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Safely replanting a beloved peach tree

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Q. Twelve years ago, as a housewarming gift, I was given a white peach tree, which I planted in what has turned out to be the wrong place. I love this tree, and am thinking about having it moved. What's involved here? When is the best time to do this? Thanks for any guidance!
-- Pat T., Hardwick

A. There are a few items to keep in mind when moving any well-established tree. You'll have to dig a large enough root ball to minimize stress and maintain soil moisture. It is also very important to provide the proper soil environment and a location that is sunny and sheltered from adverse weather conditions.

It should be noted that peach trees are short-lived trees that usually live fewer than 20 years, and their blossoms are susceptible to late frosts. It is important to not choose a windy location or low-lying area, which may increase the potential for frost damage.

Spring is a good time to move cold, sensitive or thin-barked plants. Trees, especially large ones, need more time to adjust to their new environment and prepare for the next winter.

Before planting, take a soil test to make sure the pH, or soil acidity, is between six and seven. Provide adequate nutrient levels (especially phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc) based on soil tests. Peaches may require two to three applications of nitrogen, whether it is in the organic or synthetic form. Slow-release sources of nitrogen are best to build soils and provide long-term nutrition. Be very careful not to overfertilize trees with nitrogen, or you may have excessive top growth and very little fruit growth after the tree is established in its new location.

Soil moisture is critical for establishment, which may occur after two years to three years for a larger plant. If there are other trees in the area, keep plants at least 15 feet apart (depending on the species) to maximize sunlight.

There are a few white peach varieties appropriate for home gardens in New Jersey. Fruit ripening dates will vary from early July to early September depending on the variety. If you decide to plant additional trees in the future, the following are suggested varieties: 'Scarlet Pearl' (July 4 to 12), 'Southern Pearl' (July 17 to 24), 'Raritan Rose' (July 25 to 31), 'Carolina Belle' (Aug. 6 to 10), and 'Blushing Star' (Aug. 16 to 21). You can learn more about varieties, care and maintenance of peaches through local pick-your-own operations and farm markets.

Q. I have an order of raspberry plants arriving in May. One of the books I read suggests that the grass be removed with Roundup. Does it only kill the plants receiving the spray droplets? If I rake away all the brown dead material, can I plant raspberries a month later? I also have dandelions nearby. Should I put something in the soil for that? If so, what should I use?
-- Ed K., Cliffwood Beach

A. Before planting brambles in a new location, clear the area of grass and debris. One way to prepare a new garden site is by using a contact herbicide like Roundup, but of course, there is the option of removing the grass with a sharp spade or sod removal equipment. The residual activity of this particular herbicide is relatively short: a few weeks in cooler weather and about 10 to 14 days during the spring and summer. A month should be sufficient time to allow the product to break down. The entire garden site should be cultivated, and at that time, you should incorporate organic matter as well as fertilizer and lime, if necessary. We suggest having a soil test completed before putting in your new raspberry plants to find out nutrient levels and the pH of the existing soil.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a broadleaf perennial weed that is commonly found in lawns and landscapes. It can flower from spring to fall, beginning as a yellow flower and maturing into a fluffy white seed ball.

You can minimize dandelion populations by maintaining turfgrass density, mowing often to cut off the flower heads, and mechanically pulling them from the soil, trying to remove as much of the root system as possible. Herbicides are an effective way to control dandelions, whether it is a post-emergence material applied during periods of active growth (spring or fall, but fall is best) or pre-emergence product applied before seed germination, usually in the spring. Some plants can be sensitive to broadleaf herbicides, so it is important to be careful when using these materials and always follow labeled directions.

Resources: For more information on plants and gardening, visit njaes.rutgers.edu or ifplantscouldtalk.rutgers.edu.