Planting Fruit Trees.
November is the perfect month to plant fruit trees, especially bare root stock. Apples and pears do really well if planted this time of year, however if you have a wetter garden you may be well advised to leave planting cherries and plums till a drier time of year as they are less water tolerant.
When planting apples it is a good rule of thumb to get a couple of different varieties to assist pollination. Some cultivars are self pollinating but even these will benefit from others being planted in the vicinity. Planting a crab apple tree beside eating varieties is a good go to if you aren't sure.
Where to plant.
You should place your tree in a sunny semi sheltered spot. Any strong constant winds will stress the tree and stunt the growth.
It's important to make sure where you're putting your tree is not waterlogged. Dig down just over a foot and leave the hole overnight, if when checked it is still full of water it is not suitable and your roots will rot.
Trees when planted this year are actually semi dormant so don't use an awful lot of water so the more drained the area the better.
If you are planting a root ball place the tree in a bucket of water before you start digging your hole, if it is potted, water the pot very well (pre watering will help with the rooting process).
Dig the hole a little wider than the root ball or pot and a little deeper than the pot or to the soil marker on the stem of your root ball then place a handful of compost mixed with manure at the bottom of the hole.
Support can be important especially for the larger trees in their first year. Place a stake at a slight angle in the hole aiming towards where the wind is coming from before putting your tree in place.
Once done gently lower your tree into place and firm into place with the soil. Use a soft tie such as Gardag Tree Ties 600mm, these are great as they are adjustable and can be widened or adjusted as your tree grows.
Once planted place some mulch around the bottom of the tree but be careful that it isn't to tight against the trunk as this can encourage disease. Finally water well.
Rabbits and deer can be so destructive to trees. Rabbits especially love young bark and will nibble around the base of the tree and kill it. I have seen entire fields of saplings get destroyed by rabbits and it's heart breaking not to mention very costly!
To prevent this from happening you can get purpose made gadgets such as Defender Pro Tree Shelters which are fantastic at stopping the hungry little critters destroying your crop. They also give added protection from any wind stressing which can slow growth as your tree is establishing itself.
Although you may be tempted to grow a Granny Smith or a Red delicious know that it will never do well here. These varieties have been grown in the likes of Australia or America and are not suited to our cooler, damper climate. Not to worry though as Ireland boasts some of the nicest tasting and hardy varieties. There are 68 varieties in fact! Just a few examples are;
Apple Cavan Sugarcane: discovered in the 1990's and is a good cropper with crisp flesh and has actually won awards for its taste!
Ard Cairn Russet: discovered in Cork in 1890 and has a distinctive banana like taste which sets it apart.
Barnhill Pippin: This is a great option as it's dual purpose. It can be used as a cooking apple when it is first picked and young or can be eaten fresh if left in storage or on the tree so is a handy and versatile one to grow.
Just think of all the hot apple pies you could make!