Successfully establishing a young fruit tree in your yard starts with your planting site. Once your fruit tree is established, it will need little assistance to grow and bear fruit, but you’ll first need to make sure to give your trees a strong foundation.
To get started, you’ll need to pay careful attention when choosing a location for planting new fruit trees. This involves planning in the best interest of the trees prior to planting.
Avoid future issues by considering all aspects of the planting spot, such as:
- Sun & good soil
- Surroundings & Spacing
When choosing your fruit trees, take note if a pollinator is required. A compatible pollinator will have a similar bloom time. Cross-pollination by a different variety of the same tree is key to the fruiting success of many fruit tree types. Since insects and wind need to carry pollen from blossom to blossom between trees, the pollen partners should be planted nearby – within 50 feet of one another for adequate cross-pollination to occur.
Sun and Soil
Fruit trees thrive when grown in a location that receives full sun and has well-drained, fertile soil.
Light is vital to fruit production and fruit quality and also helps keep fungal issues from advancing, Full sun means there is at least six- to eight hours of sunlight during the growing season.
Good soil drainage is necessary to keep a tree’s roots healthy, and healthy roots are the foundation of a healthy tree. If you discover that your native soil is composed of heavy clay that retains water after rainy weather, you should choose a different site for your tree. Similarly, if your site has fast-draining, sandy soil, then your fruit tree may exhibit water-related stress and may require more frequent watering. If you find your soil conditions less than ideal, try amending the soil with compost and organic matter prior to planting.
You can also plant fruit trees in containers with great soil. Start with a pot that accommodates each tree’s current root system (with room to grow). Young trees can be planted in a 5-gallon container to start, and you can pot-up container-grown fruit trees into larger containers as the trees outgrow them.
Fruit trees can be very adaptable, and they respond well to soil additives like compost or fertilizers, so they can get along well even where the soil is nutritionally poor. Just remember to avoid planting sites with extremely heavy soils and poor drainage.
Surroundings & Spacing
Fruit trees can also become a landscaping asset, so choose a planting site with this in mind. Here are some questions you should ask yourself regarding the location:
- Will the fruit tree eventually block the view of something you want to see?
- Will anything block sunlight from your fruit tree as it grows?
- Are there wires or other obstructions overhead?
- Are there cables, pipes, or other lines and utilities you should avoid underground?
- Is there a sidewalk or foundation within the range of your apple tree’s mature spread?
When considering how far your trees should be away from structures such as patios and sewer lines, it varies depending on the expected mature height of the tree. A smart distance is somewhere beyond your fruit tree’s estimated maximum spread.
Planting a Bare-Root Fruit Tree
Bare-root trees arrive with no soil around their roots – hence the name “bare root”. Our bare-root trees are shipped dormant, which helps them to transplant well and experience less transpiration (water loss) immediately after planting. The best time to plant a bare-root tree, or any other bare-root plant, is in the fall or early spring.
Steps to planting a bare-root tree:
- Allow your tree’s roots to soak in water an hour or two before planting. Do not soak the roots for more than 24 hours.
- A planting hole that is large enough to accommodate your tree’s current root system with some extra room to grow. Learn how to Dig a perfect planting hole.
- Spread out the dormant tree’s roots to encourage outward growth.
- Keep the tree vertical in the planting hole (perpendicular to the ground) so that it grows straight.
- Use Tree Stakes to encourage straight growth, especially with dwarfing rootstocks and windy sites.
- Keep the graft union (noticeable “bump” in the lower trunk) 2-3 inches above the ground.
- Refill the hole with native soil (what was removed at digging time), and any other soil amendments.
- Gently tamp out any air pockets from the soil once the planting hole is filled.
- Thoroughly water your newly planted tree.
Planting a Potted Fruit Tree
Fruit trees that are grown and shipped in our Stark® EZ Start® bottomless pots are part of our continuing quest for producing better and stronger trees for the home grower. By following these simple instructions, you will be assured of getting your new potted tree off to the best possible start.
Steps to planting a potted fruit tree:
- To remove the tree from its temporary container, simply grasp the sides of the pot and carefully slide the tree out. If the tree’s roots do not easily slide out of the container, you may need to gently pry the inside edges of the container away from the root system, and loosen it until the roots slide freely from the pot.
- While some might shake loose, most of the potting soil should remain around the tree’s roots. Gently separate, untangle, and spread out the tree’s roots and place it, soil and all, into the prepared planting hole.
- Backfill the hole with topsoil and water thoroughly.
Your potted tree may have come with a bamboo stake, which helped straighten the tree as it grew in its pot. We recommend that you keep the tree staked when you plant since all new trees can benefit from staking in their first years. You may remove the bamboo stake and replace it with a different tree stake if you prefer.
Please be sure to remove the name tag from your fruit tree. As the tree grows, this small piece of plastic can choke off its circulation, causing damage like girdling and even tree death. If you’d like to keep the tag on your tree, retie it loosely with soft twine and be sure to keep it from becoming restricted as the tree grows.
*Note: This is part 2 of 4 articles*