Southern Mississippi falls within Zone 8 of the USDA hardiness zone map. The climate of southern Mississippi is a Gulf Coast climate with mild winters that rarely drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The major challenge that fruit growers face in southern Mississippi comes from the delta soil. Mississippi delta soil is high in clay content. Clay soil rarely drains well in the Mississippi delta region. In addition, frequent rains that are characteristic of the climate have caused the soil to become compacted in many areas. Before fruit trees will grow well in South Mississippi, the soil must be improved.
Test your soil six months prior to planting fruit trees in south Mississippi. Mississippi State University maintains a soil testing laboratory as a part of their community and continuing education extension program. You can download paperwork as well as find instructions on how to submit a soil sample by following the link in the resources section of this article.
Purchase soil amendments based on the recommendations made in the results from the soil test. Soil amendments that will improve the drainage of clay soil and make it loamier in structure include organic materials such as compost and peat moss. Gypsum will help to break up clay soil and improve drainage. To change your pH, add dolomitic limestone to raise the pH or powdered sulfur to lower the pH.
Break up your soil to a depth of eight inches by passing a rotoriller over it. Spread amendments over the top of the soil to a depth of four inches. Mix the amendments into the soil by passing the rototiller over the soil again.
Select fruit plants that will do well in the southern Mississippi soil and climate. Most apple trees will not grow well in clay soils, but peaches and other stone fruits will thrive in well-amended south Mississippi soil. Pears grow throughout the state and can also be planted.
Dig a planting hole that is twice as wide as your tree’s root ball but no deeper than the root ball. Do not place soil amendments such as compost in the planting hole. This can create a potted plant effect by causing the roots to never grow further than the amended soil.
Place the root ball into the planting hole and cover with soil. Tap the soil with your heel to release any air pockets. Water well to establish roots. The soil should remain as damp as a wrung out sponge.