Let’s be honest—it was my first time planting any fruit trees for the first time. I ordered three apples, one peach, and one bush cherry from Fedco Trees, all bare root. Here are my thoughts:
Other thoughts on my experience—it was very exciting getting them. You can’t really get a good look at them in the package because their roots need to stay moist and bundled in their wet newspaper. So when I went in to get the first tree after Adam and I had dug the hole for it, I had the distinct feeling that I was going in to wake my baby up from a nap. But I had never met my baby before. Fun anticipation.
Then I planted the trees too high. All of my horticultural education has harped on the dangers of planting trees too low. I planted them so the graft (the nubby bit on the stem) was eight inches above the ground. Later I realized it’s supposed to be 2-3 inches. So we replanted two of the trees and added soil to the bases of two others. I also packed the dirt too tightly around the roots by walking on it after planting. I thought you had to do that to eliminate air pockets around the roots, but I think I overdid it. In our sandy soil that is not a problem (though I did go out later and used a garden fork to loosen the soil) but if your soil was clay or loam, walking around them as much as I did may have compacted the soil.
Let’s talk pruning. I’m following Anne Ralph’s Grow a Little Fruit Tree method, so the initial pruning is crucial. And It is extreme. You prune to knee high, and no more than 24 inches tall. Branches will grow out of the dormant buds on the stem. Fruit bearing will be delayed by such a dramatic cut, but it will result in a tree that is much easier to maintain.
Here’s what my trees looked like when I got them, versus what they looked like when I was finished. It took me two hours to muster the courage to cut them back this hard. But she says that fruit trees are vigorous and most people wish they had trimmed theirs back harder upon first receiving them.
All this is to say that if you have the desire to plant a fruit tree, you should do it! You might make some mistakes, like I did, but there’s nothing un-correctable.