Fall is a good time to plant fruits. Trees and bushes set out during the autumn months will start growth early the following spring – just as soon as weather conditions are favorable and usually before it is feasible to do any spring planting. Thus, fruits planted in the fall get off to a quicker start and are apt to make better growth than spring-planted fruits. This advantage is particularly evident during the first season.
Soil is frequently in better condition for planting during the fall than it is, in the spring. In fact, soil is sometimes so wet in the latter season that planting must be delayed to prevent puddling or serious compaction. In October and November, however, planting can be done whenever the soil is mellow because a reasonable delay is of no importance. Then, too, the weather is often more pleasant and with fewer -windy days in the fall than in early spring. This is an asset because most plants recuperate from transplanting more quickly when there is no wind.
Plant Fall – Plant Fresher
Another possible advantage of fall planting is the fact that nursery plants are generally fresher at this time than in the spring. Most frequently, but not always, nurseries dig their plants in autumn and store them bare-rooted during the winter. In this way, plants are available for early shipment the next spring. Although storage of plants during the winter is not particularly -detrimental, transplanting operations cause less of a set hack when plants are set out soon after they are dug. Plants shipped in the spring sometimes become overheated enroute; this is less likely to occur in the fall. No doubt there are other advantages of fall planting which bear personal consideration.
The chief drawbacks of fall planting are heaving and winterkilling; both are more troublesome to commercial growers than to home gardeners. Heaving of plants during the winter is caused by alternate freezing and thawing of the soil and usually occurs when there is a lack of protecting snow. Under such conditions fall-planted fruits are pushed out of the ground and must be replanted in early spring. Heavy snows which remain throughout the winter provide a good mulch and make heaving less likely. Equal or better protection can be achieved by mulching fall-planted fruits to a depth of 6 or 8 inches with straw, hay, grass clippings or some similar material which will make a good covering.
Winter Kill From Cold Temperatures
Winterkilling of fall-planted fruits generally occurs as injury to the roots by cold temperatures. This does not occur if there is an adequate blanket of snow or a deep mulch. Occasionally the above ground portions of fruit plants may be injured by excessive cold but in such cases even established plants are injured. Roots are almost always more tender than plant tops. In extremely cold climates it maybe wise to mound soil about a foot deep above the ground level around the trunk and over the roots, as is done with roses. This mound should be removed in the spring.
Fall planting is best done in late October or early November. before the soil is frozen. If the soil is low in organic matter, and most soils are, mix in well-rotted manure, compost or wet peatntoss with the soil which will be tamped around the roots. Dry peatmoss must be soaked thoroughly in water before it is mixed with soil. Otherwise, it may absorb so much water front the soil that the roots will lack sufficient moisture to survive.
Holes for fruit plants should be dug a little larger than is necessary to accommodate the root systems. This provides an area of loosened soil where new roots Will grow. After a year or so the roots of the established plants are able to continue growth in undisturbed soil. Occasionally fruit plants will have one or two exceptionally long roots which can be pruned to conform with the general root system. It is probably just as well to trim broken roots to places ,where they are whole, but experimental evidence has demonstrated this practice to he relatively unimportant.
Roots should be spread out in the hole in the same pattern that they grew before. With certain exceptions discussed later, fruit plants thrive best when they are planted slightly deeper than they grew in the nursery. Inspection of the lower trunk region will disclose soil marks which indicate the depth at which the plant grew in the nursery. The plant should be held with the roots in the hole at the proper depth while the soil is filled in gradually.
During this operation the soil should be pressed firmly around the roots to eliminate air pockets. “With large plants the soil should be pressed with your feet after sufficient soil has been added to cover the roots. The soil will settle within a few months after planting, and, for this reason, it is a good idea to mound the soil 3 or 4 inches at the time of planting. Fall-planted fruits ordinarily will not need watering hut if the soil seems dry or if there is a drought, then by all means, water the plants thoroughly.
Fertilizers may be applied at the time of fall planting or may be left for spring treatment. Generally, the plants will respond to nitrogen in some form, but most nitrogenous fertilizers dissolve rapidly and what’ is not utilized rather quickly by plants is leached from the soil. For this reason, fall fertilization most often consists of the application of nitrogenous materials such as dried blood which become available to plants rather slowly.
If a mulch is to be used it should be applied soon after planting and before cold weather begins.
It is extremely important that all deciduous fruit plants be well matured and dormant when they are planted in the fall. Often the largest plants offered for sale are more succulent than is desirable for fall planting. More moderate sized plants will recuperate best from transplanting.
One last general remark about all fruit plants concerns their location with respect to buildings, fences, or other structure . Remember that sprays or dusts will be required to control various pests. Therefore, do not plant fruits close to structures which may be defaced by spray or dusts.
Apple trees are popular with many home gardeners, not only for their fruits, but also for their springtime blossoming beauty and their shade in summer. Since cross-pollination among varieties is necessary for consistent crops more than one apple variety should be planted. Some of these are early apple varieties, some midseason and some late. They include the so-called cooking and eating apples. Many nurseries now offer three to five varieties grafted as one tree and where there is room for just one or two trees, you would do best to choose such multiple grafts.
A full-sized apple tree on a standard rootstock (often a seedling of Delicious or Jonathan) will attain a height of 30 feet or more and a spread up to 40 feet, depending upon the variety. Frequently home owners are interested in dwarfed apple trees because much less space is required for them. One-year-old apple trees 4 to 5 feet in height on standard rootstocks should be planted 3 or 4 inches deeper than they were in the nursery. But dwarf trees must be planted high so that roots will not develop from the scion trunk. The trees will not remain dwarf if roots grow from the scion trunk. Such shallow planting of a dwarf tree generally requires a supporting stake to which the tree top must be tied loosely to keep it from falling over.
The spacing of apple trees will depend upon their rootstocks, whether they are standard or dwarfing. Standard-size trees should he planted at least 30 feet apart; the distance for dwarf trees will be indicated by the nursery. No pruning, unless it be the removal of broken shoots, should be done for the first three or four years. After that, moderate training cuts can be made.
Immediately after planting in the fall the trunks of apple trees should be protected from mice and rabbits. Damage from these animals can usually be avoided by encircling the trunk with a cylinder of chick-mesh fencing, 18 to 24 inches in height or higher if you get very deep snow, and about 8 inches in diameter. This wire guard should be worked 3 or 4 inches in the soil to prevent mice from girdling below the soil level. If mice are not present, a simpler rabbit guard can be made by wrapping the trunk with aluminum foil. The foil wrap should be removed each summer but the trunk should be protected from mice and rabbits each winter for at least three or four years.
Peach trees generally do not require cross-pollination and a single variety can be planted if that is all that is wanted.
If you live in an unusually cold climate, you would do well to ask the recommended peach varieties from your state agricultural college. Since the mature size of peach trees is less than that of apple trees, and since it can be controlled more easily by pruning, peach trees are generally planted on standard seedling rootstocks about 18 to 25 feet apart. Trees one year old and 3 to 4 feet in height are best and will have several branches arising from the central stem. At planting time the branches should be cut off and the central stem cut hack to a height of 20 inches. The following spring new brunches will develop and a year later three or four of these can be chosen to form the main scaffold limbs of the mature tree. Mice and rabbits do not bother peach trees, except when their customary food supply has been exhausted or is covered by deep snow for long periods.
Sweet Cherry Trees
Sweet cherry trees ordinarily become quite large and an area about 30 feet in diameter should be provided for each tree. Their large size limits the adaptability of sweet cherries for home gardeners. Sweet cherries require little, if any, pruning at planting time and they are seldom attacked by rodents.
Plum varieties differ a great deal in their pollination requirements. The best trees for planting will be two years old and four to five feet in height. They should be planted 20 feet apart and will become about the size of peach trees. Little or no pruning need be done at planting time.
Success with pears is most probable when two or more varieties are planted together about 25 feet apart. Two-year-old trees 4 to 5 feet in height should he purchased and, if possible, they should be grafted on rootstocks which impart some degree of resistance to fire blight. Little pruning and light fertilization should he practiced with pears to reduce the incidence of fire blight, a bacterial disease that kills blossoms and shoots. Pear trees should be protected from mice and rabbits.
Red – Black and Purple Raspberries
Red, black and purple raspberries are popular with home gardeners because they can be grown in hedges as a part of the landscape design. Commercially, the three types should not be in the same planting because the colors will mix. But around the home this mixture may not be important. Raspberries are self-fruitful but vary in winter hardiness and this characteristic should be investigated before planting them in quite cold climates.
Dormant plants of these brambles should be set slightly deeper than they previously grew and about 3 feet apart in rows 7 feet apart. If the plants have developed branches these should be pruned at planting time to stubs 3 or 4 inches in length.
Two other bramble fruits may be grown but they are more troublesome than those discussed above. Dewberries such require trellising and must be protected from temperatures below zero by burying the canes over winter. Trailing blackberries, have similar requirements. Otherwise, for home purposes, they may be planted in the same way as other brambles. Trailing blackberries should be set 6 feet apart in rows 8 feet apart.
Fall planting of currants and goose- berries is recommended because they begin growth so early in the spring. In general. these fruits are self-fruitful and single varieties may be planted if desired.
Strong, well-rooted, one-year-old plants should be printed to 5 or 6 branches and set deeply in the soil so that new shoots and roots will develop from the stems underground. Red currants and gooseberries should be placed 4 feet apart but black currants should be spaced 5 feet apart because they grow more vigorously. Mice may gnaw on the roots and stems and. if this is likely, should he trapped or poisoned.
Blueberries most probably will succeed if the soil is naturally acid, as indicated by good growth of native blueberries, huckleberries, azaleas, laurel or rhododendrons. Soil which has been limed in recent years or is naturally “sweet” is usually difficult for growing blueberries. Acidity may -he increased favorably by the addition of decaying leaves, sawdust or peat, but the plants will always require special care in maintaining an acid condition of the soil. Two or more varieties should be planted together to provide cross-pollination. Well-rooted, two-year-old plants¥ should be set slightly deeper than they previously grew, about 4 to 5 feet apart in rows 8 to 10 feet apart. Deep mulching with leaves or sawdust is a recommended practice for home gardeners and the mulch should be applied at planting time.
Grapes are particularly well suited for home plantings because they can be grown along fences or trellises. They do not require cross-pollination and can he planted as individual varieties if desired, although two or more varieties make a nicer selection. Vigorous one-year-old plants should be set 8 to 10 feet apart. At planting time remove all shoots except the leader which should be shortened to about two buds. Unusually long or spindly roots should be cut off and the plant placed deeply in the soil. Selection of the main trunk may be made by the second year when the vine will need to be tied to a wire or trellis. Rodents are seldom troublesome. Grapes are quite hardy, except when subjected to late spring frosts which may kill the flowering shoots.
Although strawberries are customarily planted in early spring, they may be planted in late fall, providing a heavy mulch of straw, hay or grass is placed over them. Land which has been in sod often contains white grubs which damage strawberry plants and it is better that the soil has been cultivated at least two years prior to planting. It is also best, because of various disease organisms, not to plant strawberries where they or bramble fruits have been grown for the last three years. Commercial varieties are self-fruitful but the majority are infested with viruses that reduce the yield of plants.
Well-rooted, vigorous plants developed during the current season should he set 18 to 24 inches apart in rows 31/2 to 4 feet apart. Each plant must be set so that the crown is just above the soil surface. The roots should be nearly vertical in the hole with only slight spreading. Unusually long roots should be cut off so that no roots are folded up. Mulching is quite important to protect strawberry plants from heaving and cold injury. The mulch should be removed in the spring. Runner plants will then develop a matted row of plants which will produce berries the following season.
by D White – 61218