I wanted to share this email from Charles and Lili and some observations

HI,

We purchased ten apple trees from you last fall.  Dont know if you remember but we were the couple with the little red Tacoma who live SW of Edgewood.  It looks like all ten trees made it through the bitter cold we had this winter.  Don’t know if you would like to share what we did, or even if what we did had any thing to do with it or we just go lucky. 

We dug 4x4x4 holes with a back hoe and then shoveled the dirt back in  mixed with compost and fresh manure about 50% dirt and 25% each manure and compost.  We then watered the holes thoroughly and kept them wet, but not waterlogged for a couple of weeks.  The soil we have is very hard packed clay.  After two weeks we planted the trees around mid Sep. 

The trees experienced no loss of leaves or signs of transplant shock.  Two of the trees also started blooming.  We kept them sheltered from the wind in their pots and against a wall of the house where they got morning sun for about 5 hours.  They maintained their leaves well into the fall.  

My guess is that the fresh manure helped keep the roots warm.  The manure was not in contact with the roots, and the freshly turned soil would have trapped a lot of air, helping to insulate the roots. I’d be interested in any thoughts you have, and/or suggestions.  Thanks again for the good trees you sold us. 

Have a good one, 

Charles and Lili

 Charles and Lili,  Normally I wouldn’t recommend amending the soil like you did because when the roots grow to the edge of the hole the soft dug soil/hard clay interface acts just like a container plant and the roots will circle the hole instead of spreading.  However the benefit of going 4 feet with a backhoe is a little different story.  Our soil is so poor that almost anything added is a plus.. By moving trees into the shade it cooled them and they got less sun thereby somewhat simulating winter.  Planting in direct sun with a lot of water then simulated spring and bloom time!  I have seen this done before when a tree is not watered or watered poorly thru the summer (causing some dormancy) then in the fall gets a lot of water it will bloom.  So by radically changing the environment we can fool them.  It seems to not have any effect on the next spring cycle and they seem to bloom again on time and correctly.  Sure is fun to see the blooms in the fall and impresses your neighbors.

 As for the manure keeping the soil warm thru the freeze, I don’t think so.  While the biological activity of it decaying will produce btu’s most of that would have played out well before the February freeze.   Generally speaking apple trees are very hardy in this area.  Where the problem comes in is freezing of the blooms or newly pollinated blossoms that are very tiny apples.  The vegetative portion of the tree is rarely harmed by cold just the fruiting buds or flowers.  Now what you are looking to see is if the cold killed the fruit buds or damaged them,  They should be blooming now so you can see if that was harmed of course different varieties have slightly different bloom times but you should be seeing lots of flowers now. 

 I am seeing some damage on the fruiting buds this year over last as noticed by less flowers but overall I think things came through much better than I expected.. As for suggestions I would discontinue the manure since it will raise the soil ph and bind up some minerals etc. from being used by the tree.  Most notably calcium and iron, these will be important as you start to get to fruiting age.  Also the excess N will give lush vegetative growth at the expense of fruit crop   I would look at mulching right  now with shredded or chipped wood.

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