Planting apple trees in fall

I have about 15 apples to plant. I am wondering how late is too late?
Also, does anyone plant trees in ripening order?

It is usually too late if the ground is getting frozen. Here in SW Ohio it would be before about Thanksgiving.
I do not plant mine in ripening order. I plant mine with the amount of sunshine the area will get. I put trees that ripen earliest in the most shaded area. If the earliest ripening tree gets too much sun it will bloom too early and it may get the blooms ruined by an early frost. At least here I use that process of tree planting. Late ripening trees usually will bloom later.


@ribs1 I don’t know where you’re located, but I’ve been planting things all month and will continue until the snow flies. (in fact, there is no month out of the entire year I’ve not successfully planted).

But, once the ground has frozen, you’re probably best off to forget it until it has thawed completely.

Generally I’d refrain from planting things that are in containers smaller than a “one gallon” size after October here in zone 6.
But, large potted trees, I’d plant them up until the ground is frozen.
(And some years that never happens in zones 6 and 7).

Dormant bare-root trees can also be planted in Oct-Nov. But, where do you get dormant trees with no dirt in October? (You generally can’t.)

So far as planting in ripening order, seems to me it’d make more sense to plant in BLOOMING order so the pollinator tree would be close to the next one.

Most of the installations I do for customers is in the fall and I can keep going at least until mid-Dec. These are often large bare roots trees- 2.5" diameter, about 10-12 feet tall with a nice spread of scaffold branches. Pears are the only species I don’t plant bareroot besides the whips I get from a nursery- of common fruit trees.

I’ve never planted bare root persimmons, paw paws or chestnuts of size but I also plant them in the fall a lot. I move them within in-ground bags with root balls.

Thanks for the information.
I am in zone 6a southeastern Michigan. My trees are all in pots, I think 4-5 gallon

Just mulch the trees after planting them to hold more heat in the soil- just in case you get a test winter. Preferably a mulch that is airy, but it probably doesn’t matter, just creating more distance from the roots and the cold air will be enough. It also reduces the kind of freeze and thaw cycle that can pitch small trees out of the soil.

I protect tea roses just by burying the graft and first few inches of soil with more soil or compost. I barely need to do it anymore because lows aren’t as low as they used to be.

Potted I would recommend a few weeks before your first frost. Zones don’t talk to last frost. Bare root can be planted whenever but you may have to chip away at the soil. Grow Organic Peaceful Valley only ships in December and January for example so by the time I get the trees my ground is frozen. They did not send me a tracking number so we went outside and found them. Chipped the dirt out and planted them but it was a pain and took 5+ hours for 5 trees. That is why I am going for companies that will ship later like Raintree this year.

I noticed somebody advised mulching. You definitely do not want a thick mulch touching the trunk of the trees.

And if you have voles, rabbits, you may want to consider a wrap of some sort or a fine mesh wire cage to protect the trunks.

Around here when planting in mowed turf, fall planted trees are rarely girdled by rodents- I think by the time it starts to get cold most are settled and not looking for new homes- but it is always good insurance to protect fruit trees from girdling rodents although I usually only protect apples unless there are rabbits in the vicinity- apples are the favorite of voles.

Of course, mulch ultimately needs to be pulled away from the trunk above the graft line, but overwinter it isn’t an issue in my experience- there isn’t much chance of rotting the trunk when the tree is dormant. Mulch is the best way to prevent heaving from the freeze thaw that can occur in a low-snow but cold winter. Snow itself provides excellent insulation for the soil.

I transplant hundreds of trees in the fall and can’t remember losing any of these trees to rodents in the last 30 years. I lose some in my own nursery to pine voles and a few trees in years following transplant, but not overwinter after the transplant. All I usually do is protect the trunks of apples with plastic spirals.

I plant potted trees from my nursery anytime someone wants one, I have time, and the soil isn’t frozen. The main problem with potted plants is that their potting mix holds very little available water and dries out quickly. If the finer surrounding soil (and real soil is almost always much finer) dries out it will pull water from the potting mixture, but the coarser potting soil cannot do the same. That said, when trees are dormant I do not worry about water throughout winter as long as the soil was moist at the time of planting. Never have suffered any consequences for that that I’ve noticed with either potted or bare root trees.

Of course if you receive a small tree already leafed out and you still have hard frost in the spring or fall, it’s a different equation. The hardening off level of the tree needs to match the season and trees from warmer climates may need protection, even overwinter storage in an unheated garage or something.

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I generally mix some ‘real’ soil into my tree potting mixes…that solves a number of problems…including frequent watering, mix decomposing leaving trees WOBBLY in the planting holes, and losing moisture to surrounding soils.

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I mix compost into mine, which also vastly improves the amount of available water but also more N and other nutrients compared to normal soil. I even take trees grown in 16 to 18" insoil grow bags and move them into pots, even though the bags are filled with pure soil when I first set out the trees to grow. I found out I can maintain adequate drainage by completely surrounding the soil with a layer of potting soil between real soil and the pot. These are 15 to 25 gallon pots, so have somewhat better drainage than small pots anyway.

It’s no fun digging holes for 15+ gallon pots…but it produces good results.

These days my help does most of that, or I wouldn’t be in front of the computer right now.

We don’t set them completely into the soil, just enough to insulate the roots against winter. They end up sending roots into that soil and it is a good thing, except that moving them takes more time when saving the escape roots. Sure helps them plug into a new setting.

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Thanks everyone

Ribs, we may need to do a member visit one of these years. We’re probably about 15 miles from each other. Let me know if you need any persimmon, I bought too many rootstock last year and my nursery bed is getting overgrown with them.

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Come over anytime although I don’t have anything to sample this fall. No apples or pears this year. I am about 8 miles south of Ann Arbor. I would love to sample some persimmons before I commit to planting very many as I have sampled very few. I might have some extra rare apples and pears that are in 3 gallon pots. I over did it with my grafting last spring
Go Blue

My orchard is pretty young, so not much fruit this fall. I’ll have to send you my tree list in case you need any scion. I’ve always got room for more apples and pears if you need to get rid of some.

Send me a pm. I will get organized soon and figure out what extra trees I have