Should we take spring or fall shipping of an apple tree?

jayco(5b NY)March 16, 2009

I also posted this in the Orchards forum, so please forgive the redundancy.

We are planting an apple tree and are in a quandary about whether to request spring or late fall shipping. The nursery (Adams County) is in Zone 6 and we are right on the border between 5 and 6.

I have had trouble in the past with spring planting -- the ground is often too wet (our soil is heavy), and, in our area, the spring temperatures can fluctuate widely. For example, a few years ago we had a couple of days in April where it reached 90 degrees. Of course this is unusual but it happens more in spring than in fall. I've generally had better luck with fall planting, when soil moisture and temps seem to be more moderate; yet the nursery doesn't ship in the fall until early-mid November, which is kind of late.

What would you do? Plant in the spring or in November? Thanks for your advice!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

in my zone 5 ...

the best planting time is ground thaw ... right now.. through about 4/15 ... up until .. about 5/1 with a little extra aftercare ... 6 to 8 weeks before the heat of summer is possible ..

also.. in fall .. about all of october.. with two weeks each way as a bonus ...

a day or two of 90 is not important ... its all about how hot the soil gets.. and though that feels hot to you.. in the root zone... a few days isnt going to make all that much difference ...

a tree is a tree.. fruit trees arent anything special regarding planting or care ....and most trees do not like sodden soil ... MOST PEEPS with clay soil ... plant the roots half above the soil line.. and half below... on a small berm ... roots need air as much as water.. and raising the roots ... above just a little ... allows the best of both worlds with that clay soil ... ask or start a new post about such if you need more info ...

what you didnt tell us.. is how big is this thing ... size matters ... if we are talking your standard 2 to 4 foot grafted whip .. i would make a 2 foot berm .. and plant it dead center ... and mulch it well ...

i have 4 fruit trees due here in 2 weeks.. if that answers the question ...

call the supplier.. and ask them if the plants will be fully dormant.. if so .. the minor z6-z5 difference wont matter ...

or.. just pot it into a pot.. and hold it in the garage... until other trees in the 'hood .. match its leaves .... in other words.. harden it off until your zone catches up to it..

it would be a very significant problem if you were bringing in plants from z8 ...

good luck


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 12:15PM
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jayco(5b NY)

Thanks, Ken. Yes, we do intend to plant on a mound, as that has yielded the best results for our woody plants so far. It is a small bareroot tree, 1/2" caliper and 5 foot high or so, I guess that still qualifies as a whip(?)

I'm not worried about the zone difference -- we're probably half a zone different at most. I'm more worried about the possibility of the soil being too wet in the spring; and alternatively, about November being too late to plant in the fall.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 12:55PM
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If you have the trees shipped to you, spring is the best. Fall can have major problems if major snowstorm comes early and the ground may start to freeze etc..... I've had a shipment in fall before and never again will go that route.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 12:58PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

November is definitely too late to plant. If these are your only choices then you want spring shipment. Take good care of the plant until it is ready to plant: if in a can, keep in shade. If bare-root, heel it in somewhere.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 1:18PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

to clarify .. IN MY EXPERIENCE .... you can move anything AFTER IT is dormant ... root growth continues until soil freeze .. or so ... trees are basically dormant above.. when the leaves change .... the key is that you dont want the tree to have to labor to salvage the greenery ... you want that all off the tree ...

if you order things.. you would order them dormant as well ...

and just like the spring period... you should be done.. 6 to 8 weeks before soil freeze.. up here in the great white north ..

in a normal year.. for MY ZONE 5 ... soil freeze is USUALLY around 1/1 .... ergo .. it is best to be done planting by the last week of october ...

anything after that.. you are pushing your odds.. because mother nature is a cruel mistress.... and really likes to mess with us ... like she did this past late fall ...

as to wetness.. IF IT COMES DORMANT.. keep in mind.. that it will take 2 to 4 or 5 weeks to come out of dormancy ... by which time.. hopefully the soil wont be so sodden ...

IMHO .. a dormant tree is going to be much more forgiving of water.. than one that is active and growing.. and needing some air in the root zone ....

treat it no different than any other tree ... you sound like you have done this before.. why are you worrying about this one more than the rest ... just cuz it cost a little more????

if they send you a leafed out tree ... call them.. inform them.. and tell them you will report back in august.. should it fail .... ask them for a reference number ...


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 1:46PM
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picea(6A Cinci- Oh)

One other options I have used is to plant bareroot plants in potting mix until the weather get better.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:55PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i have also potted early arriving stock ...

but make sure it is planted.. BEFORE IT LEAFS OUT .... so as to avoid another layer of stress for a plant that was dug out.. root pruned... stored cold.. shipped .. etc ...

i have also .. having lost track of reality .. lol ... ended up allowing them to leaf out.. in which case.. i just keep them potted until proper planting time in fall ...

if you are inclined to do that.. lose track of reality .. lol ... another post and we can give you some tips ...

in my sand.. i could just sink the pot and all for the summer.. insuring none of the pot is in the sun ... and i would have a vast majority of native soil in the pot ...

probably NOT a good idea in clay ... but i am sure there are options ...

good luck


    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 9:00AM
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jayco(5b NY)

Okay, so we decided to take shipment for the first week of April. I hope by then the soil will have dried out, and we'll be able to plant then. That should give it a month before it leafs out, right?

Ken, you are correct, I am worried, but then again I always worry whenever I plant a tree or shrub because I am the type who worries and I want everything I plant to live!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 2:31PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you would make a good farmer.. based on your level of worry ....

too hot
too cold
too wet
to dry
to many bugs
not enough bees
too cloudy
too sunny
ad nauseum ...

oh enough already ms farmer ... lol ... plant it properly ... it will bud when ma nature tells it to bud.. if not.. they will send you another ... mulch it properly.. water it properly for two years ...

go worry about something else ...

as you can tell .. i quit worrying about all this a while back ...

my problem is on the other end... I GET REALLY P.O'D when they die ....

if my best.. isnt good enough for .. you lazy good for nothing plant.. then go rot in hades with all those other plants that didnt favor me with their lives... it surely wasnt my fault.. i did it right .. to the best of my ability .. the problem was simply that you were a good for nothing slackard ...

what a hoot


    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 5:25PM
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jayco(5b NY)

You're right, Ken, I'm going to stop worrying now. Life is too short!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 10:03PM
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