When you're planting out seedling trees — either fruit or native — you can achieve maximum growth and health by careful thought and preparation of the site. If you take extra time and care at this important point you'll have less work later on, plus more satisfying results. If you just quickly dig a hole and put in a tree you'll be disappointed later when it may 'refuse' to grow or becomes unhealthy.
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First, read through any information available regarding the particular requirements of the species you're planting. Take into consideration: •soil pH (acid or alkaline)
•soil preferences: moist, semi-dry or even dry situations •the amount of sun required, and •resistance to wind.
These factors are most important to consider when selecting a suitable site for a fruit tree.
If possible, mow the area to a diameter of one metre. Dig a hole several times larger than the plant container, and mix the soil removed with a mixture of compost and well-rotted manure, adding lime or dolomite if necessary.
Trim off any damaged limbs and water the tree well before you plant it because this will ensure that it's easy to remove from the container, without damaging the delicate root system. If the roots have become root-bound (followed the shape of the container, and grown inwards in a circle) tease them out gently. If you fail to do this, the roots will sometimes fail to spread out into the surrounding soil.
Set the tree at the same depth, or slightly deeper than when it was in the container, and work in the prepared soil firmly around the roots, tamping down with your feet. When the hole is about three-quarters full add water until the soil is thoroughly soaked. After the water has been absorbed the remainder of the soil should be added. Dish the soil slightly towards the centre to bring water around the trunk.
Water the tree again thoroughly using at least ten litres. If you're staking the tree tie it to the tree trunk with some material that will not injure the tree. Old bicycle tyre inner-tubes are good for this.
It is not widely known that grasses secrete a substance into the soil which will inhibit the growth of young trees. This can be overcome by firstly covering the mown area around the tree with several thicknesses of newspaper which are thoroughly soaked with water. Sprinkle a little well-rotted manure or compost over this and cover it with a 15 cm layer of mulch hay or dried grass clippings. Further fertilisation should be carried out following the guidelines for each particular species.
As much as 15 to 20 percent extra growth can be achieved by this method. As the tree grows, extend the mulch out to the outside edge of the tree dripline. (The dripline is the outside edge of the foliage, where water drips off. )
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