The soil should be prepared thoroughly by deep cultivation either by hand or with a rototiller before planting. The soil pH should be maintained between 6.0 and 6.5. Have a soil test taken and make the recommended adjustments before planting. You can get information on soil testing from your county extension office.
In the absence of a soil test, lime a 10-by-10-foot area where each tree will be planted. Dig each planting hole wide enough to accommodate all of the root system without bending or bunching it, and deep enough so that the bud union of grafted plants will be no more than 2 inches above the ground line after the soil settles.
Keep root pruning to a minimum, but cut off all broken or mutilated root parts with pruning shears. Set the plants with the graft or bud union no more than 2 inches above the soil line (Figure 4.1). Work the soil in and around the roots. When the hole is half full, firm the soil with your feet before filling the rest of the hole. When the hole is full, pack the soil firmly. Do not leave a depression around the tree. Also, do not place fertilizer in the planting hole or fertilize the soil immediately after planting. Fertilize only after the soil has been settled by a drenching rain.
After planting, apply sufficient water to thoroughly soak the soil around the tree roots. This watering will help to bring the soil into closer contact with all sides of the roots and eliminate air pockets around the roots. Remember that approximately one-quarter of the root system was removed when the tree was dug. To compensate, remove the top quarter of the plant to reestablish the plant’s previous shoot-to-root ratio.
On branched trees, remove poorly spaced and narrow-angled branches. Leave branches that are wide angled and arranged spirally about 6 to 9 inches apart up the leader (trunk). Branches left on the tree should be reduced by up to one-half of their length, and the leader should be cut about 12 to 15 inches above the top limb. Cut the leaders on nonbranched whips back to three-quarters of their original lengths.