February 25, 2011

by Orland A. U. Pereida,
Victoria County Master Gardener Intern

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt
As they mature, the blooms on fruit plants are as enjoyable as the color and taste of fruit produced. Come learn about growing and planting fruit trees on Monday at the Lunch and Learn with the Masters.
Fruit plants will be available for the first time at the Master Gardener plant sale on March 5. Included will be pears, grapes, blackberries and blueberries, to name a few. Planting instruction materials will also be available for bare-root plant purchases.
Courtesy of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK
This is a typical correct planting of a bare root fruit tree with the hole only as deep as the size of the root system.
Have you ever been able to go out your door and pick fruit from your trees or vines? Have you ever, while growing up, picked fresh fruit from your parents' or grandparents' gardens and remembered how great it tasted? This year, the Victoria County Master Gardener Association will give you an opportunity to do just that.


For the first time, the Victoria County Master Gardeners plan to have at the spring plant sale: blueberries, peaches, pears, persimmons, avocados, blackberries - including thornless varieties - plums, pomegranates, grapes, and even some citrus, all of which are suited for this area.

So, not only will you enjoy the fruit from the trees, you will also enjoy the profusion of flowers they will have as the trees mature.


The fruit and berry varieties offered will be bare-root with most in the 4- to 5-foot range, although some will be 2-feet tall at maturity.

When planting bare-rooted plants, it is very important that the roots remain slightly moist, but not wet. If you are not ready to plant at the time of purchase, heel them in by placing the roots in a trench or hole and covering them with moist soil.


Dig the hole only as deep as the size of the roots system. The base of the roots should rest firmly against the bottom of the hole. To eliminate air pockets, firm the soil around the roots in 2- or 3-inch layers as the hole is filled. Do not fill the hole with sand or potting soil but use the same soil dug out to fill in. Plant the tree at the same depth (notice soil line) that it grew in the nursery.


The soil line can be determined by bark color differences. The trunk is gray and the roots are dark brown. If the hole is dug too deep and the fruit tree settles after planting, lift the tree to the original soil line before growth begins.

Thoroughly water the tree with at least five gallons of water immediately after planting. A 2- to 3-foot diameter watering well (soil bank) around the tree will help contain the water as it soaks into the soil.

We will have instructional handouts for everyone purchasing bare-rooted plants. Fruit trees will be labeled with the variety names and wrapped accordingly.


When selecting a site to plant your trees or vines, always remember to select a location with deep, fertile, well-drained soil. Soil lacking in nutrition can easily be improved by proper fertilization and cultural practices.

Internal Drainage Rate:

The most important soil characteristic is well-drained soil. Determine your soil's internal drainage rate by digging a hole 8 inches in diameter and 3 feet deep. Fill it with water during a rainy season. If the hole drains in 24 hours, the soil has excellent drainage and is suitable for all fruit crops. Peach and plum trees should be planted only on sites with excellent drainage.

If the hole drains in 36 hours, the internal drainage is adequate for more tolerant crops, such as fig, blueberry, grape and blackberry.

Choose persimmon, pomegranate, citrus and pear for more poorly drained sites.

If the hole has not drained in 48 hours, the site is unsuitable for fruit production. In this case, plant on raised beds or in containers.

Soil Nutrients:

When evaluating soil drainage, be sure to conduct a soil test. Have the soil tested for salinity, pH level and nutrient content - specifically phosphorus and potassium. If the planting site is compacted, thoroughly loosen the soil with a shovel or tiller.


Remember, self pollinating fruits are blackberry, fig, grape, peach, persimmon, pomegranate and some, but not all, varieties of plum. So, you will need to buy two plants to pollinate one another when buying blueberry, plum, pear and muscadine grape.


As in the past sales, we will also have butterfly-loving plants, Texas natives and, of course, a great selection of vegetable plants. Along with all of those items, we will have our standard favorites. Remember, it is a first-come-first served event.

The sale will be March 5 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. I know the lines will start forming very early that morning - rain or shine. With these varieties and great prices being offered, we should be sold out early. As always, we will help anyone with questions on purchases.

There is something for everyone to learn from the Master Gardeners program in Victoria County. Attend the Lunch and Learn with the Masters on Monday to hear about planting and growing fruit trees, then come on out to the sale on March 5 and obtain your own.

See you there.
Benefiting Victoria Educational Gardens.
More than 2,000 plants are available.
If you go:
WHEN: March 5
WHERE: Victoria Educational Gardens Pavilion, 283 Bachelor Drive,
Victoria Regional Airport
WHAT TIME: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (will close earlier if plants are sold out)

Selecting the best fruit planting site

Plant fruits close to your home for easier maintenance.
A location that offers full sunlight for at least eight hours is best.
Fruit trees need good water drainage.
Good air circulation prevents diseases.
Deep, fertile soils are more fruitful.
Determine the soil's internal drainage.
Research spacing requirements between plants.
Select desired fruits to plant, including possible need for two plants for better pollination.
Bare-root planting guide
Keep roots slightly moist until ready to plant.
Dig planting hole only as deep as the roots; dig it two times wider than the roots.
Loosen compacted soil with shovel or tiller.
Plant at the same depth as originally grown.
Never use sand or potting soil to fill hole when planting.
Fill hole with top soil from the planting site.
Build a 2-3 foot diameter soil bank around planting about 4 inches high.
Thoroughly water with at least five gallons.
Cut the main trunk of all bare-root trees to half their original height or 42 inches, whichever is smallest - even if it removes all side branches.
Water frequently the first several months if needed.
Follow a summer pruning guide to maintain desired structure.
Lunch and Learn with the Masters ~ Monday
Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St.
Free to the public
Noon to 1 p.m.
Bring your lunch and drink
"Planting and Growing Fruit Trees in Victoria"
presented by Victoria County Master Gardener Alton Meyer
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at