Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Apple and Cherry Plantings

   Last week I planted 55 more apple trees, of 3 new varieties, and a small trial cherry planting of 10 trees, 2 each of 5 different varieties.  Since yesterday at noon it's been raining constantly (and we may have a flood), so the new trees are well watered and I have time to update this blog.
   We ordered our apple trees custom-grafted from Adams County Nursery in PA.  We choose scab-immune varieties (Galarina, Querina, and Crimson Topaz) grafted on Bud. 9 dwarfing interstem, which was grafted on MM111 rootstock.  The MM111 rootstock provides an extensive root system with good anchorage and drought tolerance, while the interstem keeps the tree smaller.  If the varieties were grafted just on Bud. 9 rootstock, the resulting dwarf trees would be less well-anchored so would need staking, and the smaller root system would need more irrigation and fertilizer.
   These 3-part trees have extensive root systems, so need large planting holes.  We start digging these holes using a tractor-mounted auger.  After Bill uses the auger, I follow up with a hand shovel to enlarge the holes and break up the sides which the auger left slick, so the roots can grow out without impediment.
Bill started digging planting holes with a soil auger.  Some of the trees to be planted are in the bucket, soaking in water to keep the roots moist.
   When planting, I set the interstem section about half above and half below the soil line, just slightly deeper than the tree was growing in the nursery, and spread out the roots in the hole.  After filling soil back in the hole, I tamp it down well to eliminate air pockets which could kill roots, and water in the newly-planted tree.  Then I prune back the branches, cutting off broken branches and trimming side branches back by about half, to match the tree tops to the roots which were already pruned by the nursery's digging operation.  This reduces stress on the new tree, better enabling it to survive transplanting and thrive during the coming growing season.  
   Our peach orchard reached full bloom on March 16, which is quite early, but no frosts are in the forecast so far.  We hope temperatures don't go below 27 F or so, which could kill all the young fruit as happened in 2007, but a light frost would provide needed fruit thinning.  Without one, we'll have to do a lot of hand thinning.
Our peach orchard was in full bloom late last week.