Now is the perfect time to buy bare-root fruit trees which are much cheaper to buy than pot grown trees. Bare-root specimens should only be bought after leaf drop, usually in November.
If you are buying a tree in a pot then avoid container-grown specimens which have mosses and liverworts on the compost surface, since this indicates old stock, and examine the root system of container-grown trees and check for healthy white roots.
Don't buy trees with any obvious damage to the trunk and try to buy trees that have no crossing or damaged branches. If the tree is grafted (which should be the case for all fruit trees since it results in smaller trees more suitable for the average sized garden and also quicker fruit crops) then ensure that the graft union (between the scion and the rootstock) is strong and healthy.
Mark out the hole and remove any turf. The diameter of the circle should be 3 x diameter of the tree roots or diameter of the pot.
Dig a 30m deep square hole, 3 x the diameter of the roots. Add a handful of blood, fish & bonemeal (a slow release organic fertiliser that will add valuable nutrients for the tree roots) to the bottom of the hole and another handful to the dug out soil.
Evidence has shown that one of the biggest killers of trees is incorrect planting, and in particular, planting too deeply. Place the tree in the hole to the same depth as it was previously grown:
- the soil level in the pot if container grown
- level with the root flare (where the trunk spreads above top of the roots) if bare root
Use the stake to show the finished level of the ground. Add some of the removed soil before planting if the tree is sitting too deep.
- The stake is driven in at an angle of roughly 450 over the rootball and facing into the prevailing wind.
- The stake is attached low down on the trunk, 45-60cm since this anchors the trunk, whilst allowing the stem to strengthen as a result of moving in the wind.
- Select a well-cushioned tree tie, since poor ties can severely damage the bark. Attach it firmly. Check the tie regularly and loosen when necessary