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Design with Fruit Trees

Fruit trees are the perfect landscape choice in many ways: gorgeous blossoms, foliage for shade on a summer day, tasty fruit and usually great fall color. Even in winter, the bare branches of most fruit trees provide interest in the landscape.

That being said, there are some things to think about before planting. For one thing, many fruit trees require more care than other trees. You’ll need to deal with the harvest, which from a full-size mature tree can be overwhelming, not to mention difficult to reach. Do you really want to climb to the top of a 50-foot tree? (I’ve always left that fruit for the birds.) You’ll probably also have to deal with preventing pests and diseases, and you may need to thin overly productive trees and prop up heavy branches. Plus, these trees can take up a lot of space.

Fortunately, these problems can be lessened, or in the case of the space hogs, completely eliminated. Start by practicing good garden techniques. A good mix of plants, an organic growing system and an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach can go a long way toward reducing pest and disease problems. The individual fruit you harvest might not be quite as picture perfect as those grown commercially, but it will be naturally grown and equally, if not more, tasty.

As for space, there are dwarf and semidwarf varieties of most common fruit trees (though check on final size, because even these can be large). Summer pruning is also a must to keep trees in check. You might have to prune one more time than you normally would, but if you start when the tree is small and keep it that way, it’s not that involved. If you want to be fancy, consider growing your fruit tree as an espalier or along a fence. Again, the pruning may be more involved, but once you’ve started, it’s easy to keep it going.

Specialty trees also are gaining in popularity. Growers have developed colonnade trees (sentinels that stand upright rather than spreading out), which are a great choice for a modern landscape. There are also more and more multigraft varieties; you may end up with several types of peaches or plums on one trunk. Choose wisely and you can get early, mid-, and late-season varieties to extend the fruit season. Or look for trunks with several different fruits grafted on; they’re less common, but they are out there.


Directions to planting a Fruit tree

  1. Dig a hole at least wide enough for the roots of your tree so that none of them are bent. Make it deep enough for the tree's roots to be completely covered. A wider hole is better, if possible, since that will make it easier for the tree to grow.
  2. Chip away at the sides of your hole to break any compacted soil - this will make it easier for your tree's roots to grow beyond the initial hole.
  3. Most Bare root trees from Bay Laurel Nursery do not need to be staked. But if yours does, use at least a five or six foot garden stake hammered about two feet into the bottom of the hole a little off center on the southern side, if possible.
  4. Make a mound of soil a few inches high in the bottom of the hole with what you dug out. Pat the soil down.
  5. Carefully place your fruit tree in to the hole, centered on the mound and spreading its roots. The tree has a graft union (sometimes called a bud union) visible where the root stock is grafted to the trunk. This should be placed slightly above the existing ground level. It is better to plant a little high than low since trees often settle.
  6. Amending the soil with nutrients may be necessary.  However, it is better not to overdo it since doing so will create an artificial environment for the tree that in the long run will stunt growth. Check with your local garden center and buy whatever amendment is recommended for your soil. Many garden centers now promote organic gardening, so  it should be easy to find one in your area that can help you to produce fruit that is grown without harmful chemicals.
  7. Start filling in the excavated soil that you have amended into the hole, carefully covering over just the roots. Gently pat down the soil a little and then water to help the soil settle around the roots.
  8. Continue adding layers of soil, repeating the process of patting it down slightly and watering to help the soil settle and fill in any air holes. Fill in up to the original ground level.
  9. Use any leftover soil to build a raised circle around the tree to keep water in. Ideally, the circle should be about four feet in diameter. Placing organic material such as leaves, mulch or bark inside the circle can help protect the tree's roots and help water retention.  Make sure that you keep any mulch away from the trunk of the tree.
  10. Overwatering before leafing out is the biggest cause of tree failure!  While the trees are dormant, they are using no water, so it is very important to not water them any more than is absolutely necessary to prevent the roots from drying out.

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