Garden and Yard Care

Published on September 24th, 2013 | by Jami Scholl

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Tips for Planting Fruit Trees

apple tree

is this the future of your backyard?

You’ve spent hours measuring, sketching dreaming of safe fresh food from your own garden. You’ve even determined what vegetable plants you want to grow, such as garlic, and not grow, such as artichokes. Yet it has come to the point in the plan where you see those squiggly round circles that designate fruit trees when you think, “what now?”

Having delicious fresh fruit growing in their yard is something that most people are not able to access because of land or space restrictions. But if you have a little bit of space it is still possible! Fruit trees, the semi-dwarf variety that most people plant, will take from 5-7 years to begin to produce, with another three to five years to get to top production. Dwarf fruit trees will reach top production sooner, and for full sized standards add another five or so years.

Unlike when planting for one season growing for annuals, the amount of money invested into purchasing fruit trees might give you pause. And it should. Here are some of my favorite tips for planting fruit trees to consider when preparing your autumn order for fruit trees. Following these tips will help you have your own successful homegrown fruit harvests!

  1. How big will it get? Fruit trees are usually grafted. Cuttings taken in winter are then grafted onto rootstock. The cutting determines the type of fruit and variety with the rootstock determining the size of the plant. When determining the size of the plant, such as dwarf, semi-dwarf or full sized, be sure size of the plant does not outgrow your location.
  2. Disease resistance. Both the cutting and rootstock help determine disease resistance. Although heirloom varieties are valuable to have, they may not be the best choice for your garden. It’s wise to consider that having one disease prone plant can bring a disease to your other plants. Resistance means just that – it will resist the disease, although it still has a chance to catch it.
  3. Juglone. Be aware of the plants growing around where you wish to plant your fruit tree. Look up. Can you identify a walnut tree? If so, then make sure that there is plenty of distance between the walnut and your fruit tree. Walnut trees produce a toxic substance called juglone. It is found in every part of the tree. And note that the roots of the tree will reach farther out than the drip line, or the furthest reaching branches of the walnut tree.
  4. Soil. The quality of the soil is not to be underestimated. Too much clay? Your tree could suffer from root rot during wet springs. Not enough phosphate? Root development could be hindered. Too much nitrogen? The tree will be green and leafy, although root growth will be negatively affected with the excess nitrogen maybe allowing for disease susceptibility. Be sure to get a soil test done, preferably a year before planting. Don’t have a year to wait? It’s ok. Get one done as soon as possible.
  5. Chill hours. This isn’t hours spent relaxing, but the number of hours at 45 degrees or less that a fruit tree requires in winter to flower and bear fruit in the spring.
  6. Sunlight. Full sun is the preference for fruit trees. Although if you want to grow Pawpaw’s, they appreciate shade the first few years after transplanting.
  7. Cross-pollination. Most fruit plants need another variety with which to pollinate, this is also determined by bloom time and variety. If you’ve little space, then it may be a good decision to buy a type of tree that has different varieties grafted onto one trunk. Place these trees within 100 feet of one another to ensure that bees will be able to easily travel the distance between the trees.

Apple tree image from Shutterstock

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