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Best way to move young apple trees?

 
Jon Richardson
Posts: 5
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA -- Zone 6ish
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Hi all,

I've been lurking for a while but just joined tonight to ask this question about the best way to move young apple trees.

Here's the sittyation: we just closed on some land, and I got overenthusiastic and ordered 10 apple trees on standard rootstocks from Cummins Nursery. (Love Cummins, by the way.) I went to dig holes for them, and realized that in the area that's already cleared, where I planned to put them, the water table is about a foot below the surface. Oopsie. The moral of the story is obvious -- shouldn't have bought the trees 'till I knew the site better! -- but now I've got two hundred fifty dollars worth of bare-root apples with their buds beginning to swell, and no permanent place to put them this spring. Some quick online research tells me that I can probably plant them close together in our backyard this year, and move them next spring once I've either cleared some of the higher, dryer ground, or bermed up the wet part so that apples would have a chance there. But, what's the best way to set them up for the move? Should I just plant 'em in dirt, and dig up the biggest root ball I can in the winter? Or plant 'em in sunken nursery tubs? I have a few of those, though not for all 10 trees.

Thanks,

Jon Richardson
Indianapolis, IN
(used to be zone 5, now probably 6... a few more decades of climate change and we may be 8! )



 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1331
Location: northern California
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If this happened to me, I'd plant them in big pots and leave them there till the following winter/spring (or fall if you can plant in the fall). That will give you plenty of time to select and develop the best permanent spots, and the trees will establish better planted when completely dormant rather than during the growing season. Go ahead and prune them as recommended for planting. An aside....I had luck grafting a pruned piece of top to a pruned root!....got a free tree that way!!
BTW one way to deal with a high water table is to make mounds or raised areas and plant the trees on those. Sogginess in the dormant season is not as dangerous as sogginess in the growing season. Are there wetland plants growing on the site? That would be a good indicator to plant elsewhere....
 
Jon Richardson
Posts: 5
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA -- Zone 6ish
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Thanks! No, no wetland plants. I was surprised to see the water filling up my shovel holes 'cause the plants there look like ordinary lawn -- just coarse grass and the odd plantain. It's been a bit boggy all winter but I didn't figure it would be that wet. We have had a fair bit of water lately.

Maybe I'll try planting a couple of my trees in the slightly-less-soggy parts of the cleared area to see how they do this year, and keep the rest in my backyard. I'll use the tubs I have.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Jon
I've planted fruit trees in waterlogged, anaerobic soil and they sulked till I moved them.
I'm rubbish with pots; I don't remember to water enough
If you do use them, or any dark-coloured container, I suggest painting it white so the roots don't cook.
'Heeling in' works as an interim measure while you're finding spots. I think it's best to just get them in somewhere, and give yourself time to design a forest garden plan
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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could it be not really such a high water table but ground water from snow melt still seeping in? Well anyway I have a severely high water table here in Michigan and I have lots of apple trees doing great, one with water around it's feet a lot as it is on the bank/outlet of a pond..and it does fine..I have apples in clay and they do find as well.

I would however build up a bit to raise them up..but cause the roots spread out into the first top 2' of soil..you are likely ok to just plant them a bit high and then fill in over the roots to the proper planting depth ..making a shallow dish around the tree to hold in some moisture the first year and mulching well..

I would suggest that you put a little forest soil around them to innoculate them with some fungal soil..and maybe mix in a little bit of wood chips into the mulch over them to enhance the fungal soil as well.

Likely the spring water table is much higher than it will be later on in the year and they should be fine.
 
Jon Richardson
Posts: 5
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA -- Zone 6ish
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Thanks for the responses. I love a good experiment, so I think I'll plant some of the trees in one-foot-ish high mounds in the wet area and see how they do. We did get about eight inches of snow last Tuesday that all melted over the next few days, so maybe the water isn't normally so high. I'll put the rest of 'em in my backyard, move them next year, and I can compare and contrast.

I will put some forest soil in there, Brenda, and I'll mulch 'em up with some wood chips when I'm able.
 
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