Mid Western and Eastern Notes - USDA Zone 5a – 7a
Typically trees and shrubs in the Midwest and Eastern states are planted in spring. With a dependable amount of spring rain, the concern for moisture is not a typical problem. But the spring rain can also delay getting your fruit trees planting until the ground dries out.
Some plant varieties take longer to establish and are best planted in the spring. Fruit trees however are most often shallow rooted and quick to establish themselves given the proper location.
Selecting a location that drains well is critical. The site should have an ample amount of sunlight - preferably 8 hours or more - favoring the morning sun. In the Midwest and East, care should be given to selecting locations with good air drainage, avoiding locations where frost sits during the winter months. Planting in the fall allows the tree roots to get established during the fall and winter months, better supporting vigorous spring growth.
Planting rooted container plants in the fall offers an advantage as well. Wet springs can delay getting bareroot plants into the ground at the best time. This can add to the amount of time that it takes to get the tree established after planting. Remember that container trees purchased in the fall will be in some stage of dormancy. Yellow or browning leaves or pruned back plants are to be expected. Your only concern should be selecting your favorite variety of fruit.
Mulching the ground around your trees in the Midwest and East has many benefits. It keeps the root from totally freezing in a hard winter cold, protects the tree from extreme heat of the summer and provides nutrients to the tree roots in time.
On newly planted fruit trees, it is typically recommended to apply fall mulch after the first hard freeze. Appling mulch too early keeps the soil warm and delays the dormancy of the tree, making it venerable to early hard freeze damage. This is not the case with established fruit trees.