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Can I plant fruit trees in the summer in SW NM?  RSS feed

 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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I have always been told to plant trees in the winter when they are dormant but I'm finding the ones I planted this last winter were struggling through our very dry winter and caught by the early warm period (March-April) with the couple of freeze snaps that usually occur April-May. We are watering the heck out of them and most seem to be surviving with some leaves and a few branch-lets.

My inquiry is about timing a planting with the summer rains of July instead. We tend to be dry in the winter and spring with dry hard soils and the young trees stuck in their root balls seemed very thirsty.

I am building burms and such to capture the rains when they come and attempt to store some of it under ground. Should the burm be above or below the fruit tree? I will be planting more of the guilds in July with the monsoons to help create the root density to increase their drought tolerance. Some of my new trees like the mesquite are for wind break to reduce the drying effects of our spring/summer winds. The ground covers will also be going in as soon as the heat spell passes.

Just how dense can I put my trees? Would density do anything to help protect them from those late freezes? I'm not sure my original helper actually got the correct varieties but I will have to wait to see how they do. In the mean time might I utilize the wet season to start some more? I was inspired by the Greening The Desert videos and he seemed he put things pretty densely.

I am creating chicken pastures around a permanent hen house. It is about 1/4 acre divided in 5 sections and they will also have occasional access to the "back yard" gardens, the hugle-burm vegetable gardens (seasonally), and a front/east parking area that I am also planting. The only grass is the native gramma and what everyone around here calls "weeds" but no "lawns." I have put some Mulberry and Elderberry in 2 pastures near the fences so will drop fruit in more than one. The 2 peach, 1 cherry (broken top so it is becoming more of a bush), 1 apricot and 1 apple are all in one area which will get run off from the hen-shed roof. This is where I am thinking of the increased density rather than the "normal" separations like I see in commercial orchards. I want more cherries and perhaps even some more variety. I also want to learn more about starting cuttings from some of our local old apple trees. I'm guessing that should not be done in the summer growing season.

We get from 5 to 10 inches rain (it has been a long time since we have seen more that 6 or 7 annual inches, including winter snows that melt off quickly), but it is common to get 2" rains with good accumulations in a few days when the late summer daily cycle gets going. It would seem a young tree would prefer that?

I feel I need lots of guidance and have come to value the comments on this web site. Southwest Desert Permaculture seems to have many unique features so I hope you all can keep me on track.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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My inquiry is about timing a planting with the summer rains of July instead. We tend to be dry in the winter and spring with dry hard soils and the young trees stuck in their root balls seemed very thirsty.


I think it would be worth a try. I know it is difficult to get plants through the late spring dry weather until the monsoon arrives. But if you have a good monsoon season, the tree can get well established and be ready to go dormant in the fall. People get spoiled by thinking that they will put in bare root trees in March and have fruit to harvest that summer. But if you concentrate on getting the tree well established during the first year, it should pay off in the long run.

Just how dense can I put my trees?


Full size trees should be spaced about 20-30' on center. If you have semi-dwarf trees, then you can plant them more densely, maybe 10-15' on center. For more specific recommendations, you can look at state agricultural extension service circulars on fruit trees. Here's one from NMSU.

Planting more densely can help, as you say, to provide a windbreak and mitigate a late freeze in the spring. If you think SW NM is windy, you should take a trip over to Carlsbad in the spring. Once that wind from your side gets past Cloudcroft and the mountains, it picks up even more speed. The pecan trees can take the wind, but if you wanted to grow stone fruits, you really needed to have a big, blocking windbreak tree, something like an Arizona cypress.

Should the burm be above or below the fruit tree?


Both can be made to work, but in really arid climates, you would want to have the drip line of the tree right at the berm on the downhill side.

If you want more variety, you should know that you can graft stone fruits on each other. Take your broken top cherry tree and graft some other cherry variety or some plums on it.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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One of the old-timers here told me to water my trees in their first winter on Thanksgiving, Christmas and the 1st of March. We haven't lost but 1 out of 200+ to winter kill, which I credit to following good advice.

We've only planted bare root in April (about a month before our last frost), not summer, but I suspect that your summer planted trees will appreciate similar care their first winter.
 
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