Fruit Tree Logistics

So, food prices are going up. The crazy weather is only going to make that worse. Drought, crazy warm winters, freak freezes, all are really hard on commercial fruit growers.

I know of several prepper types that are going to put in some fruit trees to round out their food production. There are things to consider if you’re looking to do something similar.

When to plant?

Fruit trees may be planted in early spring, as soon as the frost in the ground has thawed. If the soil is very waterlogged, it is best to wait until it drains. Wait until the soil no longer comes up in sticky clumps that stick to the shovel.  Mainers, and northern plains folks, DON’T be tempted to fall plant. Our winters are too harsh for newly planted trees.

Where to plant?

You want well drained soil, fruit trees do not like soggy feet. Full sun, with no power lines or bigger trees to dodge. Fruit trees are great for grey water systems. If you have a system, or plan to put one in, plant your fruit trees in a place where gravity will aid you in getting grey water from the house to them.

How to plant?

My grandpa always said to “dig a 100$ hole for a 10$ tree.”  The hole you dig is really THE most important part of starting the tree off right. Dig the hole deep enough to allow the tree to be planted with the graft union two to three inches above ground. This planting depth is critical for trees on dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstocks. If the tree is planted too deep and the graft union is below the soil line, the scion variety will form roots and the tree will become a standard-sized tree.

Lots of big words there, don’t flake off on me now. The graft union is simply the twisty/angled part of the bottom trunk where the root of the dwarf tree is grafted (joined) to the upper part, the scion wood of the fruiting variety.  Those grafted roots are what keeps the fruiting variety from growing 30-40 feet tall.   There’s nothing wrong with trees that grow that tall, it’s just harder to prune/harvest/net.

Make sure your hole iswider and deeper than you need.  Loosening the ground for a foot or so around the root ball just helps the new roots spend more time growing and absorbing, and less time chiseling their way through hardpan.

When will the fruit start rolling in?

This is the part that takes some fore-thought and planning. Do your homeworkbefore you go to buy the tree.  Know what variety you’re after, and know when it typically matures, and what month it typically harvests in.  If you’re after more than one type of fruit, do yourself a favor and stagger their harvest times.  i.e. Don’t get a late plum and an early apple, they’ll both need harvesting in the same 2 week span, and you’ll kill yourself trying to get it done.  If you can avoid that pitfall, more than one type of fruit is a great way to go.  Different fruit trees flower at different times, so if a drought or hail storm or freak ice storm damages the flowers of one fruit, you still have a shot of getting fruit from a tree that blooms a couple of weeks later.  Some fruits will do better with drought than others, some will handle cold wet summers better than others.  Like most things sustainable, variety is a great buffer against total failure.

Speaking of total failure,  you have to be ready for some of that as well.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, fruit trees just fail.  There might be something wrong with the site they were planted on, they might have a graft problem or root problem, or just not be suited for your microclimate.  It happens.  Even to the best of us. Not all zone 4’s are the same, and something that grows well on your neighbor’s southern exposure might not do so well on your eastern exposure.

Regardless of what type, you’ll need to expect a few years wait for the first harvest.  Most trees won’t put much fruit on for the first 3-5 years. Like any other baby, they need to grow and get settled before you can expect much from them. Again, forethought is required. Don’t plant the tree in the year you need fruit, youhave to plant a few years before you think you’ll need it.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing food prices drop anytime this decade, so I’d recommend you do your research this winter, and plan to put a couple in next spring.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry you did.

– Calamity Jane


Finally today, we have a request of sorts from a SHTF fan.  (Fan fan.. hahahaha)

I am a freelance producer working on a short documentary and I recently came across your articles about the use of fish antibiotics to treat human illnesses.

Unfortunately I am based in New York but I was wondering if you knew of any NY survivalists, doctors, or groups that I might be able to speak with who has had experience with families or individuals seeking advice on the use of fish antibiotics for themselves or their children.

The project will be part of a series of New York based human interest pieces that provide a microcosmic example of a larger issue; in this case the use of fish or animal antibiotics to treat human illnesses is foreshadowing the shortage of antibiotics and the result of increasingly unaffordable healthcare.

Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience if there is any interest in participating in this documentary.

Best Regards,
Samantha Shannon
4 comments… add one
  • Ray July 26, 2012, 9:59 am

    When we moved to our current house (2003) the FIRST thing I planted were fruit trees. They are a LOT of work. pruning, bugs , frost,BUGS, deer,BUGS!, DEER!, BUGS! , AHGGGG!!! I spend more time on 8 trees than on all my other garden.OH! and this spring we had golf ball size hail just when the blooms came on sooooo, no caned apples ,plums,peaches, pears, this year. Bonus! I got to replant my garden…Ain’t wether FUN? —–Ray in Ky

    • Juliette of OHio July 26, 2012, 12:45 pm

      No, not fun these last two years. We’re from Oklahoma originally, and were transferred to Ohio fourteen long years ago. We’re enduring Oklahoma conditions now, although maybe not as harsh, and while I know how to garden in heat and drought, Ohio soils aren’t compatible to my knowledge. In fact, I was horrified to find that our soils are nutritionally dead clay. Had them tested, and they have NOTHING in the way of nutrients. I’ve been pouring in compost, leaves and fertilizers, but it’s still not good.

      We replanted our garden, too, but it’s a lost cause this year. We do still have fruit on the older apple trees. Very small fruits and I’ve about drained the well keeping them watered. No plums, no paw-paws and very few berries. We were lucky enough to buy three Honey Crisp before they became protected, and they are our best producers. The Contender Peaches seem to be healthy, but our antique apple trees are about to be cut down for smoking wood. Deer about wiped out two of the plums, even tearing up the rather heavy cages we set around them.

      Kentucky is so beautiful. I wish you luck and am thankful the economy hasn’t completely crashed. (At least we’re still hanging in there and I hope you are.) I’m afraid that in a few more years, this harvest won’t be just a disappointment, but a tragedy. I dehydrate about half of our apples, and can the rest in the form of applesauce. Everything else is dried as our electricity is too fitful to entrust anything valuable to its vagaries. Best Wishes!

  • Charles,,,, July 26, 2012, 11:13 am

    Ahhh dee bugzzzz…. I live in the deep south so very aware of zee bugzzz…. my two cents worth is this, when planting a new tree I will saucer the “area dug”, the whole width of the hole, this collects water and gives the roots a good soaking, I have seen mounding around the tree, not that it hurts that I know of but it directs the water to run off versus collect in place… as for deer, I tie unwanted cd’s on the branches I can reach, 6-12 I don’t know that there’s a magic number, seem’s to have worked these past two years, a southern fruit called paw paw’s is a deer favorite and I haven’t lost any in two years, plus it’s neat to see the color aray as the sun shines on the cd’s, dunno why but some shine orangey, other’s bluish, greenish, rainbowish… just an idea, dig deep, dig wide !!!!!

  • T.R. July 28, 2012, 4:29 pm

    About six years ago , we had a property with 14 fruit trees on it , mainly citrus , the previous owner had trimmed 4 tangelo trees like a hedge for a privacy screen . We didnt know what they were until the went off , then when the fruit was ready , we almost couldn’t give it away there was so much ………we ended up juicing them just to keep up . The grapefruit tree would have been chopped down if it didnt provide so much shade . The Plum and Apricot were my favorite , but again , an adult tree can produce an amazing amount of fruit in a season . A nectarine and gigantic fig tree were also on the property . Nuts also do very well out here and there are several pecan orchards around . After about two years , we couldn’t wait to get rid of the house and the property ……….way too much work for two people . If you plant fruit trees , be well aware of how much yield your going to get from just ONE , it may be plenty !


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