Planting and caring for a fruit tree

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Planting and caring for a fruit tree

This article was posted by the Oregon State University Extension Service

Tree planting

Planting a bare-root fruit tree? Follow these guidelines:

  • Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root system requires. This will loosen the surrounding soil, making it easier for roots to develop an outward growing pattern during the first year.
  • The hole should be just deep enough to place the roots in while keeping the graft union above the soil level. If you make the hole too deep the tree will settle, possibly putting the graft union below the soil line over time.
  • Do not replace the soil taken from the hole with other topsoil, sphagnum moss or manure. If your soil lacks phosphorus, mix 1–2 pounds per tree of triple super phosphate. If your soil lacks potassium, apply 1–2 lbs of muriate of potash per tree in the soil in the bottom of the hole.
  • When placing the tree in the hole, spread the roots out in all directions. If you make a pyramid of soil in the bottom of the hole it will help keep the roots spread while you backfill and plant the tree.


Don't put any nitrogen fertilizer in the planting hole. During the first year, allow the tree to grow for several months before applying nitrogen to the surface of the soil. This will keep you from burning the young tender roots.

Eventually, you can apply 3/4 cup urea (46-0-0), or 1 3/4 cup of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) to each tree. Adding 5–10 lbs of aged manure or compost per tree is also a good idea. Fresh manure will burn roots of your new tree.

Generally, it's a good practice to spread fertilizer at the drip line of the tree. Remember to water in the fertilizer.


During the first year in the ground, monitor your fruit tree for insect pests. Watch for borers working near the graft union, or insects that reduce leaf area in the canopy.

Keep weeds away from your new trees to reduce competition for water and nutrients and eliminate cover for voles. I recommend keeping the soil area below the outer drip line of branches clean during the life of the fruit tree. Trapping may be necessary if your orchard attracts gophers and ground squirrels. Moles may leave a number of mounds in your orchard, but they are not eating the roots. Moles are eating worms, grubs and other soil-dwelling insects.

Plant diseases can be a problem for young trees in Western Oregon. Apply fungicides to keep fungal problems like apple scab, anthracnose and peach leaf curl to a minimum. Dormant and growing season sprays with copper based products will also help to fight bacterial blight (pseudomonas), a difficult disease for cherries and peaches in Western Oregon.

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