A Long Answer to a Short Question on Fruit Trees in Sandy, MN

Fruit Tree Guild

I got a question on our facebook page from John about planting fruit trees in the Anoka Sand Plain.  My answer got too long so I am putting it here:

John I can tell you what I have done and plan to do.  take it with a grain of salt because we just moved here and just planted fruit trees this year…

compost:  i priced out compost from plaisted and the price was quite a bit higher than the municipal place in coon rapids. that might change if you were ordering larger quantities than i did.  if you go with them i’d ask plaisted if they have tested their compost and can send you the report. i also bought some greensand for micronutrients and water retention and rock phosphate for phosphorus.  I’m pretty sure fruit trees in the rose family like their phosphorus.

fruit trees:  from what i’ve read its not a good idea to get dwarfs in the cold windy sandy area we live in.  we ordered semi-dwarfs.  i had trouble finding the varieties i wanted locally, but getting them from a good local nursery would be ideal (if they have some brand name tag on them i assume they were brought in by the nursery and in that case I’d ask them where they were grown).  make sure to get disease resistant varieties.  our crabapple trees had some nasty apple scab this year.  i got one late ripening keeper and one early variety.

i wanted to get rid of the grass around our fruit trees.  it competes with their roots.   after mowing low around the area for a couple weeks i sheet mulched with compost, leaves, wood chips and cardboard this fall, but ideally this would be done along with planting.  i made sure not to mulch too high trees don’t like that, but keep in mind if sheet mulching it should shrink quite a bit over time.

this year we will plant nutrient accumulators, nitrogen fixing cover crops and beneficial insect attracting herbs and flowers under the fruit trees.  i will not be spraying our trees except for a an oily solution early in the spring (i found the recipe in The New Self-Sufficient Gardener).  the plants in the understory of the trees will be the pest management.  not sure if you have heard of this before it is based on the idea of apple tree guilds.

hope that helps – thanks!

2 Responses

  1. Some good advice, thanks. I am now torn on the idea of doing a trench with organic soil/compost because after doing some more reading it seems that the typical fruit tree has roots that go as deep as two-three times the height of the tree, and a little wider than the width. With apple trees I read that the absorptive roots are born in the spring, die, and are reborn several times each growing season. Most of these absorptive roots are in the first six inches of soil I read. As you mentioned they compete well against things such as wild flowers and clover, but not so well against grasses which can have up to twenty times the root density of an apple absorptive root. I would really like to see some established fruit trees in a sandy soil to see what the future holds. I can’t find anything written about sandy soils and fruit trees.
    Also the place I originally thought to plant fruit trees is within 60′ of the road so the city said no fences within 100′ of the road. So I may just change locations for the benefits of a deer fence.

  2. Chris

    thanks john i will try to do some more research into this cause i’d like to know too. if you read about rootstocks you’ll see they’ll say some are better for heavy soils and some sandy so probably getting the right rootstock is a good first step.

    i don’t know anything about apple tree roots. i don’t think you need to go overboard with soil amendments for trees generally.

    if you are only concerned about water you could consider digging some swales. i think this is only a big concern while the trees are getting established.

    there are plenty of apple trees around these parts and i am sure people have been growing them for 100+ years. i know it can be done!

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