Trees are usually planted when they are dormant; that is, between mid-fall and early spring. It will depend on what type of tree you are planting, though. Mature trees in containers can be planted any time of year.  Bare root trees will arrive looking like sticks and must be planted while dormant. A bare root tree will come with instructions for planting; usually their roots must be soaked overnight before planting, and you have to minimize their exposure to the air. Prolonged exposure on a windy day can dry out and kill the roots in a matter of minutes.

Test Soil
Size of Tree Hole
Planting Mechanics
Test Your Soil Before Planting a Fruit Tree

As with vegetables, fruit trees need good soil in order to survive and thrive. Once you have chosen where your trees will go, you can conduct a home pH test or send a soil sample to a local cooperative extension (the Cornell Cooperative Extension is a good option for Westchester residents). This will tell you the pH of your soil and whether or not any amendments are recommended; most fruit trees prefer pH levels roughly between 5.0 and 7.0.

When it comes to adding soil amendments when planting trees, there is a difference of opinion. While some gardeners recommend it, others warn that the tree’s roots – accustomed to the rich, amended soil it was planted in – will be reluctant to grow beyond that space and into the “normal” soil of your yard. A tree’s roots will spread about as wide as its branches, and typically will adapt to whatever kind of soil you have, as long as you fertilize it throughout the growing season. More important than amending the soil is to loosen it.


Recommended Size of Fruit Tree Hole or Container

Dig a hole that is much bigger than the root ball of the tree – at least three feet in diameter but only as deep as the tree’s current depth. Break up the soil, removing any large rocks you find. Compacted, clay soil inhibits root growth; on the other hand, sandy soil won’t retain enough moisture. Try to find a balance by adding organic material to sandy soil, or by “berming up” clay, waterlogged soil. If your ground is very waterlogged, you can try planting the tree in a raised bed. If you plan to train your tree into a cordon or espalier, you will want to install the fence after loosening the soil but before planting the tree.

 If you are growing your trees in containers, you will need a pot at least one foot in diameter and one foot deep. Unlike vegetables grown in containers, potted trees do best in soil-based potting mix, which releases nutrients more slowly over time. Make sure potted trees are secured to a support somehow, as a strong wind can topple them over.

Title: Preparing the Ground Around Fruit for the New Growing Season     
Author/Source: GrowVeg
Description:   A short checklist for preparing the ground around established fruit trees and berry vines in anticipation of the new growing season. 

Title: How to Prepare Soil for Fruit Trees
Author/Source: WikiHow
Description: This informative article addresses drainage issues, soil testing, and amendments in preparation for planting fruit trees.

Fruit Tree Planting Mechanics

The site has been selected, the soil has been loosened, and a hole at least 3 feet in diameter has been dug (with all grass and weeds removed from this area) – you’re ready to get your tree in the ground!

Place a heap of soil in the center of the hole; the tree will sit on this, and it will settle over time. Then, if desired, drive a stake into the hole; the tree can be trained to grow up this stake for support. If you are planting a bare root tree, prune off any broken or very long roots, and then spread the roots over the soil, slowly filling in the hole. Make sure the tree is planted at the proper depth; you can do this by laying your shovel handle across the hole and making sure the tree’s root flare, or the top of the root ball, is at or above the handle level. You can even plant up to a quarter of the root ball higher than the surrounding ground, and taper up the soil; this allows for better drainage.

As you fill in the hole, gently tamp down each layer with your foot to ensure the soil is firm and there are no air pockets under the roots. You can tamp down harder once the hole is completely filled. Water the tree deeply; once the water has been absorbed, apply a thick layer of mulch around the tree. But be careful not to let it touch the trunk or root flare; this can cause rotting  .A newly planted tree should be deeply watered

Title: Planting Fruit Trees     
Author/Source: The Old Farmer's Almanac
Description: Accessible how-to video outlining the essential steps of planting a fruit tree, from site selection, to site preparation, to planting and watering. 

Title: First and Last Frost Dates
Author/Source: The Old Farmer's Almanac
Description: Find your planting calendar by zip code. 

Title: Totally Preventable Mistakes to Avoid When Planting Fruit Trees
Author/Source: MIGardener
Description: This list of do's and don’ts will help you prevent some seriously preventable mistakes when planting fruit trees in your home orchard. 

Title: Top 3 Mistakes Made when Mulching Trees 
Author/Source: MIGardener
Description: How-to video discussing the proper way to mulch a fruit tree and common mistakes to avoid.