In another article, I wrote about the attractions of a small orchard and the things to consider when selecting suitable varieties of apple tree.
Let’s now look at how to actually plant the trees. I’ll explain what I did when I started my orchards.
Receiving the trees
Assuming you buy from a commercial supplier like I did, your trees will be bare-rooted, not growing in pots as a garden centre would sell them. They will be around 1.2-1.5 m tall and probably tied together in bunches of about 10.
If the trees have significant branches, these will be gently bent and tied-in, so the bunch is not bulky. A bunch of ten such bare-rooted trees, is light to carry, and several bunches can quite easy to fit in an estate car or small van.
Whether you collect your trees yourself, or have them delivered, you will need to store them carefully, if you’re not ready to plant immediately.
The delicate bare roots must be kept moist and be protected from frost. You can wrap the roots in plastic and keep them damp, or you can carefully and temporarily plant the trees in a sand pit, if you have one.
Preparing to plant
When you’re getting ready to plant, it’s good to soak the roots in water for several hours beforehand, so they are moist and supple.
What you do, will depend on whether you do the planting yourself, or whether you decide it’s too much work and engage a contractor.
I’ve done it both ways.
Planting them yourself
For each tree, you’ll need a wooden post to support it, a tie to secure it to the post and a guard around the base of the trunk to protect it from rabbits and mice.
So you’ll need to obtain sufficient supplies:
* Posts are around £1 each plus delivery (and they are heavy)
* Tree tie is a special rubber tubing that comes on a big roll for the equivalent of around 10 pence per tree
* Plastic tree guard material (and cable ties to fasten it), also comes on a big roll for around 50 pence per tree.
The planting process I then used was:
* Cut the grass short where the tree will go (you may want to apply a herbicide to kill the grass, well in advance of any planting)
* Lay out a straight line as a guide
* Bang in a post
* To the side of the post, dig a hole a little wider than the spread diameter of the tree roots and deep enough so when filled-in, the finished soil level will come up to 10-15 cm BELOW the joint between rootstock and scion (this is quite easy to see)
* Put a few litres of water into the hole
* Position the tree with the scion joint scar facing away from the prevailing winds (usually facing North-ish in the UK)
* Fill-in the hole
* Tie the tree to the post with a length of tree-tie tubing
* Cut about 0.5m of tree guard mesh and clip it together, around the base of the trunk with cable ties
* Water in well
* Move on to the next tree. I reckoned on about 10mins per tree and it’s much easier with two people
I did three hundred trees like this, for my most recent orchard.