Soon it will be time to plant fruit trees in Alabama. Edgar Vinson, assistant research professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Horticulture at Auburn University, reminds growers about basic planting tips they need to be mindful of when planting trees this winter.
Variety selection is the most important and practical way to manage diseases and other environmental constraints, no matter what crop you’re planting, according to Vinson.
“(For example) If you’re planting in a region that’s really high in summertime temperatures and a region that’s prone to drought, you’ll want plant crops that can withstand those high temperatures, and you’ll also want crops that are drought tolerant if possible,” Vinson said.
It’s also important to remember that fruit crops require full sun to produce at maximum efficiency.
“Once your shade starts to diminish then your productivity diminishes. It’s really important to get them as much sunlight as possible, maybe a minimum of 12 hours or so or around 12 hours of sunlight,” Vinson said. “Also, the placement of trees on a particular site, you want to avoid frost pockets. In cases of like fruit trees like peach or plum or apple, in low lying areas where cold areas tend to collect, it’s really important to avoid those.
“Cold air flows downhill. It’s heavier than warm air and flows downhill. Often times it collects in frost pockets in low lying areas. You’ll also want to avoid any structures like a fence row that has vegetation on it. Something as simple as that could be enough to block the flow of air away from these crops and cause frost damage.”
Chill Hour Requirements
Chill hour requirements is also an important factor to consider. Vinson said that in order to alleviate dormancy in the spring, trees have to be exposed to a certain amount of cool temperatures during the winter.
“If they don’t get the recommended requirements for their particular type or variety, they have long protracted flowering periods with small frequent harvests in the spring and summer and that really hits the farmer’s bottom line. The harvests are frequent but they’re small,” Vinson said. “They’re not really getting the return from the harvests that they otherwise would with the larger more concentrated harvests. Each time you harvest you have to send a crew out to the field and that costs money.”
It’s important to remember that fruit trees need to be planted during the winter time when the trees are dormant. Vinson said you can plant an actively growing tree but it really adds a lot of stress to it.