In all parts where severe freezing occurs in winter it is a gain to dig the holes in the fall. The dirt thrown out is fined and mellowed by frost and the sides and bottom of the holes are softened and moistened by frosts, rains, and melted snow. With the holes dug in autumn an opportune time can be selected in spring for planting the trees. If the holes are dug in autumn it is necessary to stick the pins (116. Planning and Staking the Orchard Site) quite firmly to prevent displacing during winter.
Even in the South the digging of the holes in autumn is quite as profitable with a view to fining the soil by exposure. If dug in the spring when wet most of the southern soils will bake and become lumpy and compacted. In the Eastern and Southern States, and on the Pacific coast, the holes are dug and the trees often planted late in fall or in midwinter. The moist soil and relatively cool air of mild climates in winter are favorable for the starting of rootlets, and the evaporation from the top is not sufficient to injure them. But in the interior east of the Rocky Mountains to the lakes, the dry winds of winter and early spring often draw more moisture from the tops than the unestablished roots can supply. In the West the planting is usually deferred (119. Securing and Caring for Nursery Trees) until the heeled-in trees have started buds and some root-growth. If planted when trees can first be dug the dry spring winds often damage the tops before the season of growth.
In all parts the use of what T. T. Lyon, of Michigan, called "maiden trees" for orchard planting is now advocated by experienced planters. In the peach-growing districts June-budded trees attaining a height of only three or four feet are now preferred to large ones. At the North and in California one-year-old budded cherry- and plum-trees are now preferred to older trees. Two-year-old apple- and pear-trees are now valued and taken in preference to the four-year-olds planted a few years ago by experienced planters. These thrifty young trees are more excitable, have a better root system in proportion to the top, can be shaped as wanted are easier to handle and plant, and in practice are found to come into full bearing as soon as older trees planted at the same time.