Help me with a tree please

Here is the situation.

I have been given a fruit tree by my neighbor. It is a nectarine/tangerine (she’s not sure which and neither am I) and is between 8 and 10 feet tall, trunk diameter is 2½ to 3 inches. The tree has been in its current location for 4 years.

The first question I have is, how big of a root ball do I need to dig for the tree?

The second part is, the spot where I want to put the tree had a 20 foot tall spruce tree that blew down a couple of years ago. The tree didn’t show any signs of distress that I’m knowledgeable enough to recognize (not that great a feat) but it blew over because the root was rotted below ground level.

So what do I need to do, to prep the spot (beyond digging a hole) for the fruit tree, especially so that there is no repeat of the root rotting?

A rule of thumb nurserymen use is 9" of rootball per caliper inch, so about 23 -27" diameter rootball. Some like to make a little larger depending on other factors.

A likely cause of root rot is too much water. Too much water for a spruce may not be too much for other trees. Poor drainage though is bad for most, though not all plants. Another issue may be the needles of spruce (or other conifers) can acidify the soil over a period of years so you should check it’s pH, and amend accordingly if indicated. That test is pretty simple with an inexpensive kit available at most garden centers.

Proper watering after transplanting is very important through the growing season.

I’m not expert enough to advise on root balls and such, but … not sure if it’s a nectarine or tangerine? Yes, they both end with -ine, but tangerine is a citrus fruit (like an orange) and nectarine is a pit fruit (like a peach). The only way your neighbor could not know which it is if it never has had fruit. Even then, the leaves and flowers are pretty different.

MacCat The spot where the spruce was has a mound of compost soil (soil made from grass clippings and assorted deciduous non-needle tree leaves mixed with soil from a different part of the same yard and thoroughly composted over a period of about 5 years) that was placed in a 6 inch tall “raised” planter around the base of the spruce and was in place for mmmm about the last 10 years of the spruce’s existence. Would that soil have been acidified greatly in that time? If, after digging out the old root, would that compost soil be good to put in around the root ball? I plan on digging a bigger hole than the root ball to add compost/potting soil/something to help ease the transition for the tree and because I have no great faith in the quality of the soil in my yard more than a few inches down.

:smack:nectarine/tangerine I should have known. The neighbors father originally planted an apricot tree, she replaced it after it died and would have picked the closest thing should could get, definitely not a citrus

missed the edit window for a case of postus interuptus

Greg Charles(dig the username btw)the tree and its predecessor the apricot, never produce well. The current tree just finished blooming and was gorgeous during that time. I don’t know if this is due to neglect, poor placement, poor soil or what (probably all of the above truth be told)

Was the 6 inches of raised soil in contact with the bole of the spruce?

The soil /compost mix sounds good. If more than a few inches of soil was added over the roots of the spruce with the raised planter, it’s possible that could have killed the roots of the tree. Once the roots have grown out, they are at their proper depth regarding oxygen and other gas exchange and some trees are very sensitive to that.

Probably not, in that time span.

I would think so, as long as it’s not too dry.

Digging a hole at least twice the diameter of the rootball is advised, but no deeper, better an inch or so shallower. It’s also not good to greatly improve the backfill compared to the existing surrounding soil, as the roots will tend to not continue to grow out into the poorer soil. If the soil is truly poor, there are some things you could do to help it in the future, such as tilling in some compost out where the roots will be growing to.

The way I was taught to plant many years ago, was to backfill the hole about halfway and gently tamp the soil with your foot. Fill the hole to the very top with water and let it drain. When it’s all gone, backfill again to (but not on) the top of the rootball, tamp gently again, fill with water again, wait until it goes away again, than fill with soil again. Create a little ridge of soil around the perimeter of the rootball and fill that crater with water.

Mulch is recommended, 2" or so, but just a dusting for a few inches around the trunk to not hold moisture against the bark or give shelter in the winter to any animals that may eat the bark.

That crater is what you’ll fill with water as needed, depending on climate, natural rainfall, soil type etc. First year’s watering very important.

would fall/late summer be a better time to do this? Like I said the tree just finished blooming and I don’t want to stress it even worse by transplanting it while its trying to devote energy and resources to fruiting. Plus later would give me time to better prepare the spot I want to put it. Maybe not as late as fall, but definitely after the fruit is finished growing?

Are you going to be able to dig around the remaining spruce roots?

It’s best transplanted during winter dormancy. If the ground freezes in winter in your area, it is better to transplant in the fall after the leaves drop, but before the ground freezes. In a warmer climate, late December or January is best.

I was speaking to my favorite grower a couple of days ago regarding some transplanting I wanted to do for a client. I was concerned because one variety was in flower with some leaves just starting to show, and the other variety the leaves were still very tight, but would be opening soon. He said as long as the leaves were not fully opened/developed, it should be fine. This is in zones 6 and 7 area.

PoppaSan I will rent a backhoe to get the roots of that accursed spruce tree out if I have to. (I have long since removed the brick planter that was around it) I would use dynamite if I thought I could without destroying my home or bringing down the wrath of The Man upon myself.

was that a little over the top, like I hated that damned tree or something?

Mac Thanks for the advice my friend. Ya lost me at the zones though. would that be this USDA temperature zone map thingymajigger?

I am apparently according to that interactive map zone 6b

I’m going to wait till after summer, maybe after the first hard frost? till it cools anyway. Like I said, that gives me time to prepare the spot properly, maybe make a bigger volume of known good soil than I think its in now so it has a chance to grow and thrive better.

Again, thanks for the advice friend, I would have botched it for certain on my own.

You got it!

You’re very welcome. Wait until leaves are dropping (dormancy) though. Good luck!