Planting Fruit and Nut Trees by DeAnna Hambly
Ah, delicious juicy summer peaches. But wait! It’s November. And most people are thinking about turkey and dressing– not warm summer days and fruit trees swaying in the breeze. True. But because fruit and nut trees have a minimum chilling hours requirement, November is the best time of year to think about planting them. Chilling hours refers to the number of hours a tree needs to spend in approximately 32-40 degree temperatures every year. Depending on what type of tree you plant and the area you live in, the hours will vary.
After fruit and nut trees are planted, it can take several years for them to bear fruit. For this reason, it’s best to ensure you are in it for the long haul. These trees can also require a lot of maintenance. Pruning, pollination requirements, and spraying insecticides–to combat insects and diseases–are some of the considerations you should think about before planting fruit and nut trees.
Here are a few basic things you should know. You already know that November (fall) is the best time to plant, and that because of chilling requirements, the type of climate you live in is important. You also understand that fruit and nut trees require considerable maintenance for their success.
The most important things to consider when planting fruit and nut trees are the tree’s soil, drainage, fertilization, sunlight and air requirements. For the purpose of this article I will use the peach tree as an example. These requirements apply to most fruit and nut trees; however, be sure to check with your local nursery or county agriculture agent for the specific requirements of the type of tree you are planting.
Peach trees grow best in soil that has a pH of about 6.5. Soils with a pH below this will require the addition of lime to the soil before planting the tree. Peach trees also require a balanced texture of soil ranging between sandy loam and sandy clay. Drainage conditions are extremely important as poorly drained soils will result in stunted fruit and eventually disease and/or death of the tree.
Peach trees require maximum sunlight and should be planted in an area where they will receive sun for most of the day. They also require good air circulation and should not be planted too close together or near other trees or objects such as buildings. At time of planting, use a fertilizer high in phosphorous and potassium to ensure sufficient root growth. During the fall, all the trees energy is put into the root system. In the spring and early summer, apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen and water the trees thoroughly.
For best results, choose bare-root nursery grown trees. For peach trees, one year old trees approximately three feet high are best. Look for trees with healthy root systems. A small tree with a healthy root system is preferred over a larger tree with a poor root system. Always purchase disease free trees. Peach trees are self-pollinating; therefore it is not necessary to plant more than one variety; however, some apple trees cannot produce fruit from their own pollen. This requires planting at least two varieties.
Prune newly planted trees at time of planting. Cut back the top third of the tree and remove any thin, weak side branches. This will ensure new growth that is strong and healthy. For more information on planting fruit and nut trees, contact the Texas AgriLife Extension office at 2217 Washington Street in Greenville, Texas.