WHEN TO PLANT
In Western Washington fruit trees may be planted any time after the leaves begin falling in the autumn (usually in November) until growth takes place in the spring (usually in April). Trees may be planted in January, February, and March, “the earlier, the better”. Fall planting is preferred whenever possible. The trees begin root growth during mild weather. Don’t attempt to plant during freezing temperatures.
Dig the hole large enough so roots will not touch the sides (usually 2′ x 2′). Do not force or bend roots. Cut back broken or bruised roots. Put the best topsoil you have at the bottom of the hole and spread out the roots. Well rotted manure or compost may be placed under the topsoil. (No fertilizer should contact the roots. It is better to use no fertilizer than take a chance.)
Stand the tree in the hole and fill with topsoil and water well. It is important to leave the graft or bud union two to three inches above the soil line. Note: Hartman’s Nursery budded most of their trees higher so that they could be planted deeper in their permanent location. The advantage of high budding and deeper planting is that the tree has better anchorage and will have less tendency to lean which is especially important with dwarf trees.
Remove undesirable branches and cut back one-half of last season’s growth. Cut back the leader approximately sixteen inches above the top branch. Always prune just above a bud. The last bud on the branch will determine the direction of new growth. Remember the last bud should be to the outside on the side branches while the last bud on the leader should be toward the center.
You may wait until February to prune fall planted trees. There is always the possibility that we could have cold enough weather in January to kill the end buds after fall pruning. Then you would need to reprune.
For Organic Gardeners and others interested in growing apple trees that take little or no spraying to control scab, there are several varieties that will be of interest to you. BRAMLEY’S SEEDLING, CHEHALIS, FLORINA, FREEDOM, LIBERTY, NOVA EASYGRO, WILLIAM’S PRIDE, and WYNOOCHE all fall into that category. Others that come close are AKANE, ALKEMENE, KEEPSAKE, DISCOVERY, and SWEET SIXTEEN.
There are some special considerations for scab control that need to be taken for some varieties such as MUTSU, IDARED, PINK PEARL, SUMMERRED, and GALA. You can obtain a spray schedule from your County Extension Service.
Note: All fruit trees should be sprayed with a dormant oil spray, usually in February.
The Washington State University has a wide variety of helpful extension bulletins available to the home grower for a nominal charge. The bulletin that will be most helpful in selecting your trees would be EB 0937 Fruit Handbook for Western Washington: Varieties and Culture.
ROOTSTOCKS AND TREE SIZES
DWARF, SEMIDWARF, AND TREE SPACING
Apple trees are available on several different rootstocks. All things being equal, the rootstock is what determines the size of the tree. Each rootstock has its advantages and disadvantages. Following the descriptions below are percentages indicating how big the tree will get as compared to a full size or standard tree.
- P22 – a relatively new rootstock, producing a tree about 4-6 ft. tall. Needs good soil, permanent stake or trellis. (very dwarf) 25%. Good for growing in a container.
- M9 – produces a tree about 6-8 ft. tall. Needs fertile, evenly moist soil, permanent stake or trellis. Prefers heavier clay soils over sandy soils. (dwarf) 33%. Bud 9 will also grow about the same size.
- M26 – produces a tree about 8-10 ft. tall and sometimes 12 ft. tall with certain varieties. Needs well drained soil. Stake in early years, free standing once well established. (dwarf) 45%
- M7 – produces a tree about 11-15 ft. tall. Takes heavier soil; gets roots suckers. Doesn’t need staking after first year. (semidwarf) 55%
- MM106 – produces a tree about 12-16 ft. tall. This well-anchored, drought-tolerant rootstock does well in light soil; doesn’t sucker. Subject to crown rot in heavy soils. (semidwarf) 66%
- MM111 – produces a tree nearly standard in size. Adapts well to poorly drained soil; doesn’t sucker. Bears late, resists crown rot. 80%. Alnarp2 will grow a little larger – to about 90%.
Varieties on P22, M9, M26 and MM106 usually begin bearing after 2-3 years of age. Varieties on M7 and MM111 take a year or two longer than the others to begin bearing.
It is recommended that trees on M26 be planted 10-12 ft. apart. Semi-dwarf trees should be planted about 15-16 ft. apart.
Trees on M26 and MM106 should not be planted in poorly drained clay soils whereas trees on M9 should not be planted in sandy loam soils. For more details consult resource books and extension bulletins.
Pear trees are typically grafted onto Quince C, quince A, Pyrodwarf, or OHXF33.
- Quince C will give you a tree about the size of an apple on Bud-9, about 6 – 8 ft. tall.
- Quince A will give you a tree about the size of an apple on M-26
- OHXF333 being somewhat larger, about 15 – 16 ft. tall.
The Hartman Nursery plum trees on St. Julian A are more semi-dwarf in their growth habit but the nursery still had trees planted at 10 ft. apart. The nursery also had plum trees on Pixie which is more dwarfing. It’s cherry trees were on Krymsk 5. They are dwarf to semi-dwarf, growing to about 12 feet or so.
The above information was excerpted from the former website of the Hartman Nursery, now closed.
FRUIT TREE ROOTSTOCKS
Hartman Nursery offered rootstocks for grafting or budding trees. They had some apple rootstock, P22, Bud9, M26, M7, and MM106, MM111; some plum rootstock, and some pear rootstock.