Preparing The Orchard Soil

All soils should be prepared in the usual way, with the object of bringing the surface soil layer to the state of maximum fertility, and if the depth of fertile soil is considerable, the fruit will be all the better. Digging should, therefore, be done to a minimum depth of nearly 2 ft., and great care should be taken that drainage is good. Generally it is not necessary to use manure at planting time, but in the case of poor dry soil it is advantageous if a heavy layer of rotted manure can be put in below the top 18 in. of soil. This will hold moisture in dry weather, and prevent loss of plant food through seepage. The manure should never come into direct contact with the roots; even if it is well decayed it may cause damage.

Fruit trees are best if set on a slight mound in the middle of the prepared deep wide hole, and staked immediately. The roots can then be spread out like the ribs of an open umbrella all round, and covered with fine soil. This must be pressed firmly down over the roots, as only direct contact with the soil will allow them to perform their function.

If trees have to be planted in spring, watering both overhead and at the roots is advisable for a time. A mulch of stable manure over the soil round newly planted trees will help them considerably through the first summer.

Should trees arrive from a nursery during inclement weather — frost, or a very wet spell — they should either be left in the packing straw for a couple of days or, if the bad weather continues, they can be taken out and heeled in” to some moist frost-free soil in a sheltered corner of the garden. It is important that the roots should not become frosted or dry out completely, but it is not wise to set them in water, as this may cause them to decay.

When you stake a fruit tree, arrange the ties so that the bark is not rubbed. A piece of rubber tyre bound round the tree trunk before the tie is made is useful. All newly planted trees—even bushes—are best staked. If they sway only a little in the wind some of the finer root hairs are torn, and the tree suffers accordingly.

A point to watch as you plant is to see that the roots are not torn or broken, and if there are damaged roots to cut them cleanly away with a sharp knife. Ragged wounds allow disease spores to enter, and set up decay.