Spacing recommendations aren’t absolute! A lot of recommendations are based on commercial orchards where the growers are trying to squeeze in as many apples in rows as possible. Also, any tree can be pruned to fit a certain space, but tight spacing could require more pruning as the trees get older. Finally, some varieties are just naturally more or less vigorous; for instance, Shinko pear and Pristine apple tend to be somewhat on the small size, while Korean Giant and Arkansas Black apples can get quite large. Mulberries are probably the largest tree we offer, but even they can be kept to a smaller size by simple pruning.
With that in mind, the following recommendations are general guidelines: semi-dwarf apple trees 15-18’; seedling (“Posterity”) apples 18-25′; pears 18′ apart Pawpaws 12-15’. Mulberries 25′. Zombies 15-18′. Grapes 8-10’, muscadines 16’, elderberry 3-6’ and blackberries 3’.
IF YOU CAN’T PLANT IMMEDIATELY, just don’t let the roots dry out or freeze. As long as there is some condensation on the plastic wrap around the roots, the roots are okay. If roots do dry out, simply spray or sprinkle some water on the roots and packing material and close back up until you can plant. Don’t let the roots freeze in the bag! An unheated shed, garage, or basement is usually perfect for short-term storage. For long-term storage, “plant” all the bundled roots in the soil or in sawdust.
General instructions for all plants:
- Dig a hole big enough to accommodate roots without too much bending of the roots. It’s better to cut off part of the root than to twist the root around in a circle—you want the roots to grow out, not around in a circle.
- If you have a heavy clay soil, don’t dig a round hole for the same reason as in #1 above. Score or rough-up the side of the hole with a shovel so that roots can get a grip and grow out.
- For the most part, don’t add a whole lot of organic matter (maybe up to 25% of the backfill, but no more!) because you don’t want to create a “potted plant” especially in a heavy soil.
- If you think your soil needs lime, this is a good time to add a little (usually no more than a handful, but don’t use hydrated lime as that will burn the roots). NO fertilizer in the hole!
- Depth-wise, the plant should be planted about where it was in the nursery. If you can’t tell exactly, it’s better to plant a little deep than too shallow.
- Water the plant. Even if the soil is already wet or moist, it’s best to water so that the soil will settle in around the plant roots.
- Do NOT fertilize until growth begins in the spring (don’t want to burn tender young roots).
- Mulch but not within 6-12 inches from the trunk (mice and voles will chew on the trunks otherwise).
- Water anytime, even in winter, that the ground seems dry.
- If you’re planting in the fall, you don’t have to prune back the trees to compensate for root loss during transplanting. However, if you’re planting in the spring, especially late spring, it’s important to prune off about 1/4 to 1/3 of their growth in order to reduce transplant shock.
- If you have deer, protect the plants with fencing. Deer don’t like pawpaws, and they’ll only eat elderberries in a pinch; everything else we sell, they will devour if you let them.
Special instructions for specific plants:
GRAPES—cut back the vines to 2-3 buds and place a stake (bamboo is adequate) in the hole with the top attached to the trellis wire so that the vine can climb as they come out in the spring. And search online for inspiration for arbors and trellises.
BLACKBERRIES—cut back the canes to 2-3 buds; otherwise, these plants might stress themselves in the first year by trying to produce berries before they are well established.
PAWPAWS—Should NOT be planted during dormancy. Do not plant until the buds begin to break-March is usually the right month. We grow our pawpaws in special elongated pots to encourage root development. Do everything you can to avoid cutting or breaking the roots of pawpaws, including cutting off the pot rather than trying to shake the plant out of the pot.