on building individual cages of wire around the young saplings.
Finally the trees arrived. They had been pre-pruned and some looked like long sticks. The first thing I did was to soak them in water for at least an hour. Here they are and you can see what they look like.
I found that I hadn’t dug the holes deep enough, so I got out my rototiller and deepened them. I made my holes three feet across to allow the roots plenty of room to get established. Make sure that the trees are planted at a level where the dirt does not cover the joint where they are grafted onto the root stock. I laid a flat stick across the hole to make sure they were at the proper height.
I added the loose soil that I had shoveled out of the hole into a wheelbarrow. I filled the hole about halfway with soil. Make sure that there is dirt under and around the roots. You want to create a firm surface for the roots to take hold. Now add water to wash the dirt around the roots and firm it lightly with your foot. Then finish filling the hole and add more water to settle that dirt in. Again, make sure the graft union is above the soil line and that the tree is straight.
Next I put mulch around the perimeter of the hole. I used old straw and composted leaves. These materials will break down and feed the soil during the winter as well as preventing freezing and thawing, which can disrupt the young tree roots. Be sure to leave some space between the trunk and the mulch material. Even though the tree is dormant, the roots will still grow during the winter. I didn’t put any fertilizer in the planting hole. In the Spring, I will use some special fertilizer for new fruit trees.
I bought tree guards which protect the young trunks from splitting because of freezing and thawing. They will also protect the tree from sun scald and little rodents nibbling at the bark.
Next, I put my deer guards in place. I had bought a roll of this wire at a home improvement store and cut it so it would encircle my planting hole. I had some leftover stakes from another project, so I used them to hold my wire cage. I placed the wire cage a couple of feet off the ground, because the deer aren’t likely to reach under to nibble the bark or rub their antlers. The beauty of this is that as the branches grow up and out, I can raise the cage to cover more of the top of the tree.
I finally was through. Fortunately we have had plenty of rain since I planted the dwarf fruit trees. I’m ready with my dormant oil spray for next March. I know I won’t have fruit for a couple of years, but dwarf trees do fruit sooner than larger trees. I can hardly wait to watch them grow!