Growing your own fruit trees and shrubs is just as easy as growing ornamental trees and shrubs. Here are some tips on how to start your own backyard orchard.
- Select Your Location – Select a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day and that can accommodate the size your tree or shrub will be at maturity. Some fruit trees, like apples, require a second tree nearby in order to produce fruit, so make sure that you can accommodate more than one tree. Shrubs and some dwarf trees can be planted in large containers but will require more care (for more on growing in containers, click here).
- Prep Your Location – Test your soil to see if your pH is in the correct range (6.0-7.0 for most fruit plants. Blueberries, however, prefer 4.5 – 5.5). Remove existing weeds and debris from your location. If you are planting in a container, make sure to get one large enough to comfortably fit your tree or shrub and use Coast of Maine Organic Raised Bed Mix when you plant.
- Purchase Your Plants – Fall and spring are the best times to plant fruit trees and shrubs. The soil is warm enough to stimulate root growth, but air temperatures aren’t high enough to cause stress. There is a greater selection of fruiting plants in spring and there is a chance to have your first crop the same year. In fall, however, selection can be more limited and it can be a full year before you are able to see your first harvest. A tree stake should be purchased at the time of planting, along with a root stimulant like Fertilome Root Stimulant, to encourage strong root development.
- Plant –Dig a shallow bowl. Loosen the roots away from the old soil as much, gently cutting though the outer layer if necessary with pruners or a sharp knife. Mix 1/3 Lobster Compost with 2/3 existing soil and back fill around rootball, leaving the top 2-3” of the roots exposed. Top with mulch and install tree stake at this time.
- Watering – Most fruit trees and shrubs need at least 1” of water per week and should be watered deeply to encourage root growth. To check if your plants need water, stick a finger into the soil near the roots, about 2-3 inches down. If the soil feels cool and damp, there is no need to water. If the soil feels gritty and dry, give your plant a nice, deep watering. Once established, inground fruit trees and shrubs may only need watering during dry spells. Fruit plants grown in containers will be reliant on you for their water needs at all times.
- Fertilizing – Starting in spring fertilize your fruit plants with Dr Earth Natural Wonder Fruit Tree Fertilizer according the instructions.
- Insects and Disease – Insects and disease will happen, but daily monitoring of your plants and swift action when a problem is discovered will prevent small pest problems from becoming big problems. Bonide Neem Oil is an organic control that works on insects, mites and disease making it a must have for gardeners. Bonide Citrus Fruit and Nut Orchard Spray is an insecticide and fungicide specifically for edible trees that controls many common plant pests and can be used up until the day of harvest.
- Harvesting – Harvest your fruits as soon as they are ready. Berries, cherries, peaches, plums, grapes and figs are generally ready to be harvested by midsummer (depending on variety). Apples, pears and persimmons are usually ready for harvest early to mid fall.
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, which is necessary for the production of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Pollination is primarily conducted by insects, with bees being one of the largest pollinators. Butterflies, flies, moths, hummingbirds and some species of bats are also good pollinators.
Many fruit trees require cross-pollination in order to bear fruit. Cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen from one plant to another. This means that, in order for certain trees to produce fruit, they need to receive pollen from a nearby fruit tree of a different variety (i.e. an apple tree must be pollinated by a different apple tree). For best results, the trees should be planted within 100’ of each other (closer is even better). Most varieties of apple, pear, sweet cherry and some varieties of plum need to be cross pollinated. A few exceptions are:
- Bartlett Pear
- Braeburn Apple
- Golden Delicious Apple
- Granny Smith Apple
- Stella Sweet Cherry
Self-pollinating or self-fertile fruit trees and shrubs are ones that do not need to be cross-pollinated in order to bear fruit; however, they will bear more fruit if they are cross-pollinated.
The following are some of the fruit trees and shrubs that are self fertile
- Apricot Trees
- Blackberry Vines
- Blueberry Shrubs
- Fig Trees
- Grape Vines
- Grapefruit Trees
- Lemon Trees
- Lime Trees
- Nectarine Trees
- Orange Trees
- Peach Trees
- Persimmon Trees
- Raspberry Vines
- Sour Cherry Trees