nspect trees for possible drying out of roots during transit. We pack our trees carefully for shipping but if damage is detected (i.e. freezing in transit, drying out, breakage) report it to the carrier and call us at once. We may be able to offer some help. If there is frost in the box, close it up again and place it in a cool area where it can warm up very slowly.
For best results, the trees should be planted as soon as possible after receiving. If you have to store them, keep them in a cool or cold (but not freezing) place. Do not store the trees with apples or in any storage that has not been fully aired out to remove ethylene gases. All tree warranties are void if stored near ethylene gases. Inspect them regularly. The roots should be kept moist but not wet and the tops dry. Do not store where mice can get at them.
If the buds have started to grow
If buds are just swelling or stretching, plant them out within 1 to 2 days in their final location if possible. If you have 1\2" of growth or more, heel the trees ( temporarily plant) them in on the north side of a building or another place where sun will not hit them directly. Shelter them from a lot of wind also. You want the yellowish growth to turn green (2-4 days normally) Plant as soon as they have been acclimated to the light. Take extra care that the roots remain moist all the time.
For a few trees, holes may be dug with a shovel. For a larger number of trees, a tractor powered auger or tree planter is used. Dig the hole large enough so that the roots can be spread out and deep enough so that the tree can be planted leaving the bud union ( the knobby part of the trunk above the roots) out of the ground 3-4" . Do not dig holes far in advance of planting and don't plant if water seeps into the bottom of the holes before you get the tree in it -it's too wet. Do not put anything in the hole except the tree, good soil and water. Fertilizer or manure will burn fragile young roots. It is best not to begin a fertilizer program until the 2nd year. Setting the tree upright in the hole, fill it about half full with dirt. Tamp the dirt firmly but gently. Fill the hole with soil all the way and tamp. Trees benefit greatly from a good waterings as soon as planted. In a normal season, 2 good watering are usually enough. If the first growing season is dry, more will be needed. At planting cut an unbranched tree back to 30-36"above the ground to encourage branching. If the tree is well branched at planting, leave it as it is.
Care during the first years
Fruit trees are susceptible to diseases and insects. They will grow better if sprayed. Garden centers or farm supply stores often sell all-purpose sprays that a home orchardist can use. Weeds need to be controlled around the base of the trees to improve tree growth. Trees can be severely damaged by rodents, rabbits and deer. Contact your local extension office for information for both commercial growers and hobbyists.
For the hobbyist, "The Cornell Guide to Growing Fruit at Home" from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY contains information on site, climate, pollination, maintenance and pest control for fruit trees as well as grapes and berries. The phone number is 607-255-2080 The publication information is available on the web at www.gardening.cornell.edu/fruit/homefruit/homefruit.pdf.
Your state extension service has valuable information for both commercial as well as backyard growers. In New York, a membership in Cornell Cooperative Extension is well worth the money. Check with your local county office and tell them you need information on fruit tree growing so they can get you the right program.