Fruit trees offer delicious produce you can enjoy right from your own backyard. Having access to fresh fruit opens the door to a range of enticing recipes and healthy eating without having to go to the grocery store. Fruit trees require specific care for a healthy harvest. Whether you're cultivating pears, apples, peaches, and more, use these tips to ensure that your fruit trees are healthy and thriving for years to come.
Most fruit trees need to be in the ground before winter or the first frost. Early planting allows the trees to become established and promotes strong roots and healthy growth. All plants need time to acclimate to the weather, so give your fruit trees ample time to adjust. Tap the soil around the base to check on the root ball after planting; if you notice some give, it means the roots are well-established and growing into the soil to prepare for the changing seasons.
To ensure healthy growth and a good harvest, your fruit trees require soil that drains well. Too much moisture can cause fungi to grow, which will damage your trees and their roots. Avoid using soil that contains a lot of clay or tightly packed dirt that can hold onto water. Loamy soil with a sandy texture is the best option, though a mix of existing soil of good quality and compost may also work.
The area where you plant your fruit trees will determine how well they produce and perform. Don’t plant them where they will face high winds. If your yard doesn’t have a lot of cover, consider installing fencing or a trellis to provide protection from the wind. Most fruit trees require approximately six hours of full sun every day. Research just how much your specific tree needs prior to planting. If the area is too shady, your tree won’t grow as fast or produce as much fruit. Look for places where your home won’t block the sunlight and where the trees will stay safe from high winds.
When you first plant your fruit trees, they’ll need plenty of water to stay healthy and grow. Begin with daily irrigation for the first week, ensuring the water saturates the soil two or three feet down. After the first week, reduce watering to twice a week for the next month. This should be ample time for the trees to become established. After a month, continue to water them just once per week. During times of drought, your fruit trees may need watering more often. Pay close attention to the leaves and if they look dried out, water more frequently until they bounce back.
Fertilizing your fruit trees will provide them with the nutrients they need to produce delicious fruit. Don’t add fertilizer to your soil when you first plant the trees, since high levels of nitrogen may damage the root system. Once the roots are established, use a balanced slow-release organic fertilizer in early spring.
You can also loosen up the surface of the soil around 18 inches deep around the tree, water it, then cover the area with compost and a chicken-manure-and-mulch mixture to feed your tree.
Check your USDA hardiness zone so you know which fruit trees will thrive based on your location. Many environmental factors can affect growth. For example, if you live in a region with high humidity and cool summers, apple trees will do better than peach trees and others vulnerable to fungal infection. It’s also important to learn how many chill hours your fruit trees need to produce fruit.
Proper pruning will help your fruit trees produce and maintain a dense, healthy canopy. The optimum pruning time is just after a frost when the buds start to show. It’s also OK to prune your fruit trees in spring just before the buds emerge. When pruning, remove branches starting from the outside of the canopy and across the tree trunk. This method will help prevent the limbs from touching, which can damage the branches.
Once your tree produces fruit, you’ll get to enjoy the results of your hard work. Make sure that you don’t let the fruit stay on the tree too long or it will become overripe, attracting pests that can harm or even kill your tree. Research the best times to harvest the type of fruit you’re growing. Eat harvested fruit right away or store it properly. Never store fruit that has visible damage since it will go bad more quickly.
The best way to propagate your fruit trees is by grafting them onto rootstocks, which is suitable for virtually all species. This involves joining part of a shoot or section from the plant’s branches onto the roots of a different plant so that the two parts grow together. When you propagate your trees, you’ll be able to enjoy more fruit year after year.
Keep a close watch on your fruit trees to monitor them for signs of pests or disease. Get to know the common pests and diseases in your area as well as those that affect your specific types of trees. In some cases, you can simply prune away diseased branches or use an all-natural, organic pest-control product. Regular pruning encourages airflow that can reduce the risk of fungal disease. Rodents are a common fruit tree pest, so keep them at bay by installing tree guards for extra protection.