Planting and Caring for Fruit Trees: A Guide
If you are interested in growing your own fruit trees in your backyard, this is the comprehensive guide for you. While it can seem like an incredibly intimidating prospect, they are actually surprisingly easy to grow.
Many of them including peaches, apples, pears, and plums are actually able to thrive easily in a number of climates. You don’t have to live in a tropic area to have a successful time planting trees like these. You should still research to ensure that the tree you will be planting and caring for will be able to grow in your area, just to ensure that it is a suitable choice.
Let’s get into the specifics of choosing and planting fruit trees, and then we'll talk more about the aftercare and general tree care they will need for years to come.
Choosing Your Fruit Tree
While it may seem tempting to choose a more exotic fruit tree, your endeavor will only truly be successful if you choose a plant that can thrive in your local climate. If you aren’t sure what trees that list consists of, check with your local plant nurseries and garden centers and see what they recommend. There are also great resources online that can assist with the process as well.
Let’s consider the different climates and what grows well in them.
If you are in the Northern United States, you might consider growing cherries. Bing, Rainier, and Montmorency cherries are fantastic choices for this part of the country. Black cherries will thrive anywhere from north of Minnesota to west of Maine.
Certain types of apples can be great in northern climates as well. Some of those include Ginger Gold, Gala, McIntosh, Jonagold, Red and Golden Delicious, and many others. These apples need a certain amount of cold hours a year, so the Northern climate is a better choice for them. Pears like Summercrisp and Ayers do better up North as well.
Peaches, while most people consider them to be more of a warm climate kind of fruit, actually need cool time as well, and will do well in areas with regular winters.
As for the the warmer areas of the country, you have a few different options for fruit trees that will thrive there.
Citrus trees are definitely a great option, especially if you are in an area like Florida where it never gets too cold. Mandarin oranges, lemons, etc. are all trees that would thrive in warmer areas.
Plums will also thrive in a warmer climate. European plums can thrive almost anywhere in the United States, but American and Japanese plums are better off in more heated parts of the country.
Again, it is important to check locally as well. Your local plant nurseries may have specific recommendations for you that may help you choose the best fruit tree for your property.
Planting Your Fruit Tree
Now that you have hopefully chosen your perfect fruit tree, let’s talk about getting them planted!
First you will want to consider where to plant the tree in your yard. Make sure to consider how much sun your tree will get throughout the day, as most common fruit trees will need as much sun as it can get. Also consider putting the tree somewhere where it will have some protection from wind and/or snow.
It is also a good idea to be aware of other plants, trees or flowers planted nearby. Fruit trees will soak up nutrients from other plants if given the chance, so give them a decently wide berth. Make sure the soil in that spot is also able to drain easily – if you have clay-heavy or clogged soil, consider adding compost to it.
Once you have your perfect spot, it’s time to make a hole for the fruit tree. You are going to want it to be about twice as wide as the roots of your tree. Also ensure that the hole you dig is not too deep, the graft at the base of the tree should be above the soil.
If you are planning on having more than one fruit tree near each other in your yard, they will need to be spaced at least 18 inches apart to make sure it has the space it needs to grow.
Depending on the type of fruit tree that you have, and the quality of the soil, it may be a good idea to add organic nutrients to the hole before putting the tree inside of it. Check with your local plant center to see what they recommend for your specific tree.
When putting the tree into the ground, you’ll want to position the root ball on a small mound of soil about the length of a finger. Then spread out the roots and ensure that the graft at the base will be above the soil. Also make sure that no roots are exposed when you fill in the hole.
If you are in an especially windy area, it may be a good idea to stake the tree to make sure it stays upright and planted. Simply tie it to a strong stick with cloth.
Once that step is completed, you should also give the tree a healthy layer or organic mulch as well. This will protect the roots of the new tree and help it retain moisture.
Lastly, if you do have deer or other wildlife in your area that could cause the tree some damage, you may want to consider building a small fence around it as well.
Fruit Tree Care
Now that the tree is safely and firmly in the ground, let’s talk about how to properly take care of it.
New trees need to be watered whenever the first two inches of the soil are dry. As time passes and the fruit tree develops a more extensive root system you are able to water it less often. For fruit trees to produce a plentiful, juicy crop, they do need a periodic deep soak either from you or natural rain. You can also use drip systems with a lot of success for this kind of tree.
The optimal feeding schedule for your new tree should be based on how the plant is growing. If it is thriving and growing well, you can assume its needs are being met. If its performance is less than ideal, consider applying a high-nitrogen fertilizer in the early spring months.
If you notice even with fertilizing that the tree is not growing as it should, you may have nutrient deficient soil. In this case, you may want to have a professional test it and follow their recommendations.
Protecting the Tree From the Sun
One aspect that often goes unnoticed with a new tree is a way to protect it from the sun. If your region has a lot of sun, consider using a diluted solution of half water, half latex paint to paint over the tree trunk. This actually acts as a sunscreen for the tree and can be very beneficial.
There are a multitude of pests and different diseases that can affect fruit trees. Consider using a dormant oil spray during the winter to help ward off many pest problems. This smothers pests as well as their winter eggs.
We hope that this guide to choosing, planting, and caring for your new fruit tree was beneficial to you! It can be a difficult process, especially if you're new at planting your own trees, but it is rewarding in the end.
Do you have any fruit trees on your property? How was your experience planting them?