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Have you ever wondered How to Plant Fruit Trees in your backyard but you’re not sure where to get started? Keep reading for all the best tips so you can start cultivating your very own trees for fresh and delicious fruits!
Why You Should Plant your Own Fruit Trees
The most obvious reason is this: once mature, they’ll provide lots of fresh fruit! You can experience the joy of picking tree-ripened fruit in your own yard and have delicious fruits to boot.
You can eat these fruits as healthy and home-grown snacks, use apples for baking, to making smoothies for breakfast, and so much more!
This will save you money in the long run, as long as you’re willing to be patient and care well for the trees.
But aside from the fruit, the trees are also great for contributing to a healthy ecosystem in your yard. They produce lots of oxygen which can increase your air quality, and they also attract a whole slew of wildlife.
In addition, before the fruits grow, the trees will flower beautifully and provide gorgeous scenery before the fruits develop throughout the summer.
This guide has some information on how to plant apple trees in clay soil, as well as general information about planting all kinds of different fruit trees, including dwarf fruit trees.
When to Plant Fruit Trees
Fall is the best time for planting fruit trees – planting fruit trees in fall or the very late summer gives the trees time to settle in before the winter cold sets in.
You can plant a fruit tree in the spring – just be sure to give it regular watering ALL season long until the winter comes. Here’s how we got started with fruit trees on our homestead. We decided on planting apple trees.
Now, our trees are loaded with fruit each year and we really enjoy a good Apple harvest! Think about getting a couple of fruit trees for your yard and then….get them planted.
We talked to the fellow at the nursery and he suggested these trees – there are 4 different kind of apples on each tree.
And the tree is hardy to this area (which is something that is important here where the Winters can get so cold).
Each branch is labelled as to the type of apple. If we treat these fruit trees well, we should have a good bounty of different apples.
Preparing for Planting Fruit Trees
So, in the Fall we got them planted. That hole in the above picture may not look very big or deep, but it is. It is easily 2 times the width and depth of the fruit tree itself.
This is a very important step. Prepare your hole well! You only get one chance at it – make sure you dig a deep and wide hole.
You can see that the natural soil here is clay, just by looking at the picture. It is much more difficult to garden with and so we are always amending it.
Here is how to improve clay soil, which is a good step to take before learning how to plant fruit trees in clay soil.
This picture above gives a better idea of just how deep that hole is. I have added lots of very well composted manure already. Then I set the tree in the hole and stand back.
Depth for Planting Fruit Trees
I am trying to determine whether I have:
- Dug the hole deep enough
- Added a deep enough layer of manure or top soil
This is very important – you want the tree to sit at the same level as it was sitting in the pot. The picture is a bit deceiving – don’t look at the top of the pot – look at the trunk of the fruit tree. It is at a good level here for planting.
I removed the fruit tree from the center of the hole and put in 3 good handfuls of Bonemeal.
You only get one chance to fortify the planting hole, so make sure you do this before setting your tree in the ground.
Here’s the Apple tree out of the pot – can you see how rootbound it is? I never just plop plants in the hole like this, as usually the plant is rootbound.
Rootbound Fruit Trees
I like to either loosen up the rootball by prying it apart with my fingers or using a shovel, like I did with this Apple tree.
Score the rootball all the way around. What we want is for the roots to be free, it is OK to slice them with your shovel. This way, once planted the roots will begin to spread and grow.
You can also plant bare-root trees, as long as you don’t bury the graft union when planting. (This is the raised bulge that should remain above the surface when a tree is planted.)
How to Plant Fruit Trees
Finally, in goes the fruit tree, root ball first. I then backfill the hole with more well composted manure. Use organic fertilizer if you don’t have compost. Tamp down the soil to eliminate potential air pockets.
This apple tree is already staked and we will leave the tree stakes in for at least a year. After the backfilling, I make a “well” so that any water the tree gets will not run off.
Keep in mind that many fruit trees are attached to a rootstock, and the join should be above the ground as opposed to buried.
The nursery guy told me to water it when I first plant it. Then water it once a week if the weather is very hot.
If there is some rain, water the young tree once every two weeks. Letting the tree roots dry out between watering will encourage it to send out feeder roots.
It will become settled in faster and the tree trunk will grow better.
The finishing step is to put a palmful of tree and shrub fertilizer around the base of the tree. If you’re using mulch, try to avoid letting the mulch touch the trunk of the tree.
Normally, we don’t use fertilizers of any kind here, except for the composted manure. With these trees, I was advised to use some and I think that is a good idea.
It’s great that we don’t have to buy fruit at the grocery store! Consider planting a couple of fruit trees this year.
How to Care for Fruit Trees
- Try to keep pests away. Insects, fungi, and diseases can easily ruin a perfectly good fruit tree. With proper monitoring, you’ll be able to keep trees healthy. Employ other plants that have natural repellent properties, rely on natural repellents, or choose types of trees that are particularly hearty, disease-resistant, or inherently resistant to pests.
- Plant at the proper times. Any time after the frost is gone in the spring is okay, as long as the ground is fairly dry.
- Like many plants, deal with weeds as necessary. You don’t want other plants competing for nutrients or space.
- If you live in an area with lots of deer, you may want to employ some kind of fence, like this fruit tree fencing, to prevent them from chewing up your trees.
When is the best time to plant fruit trees?
This can vary depending on the variety of fruit tree you’re planting, but a good window of time is typically late winter or early spring.
As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you should be able to dig a decently sized hole that will be big enough for any fruit tree. You can also plant early in the fall in some cases.
Check your local nursery to see if they’re displaying bare-root fruit trees or other fruiting plants. That’s typically a good sign that you can start planting.
As long as you plant before summer begins, the root system will have time to take hold and adapt to the new setting. This will prevent extra stress in the summer when it comes time to flower and grow leaves and fruit.
Can you plant fruit trees in the fall?
Some say that fall is actually the best time to plant fruit trees, as it will give the tree roots maximum time to take hold and establish themselves before the following summer.
Hearty fruit trees, like apple trees, peach trees, pear trees, and cherry trees are especially good for planting in the fall.
They’ll hold up well through the winter and be ready to start growing tasty fruits in the late spring and summer.
How to plant fruit trees in clay soil?
There are certain kinds of fruit trees that are better suited for clay soil. Some trees, like avocados, citrus, and sweet cherries, require more drainage or are just intolerant to heavy clay soils.
But some apple trees, certain kinds of peach trees, and tart cherry trees are good for clay soil.
It also depends what kind of clay soil you have. A soil pH of between 5.5 and 7.5 can indicate clay loam, as long as there’s good drainage.
Too much moisture can lead to root rot in many trees. This kind of clay soil is generally okay for most fruit tree varieties.
There are also certain solutions to planting in clay soil. One such solution is to use compost in order to gradually change the soil’s composition to be more receptive to fruit trees.
This will take some time and patience, but is a great way to naturally improve your soil.
Otherwise, you can plant in raised beds or opt for dwarf trees, which can be grown in large planters or large pots. Dwarf variety fruit trees can also be moved inside for some of the year in some cases.
In these cases, it is always best to use one of these heavy duty dollies with wheels to make it much easier to move large pots.
What are some of the best fruit trees to plant?
When it comes to choosing a fruit tree, there are many variables to keep in mind. Soil quality, climate, and amount of space are all important.
That being said, here’s a list of some popular fruit trees to grow. Use this as a starting point and decide which varieties will work best in your particular area, as long as which types of fruit you’re most interested in growing, eating, and even selling!
Best Types of Fruit Trees
- Apple Trees – This is a classic option, and one that’s great for beginners. Apple trees are hearty and versatile and can grow in a wide variety of climates. Recommended in zones 3-9, apple trees required little maintenance once planted and will start bearing fruit in anywhere from 2 to 4 years.
- Lemon Trees – If you have soil that’s unsuitable for planting, lemon trees are a great option to plant in pots or planters. They can add a tropical and exotic flair to any yard, and many can even be grown indoors during the winter. Lemons are best grown in zones 9-11 and require proper pruning and a good citrus feed to flourish.
- Plum Trees – Generous yielders, plum trees are another easy variety. They’re also typically compact and don’t take up too much space. Like apple trees, they can be grown anywhere from zone 3 to zone 9.
- Cherry Trees – Looking for something that will brighten up your yard in the spring? Cherry trees are known for their gorgeous pink flowers, and they’re also considered a beautiful autumn tree. Not to mention the gorgeous red fruits in the summer! Low maintenance cherry trees are best in zones 3-9.
- Peach Trees – For something particularly low maintenance, turn to peaches. These zone 4 to zone 9 fruit trees tend to be some of the least fussy, and will grow in any soil with decent drainage as long as they have access to enough sun.
Some other good options are mulberries, nectarines, apricots, and figs.
Are fruit trees self-fertile?
In other words, can fruit trees pollinate themselves? Again, this depends on the particular variety.
Many types of fruit trees rely on cross-pollination in order to fruit properly. This means you’ll want at least two of the same species in order to bear fruit.
When planting for cross pollination, be sure to position the trees close enough that they won’t have issues with pollinating. But not so close that they’re competing for water, sunlight, or nutrients from the soil.
Learn even more about growing fruit trees here.
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originally published 2011; latest update May, 2023