How to Get the Most Out of Your Fruit Trees

To get the most out of your fruit trees, it’s important to care for them properly. Regular pruning, fertilizing, and watering are essential to keeping your trees healthy and productive. It’s also important to choose the right types of fruit trees for your climate and soil conditions. By selecting the right varieties and taking good care of them, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh fruit for years to come. So if you’re looking to elevate your gardening skills and improve your diet, consider investing in some fruit trees and start enjoying the fruits of your labor.

The Container Grown Difference
    • All of our fruit trees are grown in containers, which means that they have a well-developed root system before they come to you. Healthy roots lead to healthy fruits!
    • Our fruit trees are grafted for optimal results. The “knot” in the stem of the tree is the “bud union,” where the root system (selected for its deep rooting and spreading characteristics) meets the scion, or top part of the plant (selected for its fruit bearing qualities). 
Self-Pollinating v. Cross-Pollinating
    • Some fruit plants are self-pollinating, while the rest need to be cross-pollinated from nearby plants to produce fruit. This pollen transfer most often takes place with the help of bees. Fertilized ovules become seeds and will eventually enlarge and ripen into the fruit we know and love. 
    • If you want to grow a fruit tree that reproduces through cross-pollination, you will need at least two plants of the same fruit type  in order to pollinate.
Planting Your New Fruit Tree
    • You will need to consider light, soil, and spacing when choosing the right spot for your new fruit tree. 
    • Light: Fruit trees generally prefer light. Plant your tree somewhere that received at least a half day of full sun.
    • Soil: Fertile, well-drained soil is ideal for growing fruit trees. Most soils will be fine, but if you have heavy clay, consider working in some peat or leaf mold to increase the drainage for your tree.  Avoid planting fruit trees in wet, low, soggy locations.
    • Spacing: Read the guidance on the plant tag for specific instructions, but generally plant fruit trees at least 18-20’ from one another. This will allow space for the tree to grow and thrive.
Planting Step-by-Step:
    • Remove your new tree from its container. 
    • Separate the roots a little bit at the bottom of the root ball so that they can spread easily. If the root ball is tightly packed, use a knife to score the roots vertically in 3 or 4 places. Root pruning of this type encourages new root development. 
    • Dig a hole deep enough that the bud union remains 1½ to 2 inches above ground level. 
    • Place your tree in the hole and fill one half of the hole with soil. Then, fill the hole to the top with water and wait for it to drain away. You can then fill the rest of the hole with soil.
    • For its first season, water your fruit tree once a week if it hasn’t rained. Do not let the tree dry out. 
Fertilizing Your New Tree
    • Do not put fertilizer or manure in the hole when you plant the tree. Wait a few weeks after you plant, and then apply ¼ cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer by sprinkling in a circle around the tree, about 1-2 feet from the trunk. Lightly work the fertilizer into the soil. 
    • Ask a Homestead Gardens associate to point you in the direction of an appropriate time-release fertilizer. 
Spraying for Bugs and Fungi
    • Ask a Homestead Gardens associate to direct you to the home orchard spray. Follow the directions on the label to protect your tree from disease and pests.
Pruning Your New Fruit Tree
    • Regular, annual, aggressive pruning is the key to successful home orcharding. 
    • First year pruning sets the eventual shape of the tree. If your tree is taller than 4-6 feet above ground, trim it down to that height after it is planted.
    • Thin out the inward-growing branches and any branches crossing over each other. Trim off the tips of larger branches to encourage growth. 
    • Any shoots or branches that comes from below the bud union should always be pruned. New stems that grow up from the ground are called “suckers,” and you can cut those off at ground level. Once the tree matures, suckering lessens.
    • If your fruit trees set fruit the first year, pick off some of the immature fruits, spacing them to about 8” apart on the branches. This will leave space for the fruits to ripen. This can be tough to do, but it’s worth it. If you don’t thin your fruits, you may get more fruit than your tree can handle, resulting in broken branches and small fruits. 
    • After your first year, pruning is helpful to shape your tree. Apple, pear, and cherry trees are best trained to a central leader (uppermost upright limb). Peach, nectarine, plum, and apricot trees should be trained to a vase-shape (no central leader). 
When to Prune
    • Apples and Pears should be pruned when they are dormant. Pick a pleasant, sunny winter day. 
    • Cherries should be pruned when the weather is hot. Wait until the tree has leafed out and warm late spring weather is established. Ideally, cherry trees are pruned in late May. 
    • Peaches, Nectarines, and Apricots should be pruned in the spring after the last frost date for your area.
    • Plums should be pruned aggressively both in the winter and in the height of summer to control the spreading nature of plum trees. 

 

For more fruit tree-specific information, visit Hollybrook Orchards at www.hollybrookorchards.com.

Homestead Fruit Selection Native Varieties Available? Requires Cross-Pollination Dwarfed Varieties Available

Almond

Apple

Apricot

Blackberry
Blueberry
Cherry

Chestnut
Fig

Grape

Hazelnut

Kiwi

Nectarine

Pawpaw

Peach

Peach (White)

Pear

Pear (Asian)

Persimmon

Plum

Raspberry