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Give Fruit Trees Vigorous Start

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When you buy fruit trees, choose one-year-old, healthy trees that are 2 to 3 feet tall, says Kathryn Taylor, a University of Georgia Extension Service horticulturist. They should have good root systems with no evidence of stunting, insects or diseases.

If you're still preparing the planting site, store the trees in a cool place. Keep the roots moist. Before you plant, adjust the soil pH to 6.5 and amend it with adequate levels of phosphorus.

Break up any hardpan. Dig a hole twice the diameter and the same depth of the root system so you can plant the tree at its original depth. The graft union should be about 2 inches above the soil line.

No Depression Around Tree

Tamp the soil down well. Finish filling in firmly to prevent a depression around the tree, to avoid "wet feet" and root-rotting diseases.

Don't add fertilizer to the hole, Taylor said. You will fertilize later.

Water the tree in to fill in potential air pockets. Mulch to retain moisture, but don't allow the mulch to be right against the trunk. Hay is a good mulch choice, she said, since it doesn't reduce the soil pH as pine straw and pine bark can.

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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