by Matt Gibson
There are very few joys in life that can compare to the sweet satisfaction of picking and eating fruit from your own fruit tree. Growing a fruit tree can be a long and arduous process, even for those with prior experience and knowledge of the practice. It’s also a challenge to get to the fruit before the neighborhood menagerie of birds, bugs, worms, and other critters beat you to the punch. However, there are few things more satisfying than reaping the benefits of your hard work and sharing a fresh piece of fruit that you grew yourself with your family and friends.
Whether you are taking steps toward beginning to plant your own orchard of fruit trees on your property or you are experimenting and would just like to start with one or two trees, the most important stage of the entire process is the planning stage. Just the fact that you are reading and learning what you can before diving in means that you are on the right track to becoming a successful fruit tree gardener. Well, there’s good news. We’ve done all the research for you, so read on to receive a handful of tips that should be all you need to know to get off on the right foot when planting your first fruit trees.
Fruit Tree Planning For Success
If you were a tree (which you are not, hopefully), where would you want to grow? For one thing, you would want plenty of space to stretch out, so make sure that your tree’s planting spot is free of any competition. Ask yourself, “When my tree is all grown up, what will its height and weight be at full maturity?” Your fruit tree will not want to compete with other trees, so make sure that there are no other trees growing nearby that will interfere with your fruit tree’s expansion. That means considering both its branches and its roots. Make sure your tree has plenty of room to call its own.
Though fruit trees would certainly prefer to bask in a full day of sunlight each day, a bit of shade is not going to be the end of the world. However, you want to make sure that the area you choose gets at least five to eight hours of full sunlight each day. The more direct sunlight, the better, so if you are considering a spot that is shaded throughout the day, you will want to reconsider. Optimally, you will find a spot that is out in the open and exposed to a full day’s sunlight each and every day.
Your planning spot also needs to be free from any other forms of interference in the environment, such as sidewalks, sewer lines, and power lines. Be sure that your tree will be completely free to stretch out and grow to its full potential, both underground and above. Power lines can be a dangerous nuisance to avoid, and you don’t want your root systems destroying the sewer system or creating huge cracks in the sidewalk. So if your growing site has any of these things in the near vicinity, you’ll want to pick another site. You can thank us later when you have a group of healthy fruit trees and no city officials beating down your door due to problems with their development.
Another important consideration when picking a location to grow fruit trees is the drainage capability of the area in question. Fruit trees need plenty of water to grow, but they don’t need that water to pool up on the surface and become stagnant. The perfect location is an area with good drainage and fertile soil. So the next time you water the lawn, or the next time there is a significant rain, pay attention to the area in question. Does the water drain properly, or is it still on the surface the following day? If it’s still on the surface, you’ll either want to pick a different location on your property or spend time working the soil to ensure proper aeration and drainage.
The soil itself is another factor to consider. Planting trees can be a big investment, both in time and in effort from the gardener. It’s important to do your due diligence when it comes to soil testing, maintenance, and preparation in order to give your fruit trees the water and nutrients that they need to grow and produce lots of tasty fruit for you and your family to enjoy for years and years to come.
Do some research and find out what pH level the fruit trees that you are wanting to grow prefer. Purchase some pH strips at your local gardening center to test the soil in the area that you want to grow the trees in. If the pH levels are off, however, don’t freak out or throw in the towel. Soil can be treated, blended, added to, or even replaced if necessary. However, this is not a step that you can just skip and hope to still have success.
Sometimes, the answer to a variation in pH need and reality is as simple as digging up a few feet and mixing in a few bags of compost or treated soil to get the balance right. If you do have to invest the time and effort into preparing the soil in your chosen planting location, take the time to till it well, and create the proper drainage while you’re at it. Your fruit trees will thank you, and your hard work will be well rewarded with an abundance of fruit from every harvest.
How to Dig a Perfect Planting Hole for Fruit Trees
This step may seem like a no-brainer. You might be thinking, “It’s just a hole. How hard could it possibly be?” Well, you’re right. It is just a hole, but the size of the hole is super important to your tree’s success. The optimal hole for planting fruit trees needs to be just about twice the size of the root system you are planting. The last thing that you want to happen is for your tree’s roots to become cramped, circled, or suffocated by the soil around them.
Make sure your hole is large enough to set the roots down inside it comfortably. Loosening the soil around the planting hole is a good step as well, as the area that you are loosening up is the area that the roots will swiftly grow into and take over. Ideally, the roots of your fruit tree will grow uninhibited in the early stages of development, providing a strong base for your tree for years to come. The early root development is very important to the tree’s future. Proper root development will provide a strong foundation for your tree and ensure that it will be able to easily utilize the nutrients and water that are provided naturally.
Planting Your Backyard Orchard
Now that you’ve picked the perfect place to plant your tree and made sure that nothing would interfere with its growth … Now that you’ve tested, prepared and tilled the soil, making sure that the pH levels are right for your fruit trees and their continued heath … Now that you’ve dug the hole and ensured that the root system will have the proper amount of room to flourish naturally once you’ve walked away … it’s the hour that you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to plant the tree, pack in the soil around it, and walk away satisfied, knowing that you have done all that you can to ensure your new fruit orchard’s success in providing you and your family with bountiful harvests of healthy and delicious fruit for years and years to come.
Before you start celebrating a job well done, let’s take the time to make sure that the final step is done correctly. Topsoil is the soil right underneath the grass, and it’s very rich in nutrients and more porous, making for better drainage, which works great around the root system. So after digging the hole and placing the roots into the bottom, start filling the hole by placing the topsoil in first. The pile of soil that remains is heavier and less rich, so it should probably be mixed with some nutrient-rich soil or compost to break it up and pack it full of good food for your tree’s good upbringing.
As you are filling up the hole, keep the tree centered while placing soil around the roots, ensuring that there is ample room on every side for the roots to grow outward in every direction. Throughout the entire process, keep the tree straight up, not leaning to one side or another, but sticking up vertically at all times. As you finish putting in the last few scoops of soil, tamp the soil lightly with your foot to remove excess air pockets and secure the tree in place. After you have finished planting the tree where you want it, prune it, and water it really well. If your trees have trouble anchoring themselves firmly into the soil at the roots, you can use tree stakes to support their growth.
It will take a few years for your tree to grow and mature and begin producing fruit, but it will be well worth the wait. There are a lot of things in life that are worth waiting for, but the realization that you have helped to create and nurture something that will provide you and your family with healthy and delicious food for decades to come is a satisfying feeling—and one that you have to experience to fully understand.
Want to learn more tips for planting fruit trees?
Cabin Life covers 5 Tips for Fruit Tree Success
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Mother Earth News covers Twelve Steps to Successfully Planting Fruit Trees
Planet Natural covers Last Call for Planting Fruit Trees
STARK Bro’s covers Fruit Tree Care: Planting Fruit Trees
TreeHugger covers 10 Tips for Growing Fruit Trees at Home