A FLYING start for the plants, whether they be apple trees or strawberries, means not only bumper crops of fruit but less bother later on for the cultivator. What is done wrongly at planting time is not easily put right afterwards. Preparation of the ground, correct depth of planting, method of spreading out and covering in the roots, and staking and tying (where necessary) are simple items involving little trouble but of real importance.
Preparing the Sites.
If the ground has been properly cultivated, all-over digging is not necessary. All that is required, by way of a start, is the preparation of adequate planting holes. These should be wide enough to allow of roots being spread out and deep enough to allow of the tree, bush, cordon or whatever it may be, being planted at the same depth at which it stood in the nursery ground; that point is indicated in. most cases by the soil mark on the stem.
The bottom of the hole should be broken up with the fork; but no manure should be worked in unless the ground is definitely poor, and then it must be so placed that it does not touch the roots when the plant is put in position.
Raspberry, blackcurrant and strawberry like the ground to be rich, but most other fruits make too much wood growth if given manure at planting time. Artificial manure mixtures can be given as a top-dressing when trees, bushes, etc.., first begin to fruit. Suitable mixtures are sold by the fruit nurserymen.
If the subsoil is chalk and there are only a few inches of good soil on top, or if the ground is very stonj’, or sandy, the planting hole should be got out to the depth of about 18 in. and the excavated material replaced by better soil, if possible. Chopped turves will do excellently for putting in the bottom of the hole, grass side down.
If the ground is clay, or otherwise heavy, it must be made porous by working into it sand, sharp road grit, mortar rubble, sifted fire ashes or small charred stuff and wood ash from the rubbish fire.
If the drainage is none too good, dig the hole 2$ ft. deep and line the bottom with broken brick, or stones, well rammed; this drainage material to be 6 in. deep when the ramming is finished. Turves spread above, grass side down, will be a further improvement, these to be covered firmly with enough soil to secure the correct planting depth. Free drainage is of real importance.
Lime is Necessary. Fertility of soil is governed by the amount of lime in it. If the ground lacks lime it should be dressed with slaked or hydrated lime; or with ground limestone (powdered chalk) if the soil is light or sandy. How to test then sides and bottom will not dry hard or become pasty with rain. These latter conditions are all against the plants getting a good start.
Safeguard for Roots.
If trees arrive for planting in bad weather they should remain unplanted and under cover, the roots covered with sacking or other material, until they can be got into the ground under the best possible conditions.
There should be abundance of lime in the soil for all stone fruits – plums, cherries – and powdered chalk or hydrated lime should be mixed freely with the soil at the bottom of the planting hole and with the excavated soil before this is returned. Old mortar rubbish crushed with the garden roller is specially useful, in this respect, for adding to the soil; it also helps to drain heavy ground.
The same materials should be given as a top-dressing to fruit trees (whatever form these take) about every third year.
When to Plant.
This can be done at any time while the plants are dormant; that is, between the end of October and end of March. But operations must be suspended during wet or frosty weather, and the holes should not be dug too far in advance of planting. The ideal is to dig them on the actual day that the trees, etc.., are to go in; have been prepared, similar temporary protection is necessary. If they cannot be put under cover a trench should be dug and the roots placed therein, soil being piled over the roots, the stems lying almost flat on the ground. The object in not putting them in upright is to safeguard the trees from being blown over by wind and the roots being heaved out and exposed to drying winds.
If roots are dry at planting time they should be soaked in water for a few hours.
How to Plant.
The tree should be placed centrally in the prepared hole and a piece of board, or handle of rake or hoe, placed across the top of this ( A) to make sure that the soil-level mark on the stem will coincide with the general ground level when the hole is filled in. Too deep planting is definitely bad. The top roots (the very thin, fibrous ones) should not be covered with more than about 3 in. of soil if the ground is heavy; a 5-in. covering is the maximum in very light ground.
When the roots have been spread out, inspect them for bruised or broken ends. These must be trimmed cleanly back, with secateurs or sharp knife. Where it is necessary to deal with thicker roots the cut should be made so that it slopes upwards and outwards from below. It is the thin, fibrous roots that are of supreme importance; on these the fruitfulness of the tree depends.
Soil broken up as finely as possible should be used to cover the roots, and where these branch out in tiers they should be packed around with the fine soil in such a manner that they lie out horizontally in those tiers. They must not be curved upwards nor bunched downwards.
The tree should be shaken gently as the filling-in proceeds, SO that fine soil trickles down and fills all spaces among the roots. When these have all been covered the soil should be made firm above and around them by treading. But the top inch of soil which completes the filling-in of the hole should be left loose.
How to Stake and Tie.
The tap root which held the tree upright in the nursery ground is no longer able to perform that function. It has been cut through and shortened and a stake must take its place in supporting the standard, half-standard, pyramid or bush-trained tree.
The stake should be put in place before the roots are covered in. It is then possible to see where to drive in the pointed end without injuring any of the roots. It should be long enough to reach up as far as where the branches begin, in the case of standards and half-standards; it should go up a foot or so among the branches of the bush-trained tree and farther still in the case of a pyramid.
No part of the tree should be allowed to rub against the stake, or bark will be injured and disease may find a footing in the wound. To prevent any such injury, both stake and stem or branch where they are likely to make contact should be wrapped around with sacking or anything else that will prevent friction.
The tarred twine, or other strong tying material, should be passed around the padded stake twice, then crossed and the ends brought together around the padded portion of stem or branch, and finally tied behind the stake. In all cases some padding should be interposed between the tying material and the bark. The ties should be examined at least once a year, to ensure that the material is holding and the padding has not slipped; ties will also need adjusting to keep pace with the swelling stem or branch.
In a very windy locality one stake may not be sufficient to support a tree. In this event a second stake should be driven in slantwise, the other side of the tree, its head pointing in the direction of the prevailing wind and tied to the first stake. It should be driven in at a point about 2 ft. out from the base of the tree.
Against Fence or Wall.
The planting of trained trees against a fence or wall differs from open-garden planting only in that the hole takes a semicircular shape. The base of the stem should be about 6 in. out from the foot of thefence or wall (to allow for future increase in diameter), and the growths should be tied back to this support immediately planting is finished – but not tightly. The soil should be allowed a month in which to settle down before final ties are given. If it sinks 1 in. it can take the tree with it providing the ties allow. If it sinks without the tree: – because the latter is tied too securely to the support – the roots will be disturbed and the tree will hang fire. Open-ground plantings should be examined with this same possibility in mind.
Soil at the foot of a house wall sometimes consists largely of builder’s rubbish, and as no tree can be expected to grow in this theplanting site may need special preparation. The bit of ground should be dug 2 ft. deep, to the length of 5 ft. to 6 ft. for one tree, and to the width of 3 ft. If a path happens to be in the way its foundation will need to be broken up toallow of the digging. Brickbats and other rubbish will have to be picked out and the site dealt with generally as explained in the case of open-ground plantings.
Trees that are to be tied to wire supports should be kept from close . contact with the wire by crossing the tying material between the wire and branch or stem.
Labels Beat Memory.
Each tree should be permanently labelled before the nurseryman’s temporary tag is removed from it. A substantial strip of wood, white painted, with the name and variety of the fruit written in bold block letters, is as good as anything, wired securely but not tightly to the inner end of a branch. The letters should be outlined heavily with pencil so that the latter bites into the wood.
How to Transplant.
Bushes and young trees are easily removed, during the dormant period, from one part of the garden to another. The hole to receive the tree to be removed should be prepared first, then the tree got out of the ground by digging a trench all around it and then undermining the mass of roots and soil. The trench may need to encircle the tree at a distance of 2 ft. or even 3 ft. out from the stem, this depending on age and size.
Several thick roots, growing sideways and downwards, will be encountered, and last of all the central tap root. All these will have to be cut through, with spade, axe or saw. When the tree is no longer attached at any point to the soil it can be lifted up and out. That will probably be a four-handed job.
Sacking or something equally tough should be wrapped and tied around the mass of roots and soil so that the ball is completely and tightly enclosed before it leaves the hole. That will save much soil from being jarred away from the roots during its transference to the new quarters, with the aid of a wheelbarrow and an assistant who will help to unload the wrapped-up ball and lower it into the hole.
There the wrappings will be removed, broken or bruised root ends cut back to sound tissue, and the planting completed. The need for a strong stake in the new position should not be overlooked.
Individual planting requirements are dealt with under names of fruits in the alphabetical section.