Planting and Care

Table of Contents:

  1. Receiving your Trees
  2. Ready to Plant
  3. Planting Hole Preparation for Trees
  4. Poor, Clay or Soggy Soil at Planting Site
  5. Pruning Fruit Trees
  6. Mulching Trees
  7. Protecting your Trees and Winter care
  8. Care of Trees during the Season
  9. Planting Preparation for Grapes

1. Receiving your Trees 

Ideally your trees should be planted as soon as you receive them. Once your trees arrive keep them in their packaging until they are ready to be planted later that same day.          

If you have to store them for a couple of days ensure it is in a cool and dark location. You should open the box before storing and ensure that the delicate roots are still moist: if they are getting dry then add moisture but do not overwater. The trees will be packaged with damp wood shavings to help keep the roots moist. Check daily for optimal moisture.


2. Ready to Plant

Carefully open the box and remove trees from their packaging. Gently shake off the damp wood shaving around the roots. Next, soak the tree roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours before planting. It is strongly recommended to plant as soon as possible in the ground, preferably on a cloudy or cooler part of the day. Avoid hot, windy or sunny days as trees may go in shock: always protect the roots.


3. Planting Hole Preparation for Trees

Prairie Hardy Nursery Hole Art Picture Example

Select a planting site that has good drainage and is free of standing water. Remove all grass sod and weeds from location. A larger diameter of 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90cm) to provide a weed/sod free area around the roots is highly recommended. Grass and weeds will rob nutrients from your tree and stunt the growth of it, so do not skip this step.

Dig your hole large enough to accommodate all the roots of your tree, the larger the hole the better as this gives the roots lots of area to grow. Pile the dug soil on a tarp, this will make it easier for placing the soil back in and not losing too much in the grass. It is always best to return soil from the bottom first, and top it with the soil from the top to restore the natural environment as much as possible.                                                                       

The bottom of the hole should be deeper than the roots. The walls of the hole should be well fractured by your shovel to make it easier for roots to penetrate the surrounding soil. Remember to keep tree roots covered and moist in their bucket of water until planted. Keep well covered and out of direct sun as the roots can dry out very quickly. 


Once the planting hole is dug and ready, place back some bottom soil into the hole and hold the tree in the desired position. Add more soil while gently spreading the roots to face outward and slightly downward, continue this until finished. The graft union should typically be 2-3" (5-7cm) above finished soil line. If tree is not grafted, the new soil line should be at the same height of the previous visible soil line. 

Discard the wood shavings that was packed around your tree roots, do not put them in the hole. Water the tree roots well while tamping it firmly to eliminate air pockets. If your soil is well drained such as a slope you can then add a soil berm around the side of your planting hole to help capture water for better absorption. Do not add any fresh manure or chemical fertilizer as this can burn the roots. You can add bone meal in the top half of the hole. Compost is beneficial but only recommended on top of the soil of the hole.       

Lastly we cannot recommend enough to add bark mulch on top of the hole, this will help to keep the moisture in and prevent weeds (keep mulch away from actual trunk of your tree to avoid rot). Your tree should be watered weekly for the first year. 


Check under your product item description for the "Growers Notes" column for extra information and care for certain products. 


4. Poor, Clay or Soggy Soil at Planting Site

Prairie Hardy Nursery Clay Soil Art Example

Do not add good soil into a hole of clay soil. Doing this will essentially create a clay pot  where water will collect into the good soil and drown your tree.                                      

Following instructions above, with these differences: remove all grass and sod from planting location. Dig a wide area around 6-12” (15-30cm) deep and break up the soil the best you can. Sprinkle some loose sandy topsoil in the hole first to improve drainage for the roots. Spread the roots out across in a slightly downward direction.                                   

Next, mound the soil higher than the original soil level (see picture). You may amend the original soil with a better one. A mound up to 6-12” (15-30cm) in height is sufficient covering the entire planting hole. When finished make sure to add bark mulch and compost on top of your mound (not touching the trunk of the tree).    


5. Pruning Fruit Trees

Pruning may not be necessary yet as the whips you receive may not be tall enough. Pruning may be best done the next season. Some of your trees may have been pruned already to accommodate for shipping. 

If your tree is tall enough it is recommended that you prune your planted trees. Cut the tree at angle right above a bud around the 30-36" (75-90cm) height mark. This will force energy into the lower buds of the tree which will develop into branches. 


6. Mulching Trees

Recommended mulch layout with hardware cloth screen


Mulching of trees is very beneficial, it will keep the weed growth at a minimum while keeping the soil moist and the temperature stable underneath. More nutrients will be released into the soil as the mulch decomposes. Use dead leaves or wood chips for mulching, pile them around the entire circumference of the tree, the larger the area the better! Anywhere around 5-8" (12-20cm) is a decent thickness of for your mulch.

Lastly, spread the mulch 3" (8cm) away from your tree trunk so that no mulch is touching it as it can make cause rot to the trunk.  

Hardware cloth is recommended to protect from voles, more info below!


7. Care of Trees during the Season

Water regularly throughout the season. Your tree needs to establish well. Give your tree a good watering twice a week.

Weed regularly and remove any grass growing inside the tree ring. Weeds and grass will compete for nutrients of your tree. At best try keep away grass and weeds at least 2 -3 feet (60-90cm) in diameter and the more space you give the better!

Pinch off any shoots growing under the graft union. This is part of the rootstock and will take energy away from the grafted tree. 

Please do not use any herbicides.


8. Protecting your Trees and Winter care

Watering Trees Before Winter Freeze

In late fall once your tree is dormant and just before the ground freezes, give your tree a thorough watering. This is important to help protect the roots from frost penetration which will dry out your roots and kill your tree. This could be a major problem especially if there is no snow yet and the temperature drops. The water will freeze and thus insulate your tree roots.

Rodents and Deer

Vole damage from an unprotected fruit tree in early spring


You will have to pamper and give a little extra attention to fruit and nut trees. These trees are commonly affected by rodents and bark loving animals. You will most certainly have a good chance of having all of your trees girdled by voles in a single winter. Throughout the growing season voles will have plenty of greens to eat, however during fall/winter when food is scarce they will eat the bark off your trees. Adding a roll of hardware cloth or a tree protector around your trunk will greatly help. 

Same goes to say about deer and moose, they might come and prune your tree from above. Protect by adding adequate fencing around your orchard, or individual tree! 


Hardware cloth used to protect a young hazelnut tree


Sun Scald (Southwest Injury) 

Sun scald also known as Southwest Injury is a major threat to trees particularly during a Prairie winter. On cold winter days, the sun can heat up bark to stimulate activity. When the sun goes down the bark temperature drops rapidly killing the active tissue. The most common method used to prevent sun scalding on the trunks of trees is to wrap the tree up to the first branch with a white tree guard protector. This guard will be effective in reflecting the heat of the sun off the tree.


9. Planting Preparation for Grapes Vines

 A young Somerset Grape Vine growth during its first year


It is recommended to choose a site that has rich or sandy loam soil for Grape Vines. Good drainage is essential when it comes to Grape Vines, even planting in a raised mound or berm will be beneficial. Their roots are sensitive and can break off easy. Grape Vines love a sheltered and warm place to grow, against a building for example.

Carefully remove them from the paper pots they are provided in. Ensure that the soil is well worked so their roots can easily spread and grow. Soak roots in water for one hour before planting.

Dig more of a trench than a hole: the Grape Vine have shallow roots and grow best when spread out just under the surface of the soil. After a few weeks, select the most vigorous vine and trim off the rest. Stake or trellis this vine in an upward direction. Remove any new other growth on the vine keeping only your main vine.

Do not fertilize during the first year. As Grape Vine roots you must ensure that they do not dry out: adding mulch and compost around the planting area.