Trees are like children: you get out of them what you put into them. The more you can help with water, fertilizer and good conditions, the faster they will grow and the sooner they will come into production.

Dig a larger hole t
han the pot size or root ball.  In good soils, you do not need to add amendments, other than maybe putting some top soil back into the hole.  In sandy soil, work in organic matter such as composted manure or a rich potting soil mix with the sand. The organic matter will increase the water-holding capacity of the soil and increase nutrient uptake by the plants. Be sure to mix in the organic material well or it will become a sponge and reservoir for root fungus problems. 

If planting in heavy clay soils, break up the ground under and around the hole, so that the tree is not planted in a bath tub.  Roots need oxygen  to be able to breathe. Un-pot the plant and, if the roots are curled or wrapped up inside the root ball, spread them out or even cut off severely curled roots.  This will promote new root growth. Plant the tree at the same level it was grown in the pot or field. Fill in the hole around the plant.  Water in thoroughly, making sure there are no air pockets around the roots. Mulch with hay, bark or pine straw or use Weed Mats.

Newly planted trees should be watered regularly (1-3x/week) through the first summer if you plant in the spring, especially if rains are inadequate. Water thoroughly but do not over-water; the soil should dry down slightly between waterings.  This is the most critical step in the establishment of your new trees.

If you plant in the fall, water in at planting, and then 1x/week until they lose their leaves and go dormant with the onset of winter.  Resume watering after leafout in the spring.

Normally the East receives rainfall from frontal rains during the spring and fall, and rain storms and tropical storms in the summer.  However, rainfall is not sufficient for the needs of your trees, especially in sandy soils. There are often dry periods during the fall and spring when it will not rain for weeks, which can hurt tree growth, flowering or fruit production.

Despite seasonal rains, watering is very important, especially during the year after planting. If possible, drip irrigation systems are the most water efficient and should be installed if at possible to insure survival and healthy growth. These are available at most home-improvement or landscape supply stores.

However, most food plots do not have access to wells for irrigation.  In this case it is very important to haul water to the trees, such as with a tank mounted on your ORV or cart. In addition, we highly recommend the use of Grow Tubes, which will recycle the transpirational moisture given off of the leaves at night, and rewaters the tree this way, so you don't have to take water to the trees as much.

It is important to provide a balanced fertilizer such as Scotts Osmocote time release with minor elements. Minors are very important if they are not available in certain soils, as they can be a limiting factor for plant growth (especially true in Florida’s sandy soils). Your local extension service will make recommendations along with the soil test. Strong rains can also leach away much of the Nitrogen, which is highly soluable. Nitrogen is a key element required for plant growth.

Do not fertilize at planting. Quick-release general fertilizer can burn the tender roots of young trees before they become established. We recommend waiting at least a month after the trees have leafed out before fertilizing with a time-released fertilizer such as Osmocote.

Once the trees are established, fertilize in early spring (Mar-April) as growth begins and again in early June with the start of summer rains. DO NOT FERTILIZE IN THE FALL, which could promote late season tender growth that can be damaged in early frosts.

It is important to keep weeds from competing with young trees - they will steal water and fertilizer from the new plantings. Try to keep a 2-3' circle clear of weeds from the base of the trunk. Mulch keeps the roots cooler and helps moisture retention as well as keeps weed growth down. We recommend Grow Tubes, because you can spray Roundup or other herbicides close to the tree without hitting the stem.  If you do not use Grow Tubes, be very careful with herbicide, especially on young trees, because they can absorb it directly through the bark.  It only takes a few drops to kill the tree; so apply only when there is no wind, and protect the trunk with a shield.  

Late spring freezes are a problem in northern locations, especially after the plants have leafed out.  If your trees have already started to grow and you expect a late freeze, then you should make every effort to protect them, such as using Grow Tubes and other protective measures.

For fruit trees such as peaches or pears that leaf out early in the spring, painting the trunks with white latex paint reflects heat and slows down the sap flow and potential freeze damage from trees starting to push too soon after a warm winter afternoon.

Most plants we sell are self-pollinating, meaning that it will bear fruit if planted by itself. However, chestnuts, apples, pears, plums, pecans, blueberries and some grapes need more than one variety to cross-pollinate and bear fruit. We will make sure that you receive more than one variety when you order 2 or more of these types of trees.

Pruning is usually necessary only in the first several years to shape the tree to its appropriate form – central leader, modified leader or open-vase (see pictures). Most shade and ornamental trees grow naturally with a straight trunk (central leader) with only a little pruning required.  Light annual pruning of dead wood or an out-of-place branch helps older trees by rejuvenating growth and promoting better fruit production.

Some trees may require annual pruning to produce the best fruit. With peaches, the top is cut at planting to open up the center of the tree for light to get in for fruit ripening. The branches grow out in a vase shape. New growth is cut back each winter, to create a better crop with larger sized fruit.  Fruit-thinning may be necessary if the crop load is too high.

Central leader pruning in oak
Open vase pruning in peach tree

Blueberries and blackberries are pruned back after fruit harvest to grow vegetative shoots over the summer that will bear next year’s fruit. Grape vines are pruned back to main fruiting limbs during the winter to promote optimum production the next year.

Many gardeners are afraid to prune, but you should not be. Learning to do a little pruning will greatly benefit your trees and increase their productivity.

Grow Tubes are plastic tubes that act as mini-greenhouses that enhance the growth and protection for young trees.  Grow Tubes are valuable planting aides, especially in locations where there is less opportunity for care, such as forest or wildlife plantings, or where there is predation by deer, mice and other critters.  Grow Tubes decrease the need for watering, help with weed control (by protecting the tree from spray and drift from herbicide) and offer cold protection in late season frosts.  They can dramatically increase growth rates, and small trees often grow out of the top of a 4' tube in 1 season!  We recommend Grow Tubes in many plantings.

If you don't use Grow Tubes you may find that deer will browse the tops of the young trees.  There are a number of ways to stop this, such as by putting bars of soap, human hair, rotten eggs or blood meal around the trees, as well as a number of chemical deer repellents made from coyote urine or rotten eggs. You can also make cages of chicken wire to put around the trees.  Once the trees are large enough, browsing usually ceases to be a problem.