Planting mature fruit trees vs. young trees

For those who haven’t seen my other posting, I recently had a neighbor kill many of my 3-5 year old fruit trees by carelessly spraying 2, 4-D on a windy day. It is unclear how this will be resolved, but for purposes of this post lets assume that he or his insurance company agrees to do whatever is necessary to make me whole again- even if that means locating, digging, shipping, and replanting 3-5 year old trees to replace 3-5 year old trees. Most are 3-4 years old.

My question for you experts is this: If cost were not an issue at all, what size trees would you all buy if you were me and an insurance company agrees to do whatever I want. At first I assumed that I was going to demand 4 year trees for 4 year old trees. But the more I read, the less I am sure that is a good idea- even if money is no issue. For example, who knows how well the 4 year old nursery tree has been treated and whether it has been pruned and topped properly and regularly. I’ve also seen some people questioning whether moving a large tree will set it back more than it would take a new tree to catch up. If a tree has been grown 4 years in a completely different climate/soil/etc than I have, will it respond well to such a dramatic move? I could go on, but the point is that I’ve seen many on-line discussions that seem to suggest that even if cost is no issue, planting a young, small tree is preferable to planting a mature tree (4 yrs old, for example). I think this thread will benefit others, because I’ve seen this question asked by a lot of people in various other websites. I suppose there are several people who just want quick fruit and are willing to pay the price to get it…but should they? SO what’s better- plant a new tree or a mature one? Thanks.

I’d prefer to plant 15-gallon size. Of course with money as no object you can go for larger box trees but these can have serious root-bound issues. If you opt for this size, then I’d recommend you take a Skil-Saw with a few inexpensive rip blades and score all four sides and the bottom with two cuts each; i.e., splitting the outer portion of the roots into “thirds” on each side. To be clear, I’m talking about making two vertical cuts on each side and two horizontal cuts across the bottom. I’d set the blade depth to two inches. The plants will then need to recover after planting. I’d douse the area with 15 gallons of water doped with 1 teaspoon per gallon of seaweed extract. This is a hormone which will mildly stimulate the plant in its recovery.

I have heard for every inch of diameter it will need a year to recover. So a 3 inch diameter tree will take 3 years to recover it’s root mass. I myself would take young trees. to shape them etc. Also some recent research says that correcting circling roots is near impossible. The conventional root pruning doesn’t really work. I’m not sure I buy that, you would want to radically prune as Richard mentions for sure. And a chance they will start circling again anyway.

I don’t always buy the conventional wisdom. The diameter thing. Last year I repositioned a 2nd leaf tree with a 1.5 inch diameter trunk. We had one of the coldest winters ever, and it has fruit buds now. It didn’t miss a beat! I removed it from it’s hole and planted it higher. It now has a root flare, looks great!

Older trees cost more, take the money for older trees and buy even more younger ones. They owe you the net worth of what was lost, not a tree by tree replacement. My estimate in prices, $150.00 for a 4 year, $85.00 for a 3 year tree, $50 for a two year. An Arborist can actually appraise trees, they do this all the time when people sell property with valuable energy saving shade trees.
They will need to pay for the appraisal too! Don’t forget to include payment for crop losses.
The herbicide is not done yet, other trees may have yet to show damage. That stuff is nasty, and will keep pounding them for at least another month or two, As I said to you before. My raspberries had deformed leaves the whole season. Well by September it at last stopped.

When I bought a larger place, I wanted to keep some of the trees from my previous place. I moved a 12 year old fig tree, a 4 year old mulberry, a 3 year old Amaden Duke cherry, a 3 year old Stanley plum, a 3 year old Indian Free peach. Also a 10 year old ginkgo from seed, and 2 three year old hazelnuts. It was hard work, I dug very large root balls. I planted in late summer and fall.

Im glad I did. These trees are way far ahead of the new ones I planted from containers or bare root.

The larger trees need a lot of TLC. Container grown trees would need special root pruning and lots of summer water, not the same as yard grown trees.

Im furious at your neighbor. I cant beleive I haven’t cursed in this comment.

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This is helpful advice, all. And Bear_with_me made me laugh out loud with that last little bit about “I can’t believe I haven’t cursed” ! haha. Thanks, I needed that. And just so you know, you can rest assured that I’ve cursed more than enough for you and me both (in fact, I’ve fulfilled the cursing quota for everyone on this site). :smile:

Me too


As I understand it, Alan more or less makes his living installing bearing age orchards, which is a big part of this issue here. Although he is successful with it (else he wouldn’t be able to make a living doing it) I doubt there are very few companies which would take the time (or even have the know how) to duplicate his results.

In all likelihood, if you demand 4 year old trees, you’ll get some landscape company who will purchase some root-bound trees, plop them in a hole, mulch them and call it good. The trees won’t do worth a darn, you won’t get the varieties you want, and you probably won’t even get the age of trees you want.

I’ve seen this numerous times with landscape trees. The builder wants “instant landscape” so he can sell the property, so he pays big bucks for a landscape company to come put install some larger trees. But the landscaper does such a poor job with the whole thing, the trees eventually decline and die (long after the property has sold). The new owner never really puts it all together and assumes the trees just died for some arbitrary reason.

From my perspective, the only real solution which approaches some level of recompense for your loss is monetary compensation.

When his insurance company has to pay a substantial claim, and his rates go up as a result, he will start being more careful when he sprays.

I sent alan an e-mail as soon as I made this thread and ask him to please respond to it. I’ve seen him address this to some degree in the past and knew he does a fair amount. That’s why I’m interested in his input, as you said. But the vast majority of what I’ve read so far agrees with what you and others here have said…that I’d really be better off in almost every way to just get new trees. One thing I have going for me is that McMinnville, TN is only about 2 hours away and that place- for some strange reason- really is the nursery capital of the southeast if not the country. You can literally drive for miles and miles and see nothing but nurseries. Companies like Fruit Tree Farms and Freedom Farms and countless others are located there. I mention this because I suspect that if 4 year old fruit trees are available in decent variety selections anywhere, it will be there. They would also be pretty close to my climate, which common sense would make me think might be better than bringing in a 4 year old tree from somewhere vastly different from my area. Anyway, sounds like I’m going to end up with a bunch of start-over trees. Whether or not I demand extra cash to go with them is not yet determined. Lots of people are advocating legal action but unless the guy just really tries to weasel out of everything, its just not my nature to sue someone-even if I could and should. But as a last resort and if he isn’t reasonable…I’ll “take it to the box” (jury box) as they say. But for this thread I;m still interested in learning whether I should plant 4-5 year old trees if I find some and if the offender or his insurance agrees to pay it. So far, it sounds like no but Alan likely feels differently.

In the other thread it sounded like he was not going to cooperate and yes legal action is in order, but if he does, that’s fine. Document well, and good luck. You know even the big box stores seem to have better trees. I was at Lowes and they had O’Henry peach trees, man it was tough not to grab one! I want an O’Henry! I want scion next year for sure! I have 2 elderberries, and a currant coming in today, and a Satsuma plum tomorrow from Grandpa’s.

I have always had much better luck with smaller trees. Last season I bought a 15 gal potted plum and a little 3 gal that was basically a whip. The 15 gal was probably 6 foot tall and nicely branched. A year later the 15 gal hasnt done much and the little whip is almost the same size. I have no doubt that by next season the smaller tree will surpass the larger one.

Most insurance companies will accept quotes for replacing your 4 year old trees
from companies/nurseries that will do the removal and the replanting with comparable trees. They will just give you a check, and it’s up to you to do the rest. Just plant what you want from McMinnville, and pocket the rest. In that way, you will get the trees(varieties) that you want and place them wherever you want, and some money to boot.

Yup, very typical! Exactly what will happen too! Most complain about small trees, for me the smaller the better!

City, I didn’t receive an e-mail from you. My e-dress is

There is a big advantage to replacing with larger trees if you can get high quality stock, but best results come from moving dormant trees and the window may have already closed on that till next fall.

How much larger trees suffer from transplant cannot be calculated by any set formula- there is almost an endless list of variables. I have a client that used a back-hoe to move 30 year old trees from a commercial orchard (before I was enlisted) by way of a tree spade. Some were moved after trees were already leafed out and half of those died, but those transplanted early put out adequate vegetative growth the second year after also providing a nice crop. Big old trees like this usually take more time than this to recover, however.

European plums, apples and pears can give you a much earlier bearing tree when transplanted 3 or 4 years old. At my nursery I move up to 3.5" caliber trees- often as bare roots, and after one recovery season they generally begin cropping and growing adequately.

I also grow trees in Whitcomb root maker in soil bags. I can move 2.5" caliber trees from 18" bags into 25 gallon pots, line the soil balls with a good draining potting mix, give them one growing season to recover and plant them as ready to go instant orchard trees.

Japanese plums are also well worth getting at a large size, older tree but peaches don’t provide quite the same bang for the buck. Undisturbed they grow very fast but they don’t transplant very well. I like moving 1.5" well branched peach trees bare root- when I’m lucky they plug in without skipping a beat and bear fruit the first season. They are always good by the second year.

Thanks for that- I knew you had experience in this area and was especially interested in your opinions. I had sent you a private message here, not an email, but apparently I somehow screwed it up, so thanks for responding here.

Rayrose, I hadn’t even thought about what you said, but now that I do almost certainly you are right…they’ll just take the value from some quotes and give me a check. Now that you mention it, that has been my experience in past insurance settlements. While I know I can put a claim in for the value of trees, time, etc…I’ve stated in the other thread that if the guy is nice about it and willing to do MOSTLY the right thing, I am going to be very forgiving. But as Drew mentioned, my latest contact with him it seemed his was back peddling and trying to minimize his liability, and he continues in that regard I’m going after him with everything I’ve got. But I want to be a nice guy and a good neighbor and he didn’t do it on purpose, so if he is decent about it I’ll settle very generously.

Just found out that the state is back on his property today interviewing his employees and checking his equipment and spray concentrations and so on…so maybe his attitude will improve by my next contact.

Same here. My 15 ga pear tree went in the ground last year, leafed out almost 2 months ago, and hasn’t done anything since.

Also a little concerning that commercial farmers are using such heavy concentrations of herbicide. Makes me glad I eat mostly organic.

Chrishashtags- You make a great point that I really haven’t touched on but have thought about. This spray was so strong and so thick that it completely killed trees- not just plants but trees- almost 500 feet inside my property and it severely affected trees as far away as 1,200 feet. And at the end of the day, we are talking about a substance that - at least in some concentration- is probably not good for us to say the least. Now I’m one of the last people to worry about such things- though it may be dumb on my part- I’m not an organic grower myself and tend to ignore potential health hazards that could exist due to spraying. But my house was in the middle of this cloud. My free range chickens were in the middle and have been eating grass and bugs from the affected area the whole time, and I eat eggs from them as well as occasional meat. My goats were in the middle of it and 95% of their summertime diet is grass that was hit with this stuff. I use their milk for various food items. And I live in the area every day. All those things really do make me wonder, for the first time, about whether there may really be some effects to my health. Probably not, but it certainly gives me a new appreciation for organic farmers. One of the most famous organic farms in Tennessee is in my town, and when I told that farmer about this he absolutely lost his mind and is 100% convinced that it is terrible for my health. Again, I often feel like people like him have an exaggerated opinion of the threats, but I am now giving all that a second thought now that I’m living in a chemical spill zone!

As a kid I rode on the back of sprayers hitting hot spots with 2,4-D. The boom sprayed at my feet and I jumped off to spray Canadian thistle patches. No ill effects so far and 60 yrs later.


I hear you. PLEASE don’t misunderstand me as being some kind of alarmist or even an opponent of sprays. Most people in my area have sprayed all their lives with no obvious effects. I was just saying that for the first time I have been thinking a little about whether their are any ill effects of living in this stuff. But I haven’t lost a minute of sleep on that question. I have lost many hours over my dead trees and what to do about them!

I used to play with mercury in my bare hands when i was a kid. :grimacing: Yeah one exposure fine, but if he continues. It’s the multiple exposures that I would worry about.

Ha! Good! He is not going to do it again, now he has a record of abuse.