Fruit Trees: Preparing the Perfect Soil for Planting

Fruit Trees: Preparing the Perfect Soil for Planting

Hey there, gardening enthusiasts! Welcome back to the Fruit Tree series by Tips Tree Planting. In our last post, we discussed the art of digging the perfect hole for your baby fruit tree. Now, let’s delve into the crucial step of preparing the soil for planting day. Whether you’re dealing with bare root or containerized fruit trees, we’ve got you covered.

Before we begin, a quick note for those residing in hot and arid climates like Las Vegas, Nevada: the opportunity to plant bare root fruit trees this year has passed. But fret not! By following our Fruit Tree series this year, you’ll gain the knowledge to successfully prepare for next season’s planting. However, if you’re still set on planting a fruit tree this year, containerized ones are an option. Just avoid doing so during the scorching summer heat. For a comprehensive comparison between bare root and containerized fruit trees, check out our three-part post on the subject. Fall is the best time to plant containerized fruit trees when the weather becomes more favorable.

Now, let’s move on to the soil preparation process. But first, gather these tools and supplies near your planting site:

  • Compost – choose high-quality compost without additives or chemical fertilizers.
  • Wheelbarrow(s) – for transporting materials.
  • Soil sifter – use a 2×4 and 1″ welded wire screen setup to sift out rocks.
  • 5-gallon buckets – for holding compost, native soil, and measurements.
  • Shovel and steel bow rake – for mixing and spreading the soil mixture.
  • Standard garden hose with a spray nozzle attachment.
  • Local/native soil – collected while digging the planting hole.
  • Heavy-duty gloves, mask, and protective eyewear – for safety.
  • Plenty of water – stay hydrated.
  • High Brix/Nutrient Dense Amendments (more on this later).

Compost, the Key Ingredient

When purchasing compost, opt for the best quality your budget allows. Avoid compost with additives or chemical fertilizers, as they can harm the microbiology of your soil and hinder the growth of nutrient-dense fruit. If you’re buying budget-friendly manure compost, ensure it’s organic and free of GMOs and contaminants. Always ask for soil testing results when buying in bulk.

To estimate the amount of compost needed, consider the number of bare root fruit trees you’ll be planting and the depth of the holes you dug. Our recommended soil preparation process involves a 50% mix of non-amended native soil and compost. You may require extra compost if you plan to “heel-in” your bare root trees shortly after their arrival.

The Soil Preparation Process

Now, let’s get to work!

Step 1: Get Those Gloves On

Be prepared for some physical work. This soil preparation process is essential but not grueling. Think of it as an investment in the health and productivity of your orchard.

Step 2: Load Up The Compost

Start by loading one wheelbarrow with compost and place it near the planting site. Since your compost pile might be located elsewhere on your property, plan for multiple trips to refill the wheelbarrow. Keep a clear path for easy transportation.

Set up a second wheelbarrow with a homemade sifter made of 2x4s and 1″ welded wire screen. This setup simplifies the sifting process, allowing you to remove rocks and debris effortlessly.

Step 3: Start Sifting and Mixing

To create a 50/50 mix of native soil and compost, use a 5-gallon bucket filled with each material and sift them together through the sifter. Alternating between the compost and native soil ensures proper mixing. You may choose to do a final mix by hand or with a shovel for a more thorough blend.

Step 4: Fill the Planting Hole

Roll the wheelbarrow filled with the 50/50 soil mixture to the edge of the hole and pour it in. Use a bow rake to roughly level the soil mixture and water it in with a hose. Avoid over-saturating the top 12 to 18 inches to facilitate digging and planting.

Continue the sifting, dumping, smoothing, and wetting process until the 50/50 soil mixture is a few inches above the soil surface. This allows for settling. Take care not to step on the freshly filled hole.

Reserve one to two 5-gallon buckets of the 50/50 mixture for building a water well around the base of your fruit tree.

Step 5: Kick Start Those Soil Microbes!

Building a healthy soil microbiology is essential for growing nutrient-dense fruit. Consider using products like John & Bob’s suite of microbial products or a high-quality microbial tea to boost the soil’s microbe population. Apply these products as instructed a couple of weeks before planting to maximize the soil’s potential.

Now you’re ready to plant! We recommend waiting a few weeks to let the microbe population build and the soil settle before planting. However, if you choose to plant immediately, kick-start the soil during or shortly after the planting process.

Stay tuned for the next post in the Fruit Tree series: “My Trees Arrived, Now What?”

Happy gardening, and remember to visit your garden and orchard often!

Tips Tree Planting