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The Gardener's Year
This is the season to plant shrubs and trees. In the autumn the soil is still warm and it is humid. As with perennials it is important to plant trees and shrubs that are suitable for the soil. In this article I’m focussing on fruit trees.
All fruit trees are grafted on a rootstock. These rootstocks are more resistant to pests and diseases. There are tall stem, medium stem and short stem fruit trees.
Tall stem trees are grafted on strong growing rootstocks suitable for heavy clay, are long-lived (100 years or more) and will be productive after eight to ten years.
Short stem trees are grafted on less vigorous rootstocks suitable for a lighter, fertile and slightly acid soil (pH 5.5 to 7)*. These may not live as long but you can harvest after two or three years (this also depends on how old the rootstocks are). Medium stem trees are somewhere in between.
So if you have a heavy clay on limestone you must choose tall stem fruit trees. If you have good (not too heavy) soil you can plant short or medium stem trees. In any case the soil must be well drained because fruit trees hate wet feet.
Cherry tree (right):
Planting a tree
Plant preferably bare root trees which you can find at a nursery. They will root much better than trees grown in containers. Dig a deep and wide plant hole (75 x 75 cm and 60 cm deep) to loosen up the soil. Place the stakes before planting the tree. The upper roots of the tree must never be planted deeper than 5 cm under the ground.
We are almost there. One other thing you need to pay attention to when you plant a fruit tree. For a good harvest you need two different species flowering at the same time. This cross-pollination is especially important for sweet cherries and plums. On the internet you can find pollinating lists.
* A pH of 7.0 is neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0. A pH above 7.0 is alkaline. In every garden centre you can buy pH tests.