Transplant Shock, Ugh!
The trees we transplanted into our new orchard in late March have begun to leaf out, but they appear to be struggling, and the signs of normal mid-spring vigor are absent to some degree. Normal big, green, vigorous leaves look a little small, and many of the branches/feathers we worked hard to produce in the nursery are now mostly showing blind wood (no leaves or vigorously growing buds). Basically, it looks like the trees are suffering a bit of transplant shock.
We suspect that multiple factors lie behind this, with the wet conditions when we planted, with the large size of the nursery trees (many of them over 8ft tall), primary among these causes. Machine planting was efficient, but probably didn’t help given the wet conditions. Yes, we could have chosen to prune back many of the larger limbs, which would have lessened the stress on the roots to supply nutrients for such a large canopy. We’re hoping, however, that extended warm weather and regular watering (which should mellow out the soil) will help the trees recover to full vigor, push leaves (and fruit spurs!) where there is blind wood now, and encourage significant leader growth soon.