Plum Planting Guide
When picking a location for your tree, try to find a well-drained area with sandy loam soil. This soil type is the best for your plants, but as long as there is good drainage your tree should thrive. Place your tree in full sun for the best growth and production rate. Avoid frost pockets- trees may be damaged by unseasonable frosts.
Peaches and plums prefer slightly acid soil (pH 6.0-6.8). Dig a hole about three times the size of your pot and the same depth as the root ball. Set the soil you have dug out aside and mix it 50/50 with aged mushroom compost, aged manure, or rotten pine bark. Remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball. Cut any roots that swirl around the edges of the root ball. Place the plant in the planting hole and replace the soil with the mix 50/50 and gently pack down the dirt. To avoid planting too deep make sure the plant is at a position with the top most roots at the soil line. Next we need to thoroughly water the tree to settle the roots and eliminate air pockets. DO NOT PUT FERTILIZER IN THE PLANTING HOLE! Only apply fertilizer at the correct time of year.
If desired, construct a water basin at the base of the tree about 36 inches in diameter. Mulch in the spring & summer time should be about 4-6 inches deep. Keep mulch a few inches away from the trunk of the tree. Good mulch in the spring, is a mix of compost and weed-free hay. In the summer use weed-free hay or grass clippings alone.
Spacing for peach and plum trees should generally be 20 feet apart. Put plums no more than approximately 20 feet apart for cross-pollination.
Chemical or organic, whatever you may choose, make sure that it contains iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and boron. These elements are crucial to the plants growth. Application rates may vary. See chart below:
10-10-10 or 10-0-10 with minerals
1 cup per each year of tree’s life
**Max out at 9 cups for mature tree
Espoma Citrus Tone (Organic)
6 cups for 1 year old
10 cups for 2 year old (4-6ft)
18 cups for 7-9ft tree
24 cups for tree over 9ft
The fertilizer should be spread under the entire canopy, avoiding the 5 inches closest to the trunk. Zones 8a, 9, and 10-- fertilize 3 times each year in late February, late May, and late July. NEVER FERTILIZE AFTER AUGUST! This can promote growth too late in the year and damage the tree if it freezes.
The first year is a critical time for your new tree. It has not had time to establish itself yet and therefore it is not as strong as an older tree. To prevent the tree from dying, it must be watered twice a week in light soil and once a week in clay soil. Be sure to soak the entire root system deeply; this will take about 40-50 minutes. For best growth and production, your tree should receive at least one inch of water a week. During dry spells, water is mandatory. If not properly watered during droughts, fruit may drop prematurely. Keep at least 4 feet around the tree clear of grass and weeds to reduce the competition for water.
Pruning & Thinning
Peaches and plums in the South are usually pruned to an open center habit. When planting, you need to select 3 or 4 scaffold branches spaced equally around the trunk and remove other branches flush with the trunk.
During the second dormant season, top off the scaffold limbs about 36 inches from the trunk to let secondary branching begin. Any strong branches growing towards the center should be removed. This will let the tree have good air circulation in the center of the tree.
Training of your plant should continue for the first 5 years. Pruning is designed to train the tree to grow outward. This is done by removing the strong branches and water sprouts growing in the center. With the help of mold and hold cuts, your tree can be topped out at 7-8 foot. To do this top back the main scaffold limb to a weaker outward growing shoot. This will keep your tree at an easy picking height as well as stimulate new growth lower on the tree.
For a mature tree, pruning should take place during its dormant season. Thin out weak branches and head back long shoots as needed to maintain tree shape. Remove water sprouts. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches when pruning. Use mold and hold cuts to maintain easy picking heights.
To grow and keep growing the biggest fruit, thin back the small fruit to no more than 1 fruit per 6 inches of branch. This may not sound like a good idea, but in the end you will have the biggest fruit your tree can produce.
Peaches, plums and nectarines need little help to be productive. Check with your extension agent for specific recommendations for your area. White peach scale can be controlled by dormant oil sprays at leaf fall and bud break. This is highly recommended as an annual maintenance spray. Brown rot can be prevented by using a wettable sulphur spray every two weeks while fruit is ripening. Pack wood ashes around the base of your tree to fend off peach tree borders.