The old Chinese proverb goes something like this: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Fruit trees are a great investment to add to your homestead. We planted our little orchard 4 years ago, and we have yet to see much fruit. We are hoping this year will be the year!
Before the trees bloom, we are cleaning up the orchard and making sure they are ready to thrive. We have apple, apricot, peach, pear and cherry trees in our little orchard. They are heirloom varieties, so I am excited to see how the fruit comes out.
What kinds of trees should you plant?
Find out from your local nursery the best trees to plant in your area. I have tried mail order trees, but they haven’t worked out for me. My best trees have been from a local grower that has heirloom varieties that are hardy for the Colorado weather. Using local knowledge in this area will be a great benefit to you and hopefully help you pick the best trees available.
Choose trees that will fit the size restrictions you have. There are dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard fruit trees (dwarf being the smallest) and there are advantages depending on what you need. If you don’t have much room, I would suggest dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties. They won’t take as long to mature and they won’t take as much room. I have even seen trees that are trained to grow on the side of a wall to save space.
You also want to make sure you buy enough trees for pollination requirements. Some trees like apricots and nectarines can be self-pollinators, while apple and cherry varieties are cross-pollinators. This means you will need at least two cross-pollinating trees for them to thrive. This is something you need to ask about when you buy your trees.
How to plant fruit trees?
Things to keep in mind when finding a location to plant:
Fruit trees need at least 6 hours of sun a day.
They need well drained soil.
You need to leave enough room in between trees to allow for full maturity. You don’t want to plant them too close and then in 5 years they are shading each other.
Steps for planting a fruit tree:
- Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball.
- Bury the tree to right underneath the “graft union” or the bulge where the root meets the tree.
- Fill the whole back in with the same dirt.
- Water the tree.
- Stake the tree with a garden stake or rebar and tie to the tree with a string.
- If you have problems with deer, you will want to protect the tree with deer fencing around each tree.
- Leave the tree tag on or record what kind of trees you have planted and their location in a garden journal.
You may want to add compost to the base of the tree at the beginning of the season to add nutrients to the soil.
Spread leaves, mulch or bark around the base of the tree to help protect the roots and retain water. Do not put mulch too close to the trunk of the tree or too thick, otherwise you might choke it out.
Trees should be pruned before they bud in the spring or after harvest in the fall.
Remove old, dead branches, diseased branches, and water sprouts.
For a more extensive lesson on pruning a fruit tree, check out this article from Mother Earth News.
Make sure your fencing grows as your plant grows. You don’t want to crowd the limbs with fencing, so extend the fencing with each season or when necessary.
New fruit trees need one inch of water each week for at least the first year. Don’t over water or the roots won’t grow deeper and outward to find water.
We will discuss this in another post, closer to harvest time.
It may take 5 years before you see a good harvest from your new trees.
For a quick overview, here is when we expect a harvest from our trees in our area:
June-cherries, plums and apricots
July-peaches and nectarines
I love the idea of overflowing fruit trees producing an abundance of fruit from a variety of trees. In order for this dream to come true, we have to plant and take care of our trees now. I wish someone had planted our orchard 20 years ago, but since they didn’t we have to do the best with what we have. That means cultivating our little orchard and protecting it so it can produce fruit for our family.
Do you have a thriving orchard? What do you do to help those trees succeed? Please let us know in the comments below. Thanks!