North Georgia is located within the Blue Ridge mountain range, and it has piedmont soil with heavy clay and rocks. The northern part of the state is mostly rated for USDA zone 7, with a small portion rated for zone 6, which means that Northern Georgia temperatures rarely dip below -5 degrees Fahrenheit in the coldest part of winter. Northern Georgia can grow a wide range of fruit trees, provided that you prepare the soil for the trees carefully.
Have your soil tested to determine the soil structure for your trees. The University of Georgia maintains a soil testing facility in conjunction with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service for soil testing. You can pick up an official University of Georgia soil testing kit for collecting and submitting your soil at your local county extension office. Fill out the paperwork, take core samples as instructed by the kit and return your samples and paperwork to your local extension service office. The extension service will send your kit in for testing and return the results to you.
Purchase soil amendments based on the recommendations made in the test results from Step 1. Typical soil amendments for piedmont soil include organic amendments such as compost and well-rotted manure. Heavy clay can be broken up with gypsum and the pH can be adjusted by adding lime to raise the pH rating or sulfur to lower the rating.
Break up the soil of your orchard by plowing it with a rototiller to a depth of six inches. Remove any large rocks you find. Spread the amendments over the soil to a depth of four inches, and then mix them with the soil by running a rototiller over the soil again. Amend your whole orchard, not just the area that you are planting. This will encourage your plants to develop a more extensive root system.
Select fruit trees that are adapted to your region of Georgia. Locally owned nurseries will be more likely to carry fruit trees that are adapted to your specific climate conditions than national chain nurseries.
Dig a planting pocket in your orchard that is twice as wide as the root ball of your tree, but no deeper. Place the root ball of the tree in the planting pocket, and cover the sides with dirt. Do not cover the top of the root ball with more than two inches of soil. Tamp lightly on the planting hole with your heel to remove any air pockets.
Water the root ball to keep the tree’s roots and surrounding soil as damp as a wrung out sponge. Check your tree daily for the first two weeks to make sure that it does not dry out while the roots become established.
Mulch around the tree’s roots to help hold in moisture and smother competing grass in your soil. Do not pile the mulch around the base of the tree. This can promote fungus growth or other diseases.
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