The Orchard is Growing!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my order from Stark Brothers Nursery arrived. I was so excited to receive my apple trees, grape vines, and asparagus. I mentioned their arrival in my weekly update that week, but I decided to share the planting of them after the holidays were over. So, today, I will show you how I planted the apple trees. (On Friday I will post about planting the grape vines, and next week I’ll post how to plant asparagus.)

I ordered two apple trees because apples need a pollinator to produce, and the pollinator has to be of a different variety that blooms at the same time. (For more information, see my post Apple Trees in the South.) My desire was to grow a Pink Lady apple tree, and I discovered that a good pollinator for it is a Granny Smith apple tree – another variety I love! And, because my orchard is in my front yard, I ordered the dwarf variety of both trees, which will grow only 8-10 feet tall.


My trees arrived bare root. That means, without soil. The roots were wrapped in soggy strips of newspaper, and the trees were encased in a sealed plastic bag. I immediately removed the trees from the bag and peeled the newspaper strips off the roots. Then I soaked the trees in water, per the instructions, for a minimum of 2 hours. Although tap water is acceptable, I had several buckets of rainwater that had been sitting on my patio for almost a week. I figured that would make great water to soak the trees in.

Apple trees soaking SG

The first step to preparing the planting holes is choosing placement and removing the grass. We had done this the weekend before the trees arrived. I used empty buckets as my “trees” to place where I thought the trees would look good, as well as get enough sun. I then measured between the trees to be sure I had at least a 10 foot spread between them. (Follow the spacing guidelines included with your tree purchase.)

After deciding on placement, we pulled up the grass in a six foot wide circle (three feet on all sides of the tree). We also widened the circle around my fig tree. For a week, I had crop circles in my yard.

Apple trees placement

Apple trees placement


A very important part of planting the trees is digging the hole large enough and supplementing the soil with compost. I used composted cow manure. We have a lot of clay in the soil in South Carolina, so I also added sand to my mixture. According to the instructions, one-third of the back fill (what you fill the hole in with after you place the tree) should be compost. Once I added the sand, I’d say half my back fill was original soil.

Digging the holes was too much of a task for me, so I got my handsome “Garden Wilson” to dig for me. 🙂 He dug the hole a little deeper than where we’d be placing the tree roots – so we could augment the soil under the tree as well as around it.

Now this is a huge hole!

Apple tree hole SG

After the hole was dug, we added a full bag of manure compost and a small bag of sand. I literally got on my hands and knees and hand mixed the compost, sand, and natural dirt. (Okay, I know that wasn’t necessary, but sometimes I just love playing in the dirt.)

Augmenting the soil with manure compost and sand

Augmenting the soil with manure compost and sand

Once the bottom of the hole was built up sufficiently for the tree to be at the correct level, we pulled the tree from the water bucket. The most important thing is to be sure the graft is 2-3 inches above the soil line.

Apple tree in hole SG

After back filling the hole half way, I walked around the dirt, stepping it down. I watered it well, then finished filling the hole. After stepping on the dirt, I soaked the tree. (Stepping on the soil and watering well helps to remove any air pockets that might be in the hole.)

Apple tree planted and watered in

Apple tree planted and watered in

Here’s a closeup of the grafted section of the tree. Again, this part must remain 2-3 inches above the soil line.

Apple tree graft

Apple tree graft

After the apple trees were planted, we spread 2-3″ of cypress mulch over the soil circles. (I re-mulched my fig tree, too.) Mulch protects the soil and helps keep the roots warm through the winter. It’s important not to “cone” your mulch (mulch that looks like a volcano with the tree in the center) or to put down more than 3 or 4 inches of it. Most importantly, do NOT put mulch close to the tree itself. Leave a space about two inches around the tree trunk. Putting mulch too close to the trunk can cause disease.

Apple tree mulched SG

Now, we wait. If we don’t get at least one inch of rain in a week, then I’ll have to water my trees. Actually, during the dormant stage, they should get a deep watering (by rain or gardener) every 7-10 days.

It’ll be at least two years before my trees will bear fruit, but I’m excited to know that my orchard has grown to include these wonderful fruit trees.

Are you planting any fruit trees this fall?



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