1) Receiving Trees
Congratulations on beginning your growing journey! Once you receive your trees, it is important that they are planted right away. Even if there is snow outside, as long as the ground isn’t frozen your trees are ready to be planted! In fact, it is better to plant on a cool overcast day than a blazing hot day. If you can’t plant them right away it is important that they are observed and stored properly. Remove the packaging and inspect the roots. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour and then wrap back up tightly in moist saw dust and store in a shaded cool area like a basement or garage for no more than a day. Once you are ready to plant, discard the saw dust they are wrapped in by rinsing them off. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour or more (not exceeding 8 hours) until ready to plant. This will hydrate the tree and prepare it for planting.
2) Find the Perfect Spot for your Tree
Fruit and nut trees, vines, and perennials all have their own individual soil, sun, and water requirements. If you are unsure, please read the description included on our website for their unique needs. It is best to match the plants needs with the conditions it requires for best chances of success.
For most however, having loamy well drained soil is a huge asset. If you are unsure of the drainage in a specific area, dig a few holes and fill them with water. If the water does not drain after an hour, then you do not have adequate drainage and this area isn’t suitable for something like apples, pears, or plums but is suitable for others like Aronia and Elderberry.
3) Planting Preparation
Remember to keep tree roots covered and moist in this process until planted in the hole. We recommend keeping the trees in a bucket of water with their roots completely submerged while you plant.
Remove all of the grass and sods from the planting area. Dig your hole larger and wider than the roots of the tree. The larger the hole, the easier the tree will be able to establish itself and spread out its roots. Pile dug soil on a tarp or garbage bag. This will make it easier for placing the soil back in and not losing too much in the grass.
The walls of the hole should be well fractured with the shovel or a garden fork to make it easier for roots to penetrate better and spread out. Once the hole is dug and ready, put back some soil into the hole and place the tree in. Add more soil while spreading roots out in the hole in all directions. Make sure there are no roots curling in towards the base of the tree. Press down firmly to help anchor your tree into their new home.
There will be a slight change in colour on the tree trunk above the roots indicating how much of it was beneath the soil and what was above the soil line when it was growing at the nursery. Match that soil line in the trees new planting spot. If your soil is very well drained (sandy soil), adding a thick layer of organic matter (compost, leaves, wood chips etc.) on top of the backfilled soil is important for retaining moisture. Add compost to the top or another organic soil amendment and mulch with wood chips. Avoid piling wood chips around the trunk as this can cause rotting.
4) Planting Preparation for Clay Soil or Poorly Drained Areas
Remember to keep tree roots covered and moist in this process until planted in hole. We recommend keeping them in a bucket of water with their roots fully submerged while you are planting. Remove all grass and other plants from the surface of the soil where you want to plant. Use a garden fork to break up the soil to improve drainage in a span of three feet or so.
Get some nice top soil and create a mound where you want to plant the tree. It should be at least 1 ½ ft tall and 3 feet wide or wider depending on how far your roots spread out. Plant your tree into the mound and top dress with compost. Mulch the tree with wood chips to prevent the soil from drying out. Mulch around the tree, but do not place mulch right up against the trunk because that could lead to rotting. This mound will ensure that the roots will not be saturated in water, which could really damage or kill the tree depending on the species. If there is continuous standing water in a location, avoid planting fruit trees there as they need well-draining soil.
After planting, water your trees, berry bushes, or plants deeply. Infrequent deep watering is much better for trees than frequent shallow watering. Depending on how wet or dry your site is and what it is you’re planting, the trees will require different things. If you are unsure, check out the description for the tree/plant on our website northernfoodforest.ca.
Water your tree deeply with several inches of water once a week for the first year of its growth depending on your site and how much rainfall has occurred. In drought, supplemental watering is a good idea. Drip irrigation systems are a great way to go if you are managing a large plot of trees. For individual trees, we use a standard sized watering can amount of water per tree.
6. Protecting Your Trees
Fruit and nut trees will often be chewed by deer, or girdled by voles and rabbits if they do not have protection. The perfect solution for this is to create a barrier of hardware cloth around your tree and secure it with a stake or two. Slightly bury it in the top layer of wood chips to hold it in place. You can also use a white spiral guard for your tree- these are inexpensive. If deer are an issue where you live, use 6ft tall Plantra sunflex white tree tubes that can be purchased online. The deer cannot reach higher than 5 ft and these tubes do a great job in protecting the trees. The white tree guards can also protect your tree from south west injury which can be an issue in northern climates.
South west injury occurs when there is a drop in temperature in the winter. During the day it can warm up significantly on the south west side of the tree and then it drops at night which can cause the bark to crack. You can also paint your tree with exterior white latex paint to prevent this issue. Piling up snow around the base of the trunk during winter will also help with this.
The first year your trees/plants are in the ground is when they are most vulnerable. Keeping the base of the tree weed free is highly recommened and helps limit competition as the tree/plant establishes. Every spring it is recommended that you apply a fresh layer of compost/manure and mulch with wood chips or leaves until they are many years into establishment. Keeping the trees well-watered, specifically in times of drought, is important. As they grow older, they become more resilient to environmental stressors. All of us at Northern Food Forest Nursery wish you the most success with your plantings, and an abundant food future!