ISLE OF SKY – Tree Planting Instructions

Start Right – Plant for Success



Whether planting in containers or in the ground, select a location that allows for the best possible care and protection of your trees.  Remember that dwarf trees only grow to the size of a large bush.  Therefore, they may be planted in very small spaces, close together and often espaliered against wooden fences or trellises.


ASSEMBLE SOIL AMENDMENTS -- Cutting corners at this point will bring you less than optimum results….  EACH tree will require approximately 3 bags of potting soil to mix with backfill if planted in the ground.  I use and recommend either Garden Time Square Foot Gardening Potting Soil Mix or Nursery Canning Mix.  Both are made by Gro-Well/Western Organics and are available at Isle of Sky Nursery.


IN ADDITION TO POTTING SOIL, each tree will need the following “grow mix” of soil amendments:  3 cups of Terra Pro and 1 cup of Protein Crumblies as well as half a cup of Azomite (for container plants only).


DO NOT PRUNE DWARF APPLE TREES.  If needed, use small branch spreaders to create good crotch angles and branch the direction to shape the tree’s growth.  Dwarf trees will begin to bear at a very young age.  Though it is hard to do, snip all fruit off the tree the first year after blooms have set.  The tree will benefit from a year’s growth without a fruit load.  These small trees are overachievers and must have their overabundance of fruit thinned when they are the size of peas.  Any suckers that grow below the graft union should be removed.


Please remember winter care is important for successful fruiting.  Don’t forget to water your fruit trees.  Low sprinklers, which cover the extensive root zone out to the drip line of branches, are still the preferred way for thorough watering.  Well decomposed pine bark or pine needle mulch out to the drip line is extremely beneficial.


Plan for the protection of your trees whether planted in the ground or in large containers.  If you have little space, consider espaliering trees against a wall or fence.  Protect your trees from dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, deer and other animals by using appropriate tree shelters, cages and trunk protection.  Deer, rabbits and mice love to eat fruit wood, so DO plan accordingly when selecting and preparing your site.  The better you care for your trees, the better your apples will be.


PLEASE REMEMBER – The graft union is the most fragile point of a young newly grafted tree, but, as the tree ages, the graft union becomes the strongest part of the trunk.  Trees should NEVER be lifted or moved above that point – always be very careful to handle the tree below the graft union and support the main trunk when transporting the tree from nursery container to new container.  It is helpful to have an assistant when transplanting your tree!


The next few pages will demonstrate these directions for Container and then In Ground planting.


Container  Planting 1 –


Select a large, sturdy container 20 gallons or larger.  Drill ¾” drainage holes and place spun poly type weed mat over the holes.


TOP LAYER – Weed mat over drainage holes                    

BOTTOM LAYER – Drainage holes



Container Planting 2 --

Fill the container part way with good, organic potting soil available at the Nursery.  Mix in 2 cups of Grow Mix.  The soil level in the container should be enough to elevate the tree to the top of the container.  Remember, the soil will settle over time.  Gently remove the tree from the container and support it so the original soil level is level with the top of the container.




Container Planting 3 --



Whack the back of a shovel against the outside of the container, all round, to loosen roots inside the container. 





Container Planting 4 --


Do NOT handle the tree above the graft union.





Container Planting 5 –

Finish filling the remaining space with the potting mix and lightly work the remaining Grow Mix into the surface.  Stake the tree with one or two good wooden or heavy bamboo stakes to support from the winds.  Water thoroughly.  An additional watering can of water with liquid kelp, available at the Nursery, is very beneficial.  Top dress with a 2” layer of partially rotted pine needles. 


Note the rotted pine needle mulch is the top layer on the container, and the remaining Grow Mix is added to the bottom layer, per the arrows.

In Ground planting


In-Ground Planting 1 –

Dig a wide bowl-shaped hole 2 feet wider and 10 inches deeper than the container.  Break up soil in the bottom of the hole.  Separate rocks, sticks and clods from the soil. 



In-Ground Planting 2 -- 


Add 2 cups of Grow Mix and ½ bag of potting soil.  Replace enough amended soil in the hole so the tree will be level with the ground when finished. 




In-Ground Planting 3 -- 


HANDLE THE TREE ON THE BOTTOM ONLY.    Strive to keep the root ball and roots as intact as possible.   BE GENTLE!  DO NOT handle the tree above the root ball.  Gently remove the tree from the container and support it.




In-Ground Planting 4 -- 


Whack the back of the shovel against the outside of the container all around to loosen the roots inside the container.






In-Ground Planting 5 -- 

Back fill with amended soil into the hole to the original soil level with the ground. Lightly work the remaining Grow Mix into the surface around the base of the tree. Create a low berm around the tree at least as wide as the tree is tall with a minimum of four feet.  Flood with water around the tree to settle the soil and add more soil if necessary. 




In-Ground Planting 6 –


Stake the tree securely at planting time or tie it as an esplanier against a wooden fence or support.  Cover the entire well with 3 to 4 inches of rotted pine needles.