Planting 520 Peach Trees
This last January (2017) we planted an additional 520 trees in the orchard. Combined with the 130 we planted in January of 2016, that brings us up to 650 total peach trees!
The preparation for planting these trees began all the way back in September of 2016 and it wasn’t completed until around March of 2017. There’s a lot of work that went into getting it done. Take a look at the steps we took and how we completed them.
2 Miles of Raised Beds
Raised beds aren’t required for peaches, but any peach tree is said to perform better in a raised bed. Our soil has clay in it, so we opted to use the raised beds primarily because of the increased drainage they provide. If peach trees are left in standing water, it can drown them.
To construct these, we used a grading blade on the tractor to throw soil to one side as we drove back and forth in straight lines for several weeks. The resulting raised beds of soil are about 12-18 inches above the row middles.
520 Holes in the Ground
As you might expect, planting 520 additional trees means digging 520 holes in the ground. Post people expected that we would use an auger on the tractor, but it is actually almost just as easy to use a shovel. A shovel has several advantages!
- Less Soil to Move – Any soil you take out of the hole, you have to put back in! A shovel means you’re probably not removing more soil than necessary
- Rough Sides Inside the Hole – Augers have a bad reputation for smoothing the sides of the hole. If the soil has a high clay content, this can create a “Clay Pot” inside the hole that is hard for tree roots to escape from. Trees will grow fine for the first year or so, but as the tree grows larger the roots will grow around and around the inside of the hole instead growing outwards where they can effectively gather nutrients.
- Depth Control – Trees must be planted extremely close to their original depth as grown in the nursery. Planting too deeply can stunt or even kill a tree and planting too shallow can have similar effects. An auger tends to dig so quickly that it’s hard to stop it at just the right depth. Back filling a hole with the extra soil tends to result in sinking as the soil settles. Eventually the tree will be planted too deeply as the surrounding soil fills in the sunken depression.
We’ve found that getting down and dirty with a shovel and your hands makes certain that the trees are planted to the correct depth.
520 Baby Trees
A bundle of 130 baby peach trees waiting to be planted
You’d probably be surprised to see a bundle of baby trees. It’s is really rather small. The trees we plant are “bare root” which means they dont come with any dirt. When you have a twiggy little tree without any dirt, they can get pretty darn compact. A bundle of 130 bare root trees weighs only about 10 lbs. We buy our trees from Womack Nursery in DeLeon, Texas
This year we planted:
- 130 Loring Trees
- 130 Ranger Trees
- 130 Harvester Trees
- 130 July Prince Trees
The reason for planting different cultivars (or Types) of peaches is that they have different ripening dates. If all of the trees in the orchard were to become ripe the same week … well that would be chaos.
Lots of Phosphorus
If you want your trees to thrive, you need fertilizer. Typically fertilizer is something that provides N-P-K, or Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. Each element supports a different aspect of the tree grown. Someone once told me to remember it using “Up, Down, All Around”.
- Up – N (Nitrogen) – Upper (Up) part of the plant above ground like leaves.
- Down – P (Phosphorous) – Lower (Down) part of the plant like roots
- All Around – K (Potassium) – Everything, this is important for overall growth of the tree
The tricky part is that Phosphorous is very slow to move through the soil. Unlike Nitrogen, Phosphorous can take more than a year for to move even 1 inch down into the soil. If your roots are several inches down, then if could be many years before fertilizer that is applied to the top of the soil is accessible by the roots in the soil below. In order to combat this, we had Phosphorous spread over the orchard before we finished building the raised beds. That means we had Phosphorous worked into at least the first 12-18 inches of soil that the tree will be planted into.
You can add other fertilizer at the same time in the same way. Refer to this post about soil testing to know what you need to apply.
Phosphorous fertilizer being applied by Farley Farm Supply out of DeLeon, Texas
Mountains Of Mulch
Moving a mountain of mulch with a big tractor and a big trailer
Mulch is great! It has so many benefits that it would be almost criminal to not use mulch.
- Combats Weeds and Grasses
- Reduce Soil Erosion
- Increase the Fertility of the Soil
- Extend the Life of Irrigation Components
- Reduce Irrigation Requirements
- Fight Late Spring Frost
You can read more about mulching and composting around your trees in this article
This year we were able to get a mountain of mulch for free from the cities of Stephenville, Texas and Dublin, Texas. Intense storms in the spring of 2016 knocked down many trees. Stephenville allowed locals to bring downed brush to the city park where they chipped it into a huge mountain of mulch which they gave away for free. After several months it appeared the locals had all the free mulch they could stand and the city let us have the remainder of it as long as we moved it ourselves. Thanks Stephenville, TX Parks peeps!
Dublin, TX takes a more active approach to brush. A couple times a month they allow locals to leave brush at the curb and the city brings a chipper to chop it all up and remove it. The resulting mulch is free to anyone who will come and get it. Thanks Dublin, Texas!
The folks in Dublin, Texas were even nice enough to use their loader to help us get mulch from their free pile.
Putting the mulch on the tree rows was accomplished using a special tool called a “Row Mulcher”. After spreading almost 100 cubic yards of mulch by hand last year, we knew we could benefit a lot from this machine. Watching it work was just downright satisfying!
MillCreek Row Mulcher. It is basically a huge hopper and conveyor belt on wheels.
The Millcreek row mulcher saves us weeks of labor we would have faced in moving and spreading the mulch by hand. The end result was even nicer and neater than we could have done by hand.
The end result can be seen below.
Mulch applied in rows around the baby peach trees. A mulched row just looks right
They Grow Up So Fast
It took me so long to get around to posting this article. Today these baby peach trees are already several feet in diameter and height. Despite pruning the baby peach trees severely they have grown from the little stub you see in the mulched picture above into these 7 month old behemoths.
Our “Baby Peach Trees” 7 months later
We’ll give them the rest of this year and all of next year to grow and then maybe in 2019 we’ll be doing a post about mountains of peaches!