Quick reminders for planting apple trees

Be sure to consider graft union height to avoid problems in the future.

There is a rush in west Michigan to get trees in the ground before we get doused by rain again later this week. Here are a few reminders about apple tree planting.

  • Keep the graft union at least 6 inches above the soil level.
  • Six inches above the soil allows for the 2 inches or so of “sinking” that is commonly seen as soil settles after planting.
  • Graft unions end up near or below the soil level, resulting in too much vigor that you will fight for the life of an orchard.
  • A shallow planted tree can be easily corrected later in tree life compared to the task of trying to correct a deep planted tree.
  • Be sure you check the work of your planting crew often to be sure planting is done correctly.
  • Use a 20-inch by 6-inch board on its edge adjacent to the planted tree (perpendicular to the row) to check the depth.
  • While the soil is still loose, pull trees up that are too deep and push those down that are too shallow.

More information can be found in a detailed Michigan State University Extension article by Ron Perry, “Planting fruit trees.” This article contains information on planting stone fruits as well as apples and pears.

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