Once again, it’s time to buy saplings. Unfortunately, many gardeners do this important work in a hurry or even spontaneously. Walkthrough the market, look and buy.
What you’re planting in your garden it’s a plant which can crops for many, many years. Not only just good looking in garden. Hopefully a good harvest in every year.
I would say, this is an responsible job. In this article, we will consider the main issues to consider when choosing tree-planting seedlings.
CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING A SITE FOR PROPER SEEDLING SELECTION
The first thing to do before heading to the market, nursery, or garden center is to carefully examine your plot and assess the possibility of planting a particular tree.
If the groundwater rises to the point that your area is less than 6.5 feet (2 meters) above the surface, then, alas, trees with deep roots will have to be abandoned from being planted.
And now, most seedlings of apple, pear, and cherry trees are grown from seedlings with deep root systems. However, there are some trees with weaker growth and this may be a way out of the dilemma.
If your soil is weakly acidic (pH below 5.5), then to grow drupe crops (cherries, sweet cherries, peaches, apricots) requires additional labor-intensive work to reduce the acidity (lime treatment), and not in a one-time manner, but on a regular basis. Are you ready for this?
This problem is common in newly established orchards that are, as they say, starting from scratch. Most fruit trees do not grow well on open, “wind-blown” plots, especially heat-loving varieties.
They will grow, perhaps, but in frosty winter and strong wind conditions, they will become very vulnerable. By spring, they will have long since come to their senses, stop “working” and will soon give you a harvest.
If you dream of having an orchard in natural style or with a forest border, you should forget about big harvests. Lack of light will produce fewer flower buds and therefore fewer ovaries.
If the plot is located in some natural depression of the terrain (in a valley or canyon), then remember that all the cold air will gather right at you.
Therefore, it is necessary to choose seedlings that are more resistant to frost and winter. And because of the higher humidity (fog) in the lowlands, fungal infections will plague your garden even more. You must look for varieties that are resistant to disease. It is a good thing that there are some.
SELECTING SEEDLINGS WHEN BUYING
Now it’s about young seedlings. What is important to know? Today, there is a large selection of crops and varieties on sale. Fruit tree varieties differ not only in color, flavor, and fruit size but also in the use of those fruits.
Say, there are summer varieties of apples that are eaten immediately after picking, right on the branch. There are fall varieties that, if stored, then do not last more than 1-2 months.
And there are winter varieties that can be perfectly stored (under the right conditions) until spring, and even some varieties that get their best flavor before spring. Then again, there are cherry varieties that are not suitable for canning but only for fresh consumption.
Older gardeners sometimes look for old apple or pear varieties that they enjoyed when they were younger. Nostalgia is a good thing, but most old varieties are not susceptible to disease.
It’s best to discover a new variety that is resistant. It’s not hard to do this – in the fall, buying saplings and fruits that appear on the market are timed to coincide. Go ahead to try and choose!
About regionalized varieties of seedlings
In the end, the key to a good harvest is to buy a released variety, one that has been tested and proven to be adaptable in your particular climate.
As you are probably well aware, southern varieties cannot withstand lower winter temperatures and northern summers are too short for them.
Despite their high frost resistance, they are defenseless against frequent winter thaws and temperature drops in southern regions. So only released varieties, and preferably seedlings were grown in local nurseries.
The rootstock is the variety you are interested in and actually grafted on to. In fact, it is the rootstock that determines the height of the future plant and, accordingly, the depth of its root system.
If you buy a seedling on a seed rootstock, the tree will grow tall, will have deep roots (remember about groundwater), and will live a long time. It’s just that the first harvest will most likely be a few years away.
The weaker growing (clonal) rootstock offers the opportunity to plant a low tree, for which the root system is shallow and easy to care for. And it will start bearing fruit early within a year or two. But it won’t live long.
Where to buy saplings?
From all the above, what is the conclusion? It is better to buy saplings at a nursery or garden center, rather than at a spontaneous market, from the sidewalk.
In a nursery, you are guaranteed to get a zoned, tested variety, plus information from an expert – complete information about the size of the tree, its root system, disease resistance, etc.
Yes, there are good and responsible sellers – experts – in the spontaneous market, but there is also a chance to buy something that is not clear, even with a beautiful name.
Lost money, and most frustrating is time because it takes years to ensure that under the guise of the red flesh of the “Trinity” apple tree, you bought the usual “Renet Simirenko“, which you already own.
Age of the seedlings
Buying young plants is the best choice, they take root and adapt more easily in a new place. In my opinion, the best choice if the grafting is done 1.5 years before sowing.
External inspection of seedlings
Check very carefully the root neck (the thing immediately next to the top root) and the part cut from the rootstock. There should be a dry and fully healed stump in this location. If the wound on the plug does not heal, it is likely to be infected and the seedling will eventually die.
Instead of checking the height of the “top”, you should check the condition of the roots. The more of them there are, the less they will be damaged when digging, and the more chances the seedlings will have to grow on your plot.
In addition, it is important to have not only the main thick roots but also the lateral branches and small suckers through which the plant is fed. Without them, seedlings have a chance to survive, but they are pitiful and heartbreaking.
By the way, the small roots should not be just that, they should be alive, which means that the seller should take care of this: cover or wrap them with a damp cloth, or preferably in a container with soil plugs.
Next, check the trunk. It should be flat and free of defects and damage. The branches should leave the trunk at an angle of at least 45 degrees, preferably closer to 90 degrees.
Seedlings with a closed root system
A very good option offered by garden centers is seedlings with a closed root system, placed in containers. Such seedlings are more expensive, but their advantages are undeniable.
They have a well-developed root system are not injured if properly planted in open spaces, and develop quickly. The seedlings are easily rooted and almost 100% guaranteed.
It is possible to plant this seedling in a permanent place during all vegetation periods of spring, summer, and autumn. And since you bought the seedlings, you can’t make a fuss about them, planting can be done at your convenience.
But the main nuance of container seedlings is that it is worth checking if you are being cheated. Under the guise of growing in a container for several months, tucked into a regular seedling with an open root system, it is placed in a container and covered with soil before being sold.
This is easy to check. One must try to pull the sapling out of the container. A conscientious seller will allow you to do this.
A properly “containerized sapling” will be very difficult to get out of the container, and its ground soil will be held together by a large number of roots. On the other hand, a hastily inserted one will pull out easily and the clods of soil will crumble immediately.
Another advantage of container seedlings (for the impatient): they can be of any age, even quite mature, fruit-bearing trees.
Just check that their roots form a continuous ball and spiral. This can happen if the seedlings are grown in containers for longer than necessary. After planting in the open ground, such seedlings take a long and painful time to root.
WHICH SEEDLINGS ARE BETTER PLANTED IN AUTUMN?
Finally, the main question that plagues many gardeners – when is the best time to buy and plant seedlings in the ground – spring or autumn? In my opinion, the answer depends on two factors: the climate and the specific crop.
From a climatic point of view, planting in the spring seems preferable, because in the fall there is always the fear that seedlings will not have time to take root and will die in the winter from strong frosts.
With late-planted seedlings, this can happen, but it is more likely to be the gardener’s fault because he did not give the plant a chance. Fall planting should be done at least 1 month before the start of a steady frost. This cut-off date will vary from region to region.
ADVANTAGES OF PLANTING SEEDLINGS IN AUTUMN
Autumn planting is preferred in the southern region, where winters are mild and snowy and summers are dry and hot. During autumn planting, the plants have to get as much water as possible as an important resource.
Fall rains, winter thaws, and spring snowmelt all contribute to the good root development of young plants and prepare them for hot, dry summers with little watering on our part. And the probability of a severe frost is very low in the south.
If you postpone planting until spring, the seedlings will only get the spring water supply, provided you don’t get lazy and plant it in early spring when the ground is thawing, i.e. in the dirt.
But often spring and warm weather come so quickly that many crops wake up early and you may be late and miss the right planting date.
In warm spring weather, the leaves begin to unfurl before the nourishing root system has even begun to sprout. Seedlings are already evaporating water through their leaves and supplying too little water through their roots.
As a result, seedlings will have a hard time taking root. In May, the seedling already finds itself in hot conditions and often without precipitation to be able to root properly. Thanks to regular watering, it will of course survive, but it will have a hard time developing until autumn.
This is a different matter altogether – in northern regions, less hot summers with rain and severe winter frosts are a normal occurrence. In this case, it is best to plant in spring. The seedlings will usually take root, will develop well, and will be ready for the coming winter.
Influence of crop characteristics on the optimal sowing time
This also depends to a large extent on the culture itself. Therefore, in the fall, I recommend planting plants that like moisture and early wake-up (apples, pears, plums, apricots), but those that will wake up late, in May, will most likely be planted in early spring.
If you decide to plant crops that are not suitable for your area, such as peaches, cherries, cherry trees, plums, apricots, certain varieties of pears, then planting should also be postponed until spring.
Is there no contradiction here? It all depends on the region. In some places it is a common culture and planting in autumn is beneficial, while in some places it is an exotic plant from the south, then it can only be planted in spring.
Characteristics of the site soil and the best time to plant
One such factor is also the physical characteristics of your plot’s soil. If you have dense, heavy trees that retain moisture for a long time, then they should be planted in the spring.
During fall planting there is a risk that the roots of young seedlings will not develop and simply rot due to excess moisture and lack of air.
FALL PLANTING CARE
Unlike spring planting, care during fall planting does not take much effort. The seedlings are watered and mulched heavily.
During the favorable rainy fall, when soil temperatures are low – up to 41°F (5°C) – seedlings actively establish their root systems and prepare them for winter.
After leaf drop, but only if the air temperature is high, it is worthwhile for the seedlings and the entire garden to be controlled for winter pests and pathogens.
Have a good and healthy selection and a rich harvest in the future!