So you want to grow fruit trees–are you ready? Don’t be scared off by the time, patience, and work that goes into getting fruit trees to bear lovely and delicious fruit. With just a little care, and a handy guide to help you along, you’ll have your own produce section in your backyard in no time!
Choosing Your Tree
The first step to growing fruit trees is, of course, deciding what type of tree you want to grow. To do this, you need to know your growing zone. If you don’t already know your zone, take a look at this handy map to figure out what zone you are in.
Depending on your zone, you will be able to grow different types of trees. The coldest growing zone that fruit trees can handle is zone 2, and so anyone who lives in zone 1 will not be able to grow fruit trees outdoors. Those who live in zones 8-11 will be able to grow citrus, peach, and nectarine trees. Anyone who lives in zones 7-2 can grow a variety of trees, such as apple, cherry, pear, and plum. These trees are easily adaptable to many climates, and thus do well in colder climates.
Planting Your Tree
Once you have chosen your tree, your next step is to figure out where to put it. Fruit trees love to have lots of sun every day, so make sure the location you choose has 6-8 hours of sunlight every day. The area you choose also needs to accommodate for your tree’s growth, as the tree needs plenty of room to establish its roots.
The best time to plant your tree is after the soil has thawed, but before the threat of frost is over. This is because trees enter a dormant period during the winter, and need a flash chill-and-heat to wake back up again. Think of it as a shock for the tree–getting really cold, and then suddenly warming up to jump-start growth again.
When planting your tree, dig a hole that is as deep as the tree’s container, and twice as wide. Bring the roots out from the rootball, and cover with soil. Ensure that the tree’s graft line is above the soil; the graft line is a distinct scar on the trunk of the tree where the bulb was grafted onto the original rootstock. Feed your tree by using a 50:50 mix of soil and compost, or 100% soil with a dose of fertilizer. After patting down the soil to make sure your tree is nice and snug and with no air bubbles, water deeply until the soil is thoroughly soaked.
Support Your Tree!
While your tree would probably love emotional support, the support that we
are talking about is staking your tree. While your tree is young, its roots are not quite established yet, and it is extremely delicate. Placing stakes loosely around the trunk of your tree will give it support during storms and heavy winds, and allow it to grow straight and strong.
Caring For Your Tree
Now that your tree is planted and supported, your tree needs to be fed and watered. Mulching your tree will help it retain moisture, and stay warm during cold spells. During your tree’s first year, it will require watering once every week, and up to three times a week during hot summers. Fertilize your tree in the spring to encourage it to grow, as well as before the first freeze in order to keep it fed during the winter.
When it comes to pruning your tree, do so in the late winter to help it create its shape for the rest of the year. Pruning your tree will help it form, and will help it produce fruit as well! Pruning seems like a daunting task, as you don’t want to “mess up” your tree. However, pruning can be very simple. The most important part of pruning is trimming back branches to create a nice rounded shape. During the year, prune any branches that cross, or any broken branches. Once fruit begins to set, the branches can begin to sag or break due to excess weight. If this begins to happen, thinning out the fruit will keep the branches from breaking and cause the other fruit to grow bigger and healthier.
Diseases and Pests
All trees are susceptible to pests and disease, but fruit trees especially attract them because of their sweet-smelling fruit! Once pests are in your fruit, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. Choose a horticultural oil for dormant trees, and apply in late winter to rid your tree of larvae and eggs. In spring and summer, reapply the oil if you notice any eggs or larvae growing on the bark or leaves of the tree.
While fruit trees do take lots of patience, work, and care, there is no better feeling than being able to pick your own fruit from your own tree. Think of the fresh lemonade, apple pie, or peach smoothies you’ll be making in no time! The basics of caring for your tree can easily be narrowed down to feeding, watering, and keeping pests out. Follow this simple guide for growing fruit trees, and watch as your backyard turns into your own personal fruit haven!