As the summer heat is starting to drop off, Julie and I have been spending a lot of our free time catching up on our the landscaping and yard chores that we had ignored. Over the past couple of years between a drought, disease, and an overzealous public works department we have lost several mature trees in our back yard. The trees not only provide some good shade but also privacy between the houses that we backup to. So, when plant trees showed up on my to-do list for last weekend I was not at all surprised.
The first step was to agree on the tree, so we were off to Lowe’s. We started out in the ornamental and decorative trees but somehow stumbled into a large selection of fruit trees. After some discussion, we realized this could not only address our need for shade and privacy but could also fit into our prepare for tomorrow lifestyle.
After some quick on-line research and reading the tree tags, we rediscovered the concept of self-pollinating vs. cross-pollinating trees. I say rediscovered because I am sure that Mrs. Lovell in 9th-grade Biology told me this at one point or another but I have since forgotten. Apparently, most apple trees are cross-pollinating and even the ones that are self-pollinating create more fruit with cross-pollination. In simple terms, most apple trees can’t produce much if any fruit if they are not around other similar types of trees to help pollinate them. I found a couple of easy to use articles to determine what goes well together (Amherst Nurseries). For Dwarf Apple trees, like what we ended up getting, 20 feet was the recommended distance. Knowing there were no other similar fruit trees within 20 feet of where Julie wanted the trees resulted in my to-do list doubling, we needed to now plant 2 trees. Below I have listed out the supplies and steps that I followed:
If you’re wondering, the total Lowe’s bill was right around $50. Below is a list of what we came home with:
- 1 Mactonish Semi-Dwarf Apple Tree
- 1 Fuji Semi-Dwarf Apple Tree
- 1 Bag of Mulch
- 1 Bag of Black Kow (ie. Bag O’ Cow Crap) NOTE – Apparently we stood in the wrong place for too long and an extremely helpful Lowe’s worker stopped by to help. We were looking for planting soil to backfill the tree holes. The clerk recommended the Black Kow as the best option to get trees started. We’ll see but knowing what my dog’s piles of crap do to the lawn I am not overly optimistic.
Most of this is directly from the label attached to the tree:
- We place the trees where we thought we would like to have them planted making sure they were no more than 20 feet apart. From there we started to play the little to the left, little to the right games as we looked at them from different points in the yard and from within in the house. We turned on our sprinklers to make sure they were not too close to a sprinkler head.
- Dig a hole about twice the diameter and a little deeper than the pot that the tree came in. I like to set the pot in the hole as I go just to make sure I am getting the right depth.
- Mix the Cow Crap about half and half with the dirt from the hole. We used a wheelbarrow to make it easier, Julie mixed and I took pictures.
- Fill the bottom of the hole with about 1-2 inches of the mixed soil
- Pull the tree from the pot and gently beat the root ball to loosen the soil a little and place it in the hole
- Make sure the top of the root ball is about 1 inch above the normal ground level if not add some of the mix to the bottom of the hole
- Fill in the hole with the mix, gentle packing it in. I would recommend NOT trying to pack it with your foot stepping down on it or you might get yelled out like I did.
- Once the hole is filled in use some more of the dirt to create a small mound that goes around the outside of the hole
- Turn on a hose running at about 1/4 flow and place it inside the mound area letting it run for about 30 min
- Once mostly dry fill the mounded area with mulch
- Water once a week with the 1/4 flow hose for 30 minutes
Depending on how solid your ground is and how big the tree is you may want to stake the trees with ropes to keep it upright. In my case, I did end up adding a couple of stakes one each tree which gave me a great opportunity to polish off my knot tying skills. Can’t remember the last time I needed to taut line hitch, most of the time we secure our servers in racks but maybe next time I will just try tie it off to a desk chair.
Our next project will be to learn how to care for the tree and I will update you as we learn more. From the reading so far it sounds like it will be a year or two before we have apples but once we do Julie has some great ideas on her site of what to do with them. Check them out here.
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