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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Digging Holes to Plant Fruit Trees

Q. How big do you dig your holes for fruit trees?
This was a hole dug for a bare root fruit tree about 1 inch in diameter. The whole is about 3 feet wide and not much deeper than needed for the roots. The soil taken from the whole was mixed about 50-50 with compost and used for planting around the tree roots. Water was added to the hole at the same time the soil was put around the roots. The trees were staked to prevent the roots from moving.

A. I generally like to dig holes for fruit trees in five or 15 gallon containers about 3 feet wide and just deep enough for the root ball from the container. But the size of the hole depends on the condition of the soil for planting.
            If the soil is a very poor soil, I make the hole wider but not any deeper unless the soil does not drain water in several hours after filling it. These situations are rare. I don’t like deep holes for plants because of soil settling issues and causing plant problems later.
Finished planting fruit trees at the Ahern Orchard in Las Vegas. Berms or doughnuts were created around each of the trees so they could be watered as soon as they were planted. They were watered three or four times immediately after planting to remove air pockets and sell the soil around the roots.
            Our desert soils can be unusually hard but in some parts of the Las Vegas Valley there are “caliche layers” that are as hard as cement and require a jackhammer to break through them. If you or your neighbors have a pool and this layer was not found when it was put in, then you don’t have a caliche problem.
            The soil removed from the hole should be mixed with compost before planting. Use a mixture one part compost to one part soil. Another option is to use an “imported” soil mix for planting.
            If the compost used in the soil mix is “rich”, no fertilizer is needed for the first year after planting. If the compost is not rich, then add a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus to the soil mixture before planting. Rich compost is usually made with some sort of animal manure.
            Plant the tree the same depth as it was in the container making sure that the roots are covered with no more than 1 inch of soil.
            As this soil mixture is added to the hole, add water to the hole at the same time you add the soil/compost/fertilizer mixture. This slurry of water and soil mixture removes air pockets and results in a tree held solidly in the soil after planting. Small trees will not require staking if done right.
            Surround the plants with a donut and fill this donut with water several times during the next week before you turn it over to the irrigation system.

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