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Main Content
planting fruit trees

Planting Fruit Trees

Fruit Trees

Plant fruit trees in your kitchen garden or backyard orchard and reap the bounty of fresh fruit for years to come. With proper planning and a few tips you should be well on your way to that first jar of apple butter on the pantry shelf.

Where to Plant Fruit Trees:

  • In an area with full sun, at least 6 hours per day
  • With good air circulation
  • Avoid planting next to walls or buildings
  • High ground or a slight slope if possible
  • Near a water supply is always helpful
  • An area with enough room for two or more varieties of each type of fruit tree to ensure cross pollination (choose varieties that have similar bloom times) and room enough for light to hit all sides of trees.

Learn more about attracting backyard pollinators.

What Type of Fruit Trees to Plant

  • Plant what you and your family enjoys eating.
  • Check with your local Ag extension for the best varieties for your area.
  • Plan early, midseason and late varieties to extend harvest times.
  • Choose dwarf trees or semi-dwarf, same large fruits in a lot less space

When to Plant Fruit Trees

  • As early in the spring as the ground can be worked … when a handful of soil crumbles easily in your hand.
  • Store bare-root trees in a cool area that is above freezing until time to plant.

How Far Apart to Plant Fruit Trees

  • Dwarf apple trees, 5-7 feet
  • Semi-dwarf apple trees, 12-18 feet.
  • Peach and Plum trees, 12-18 feet
  • Pear trees, 12-14 feet
  • Cherry trees, 15-18 feet
  • Semi-dwarf cherry trees, 10-12 feet
  • If in doubt, follow the instructions on the fruit tree you buy.

How to Plant Fruit Trees

  • Place the bare-root trees in a bucket or water and let soak for a few hours or overnight.
  • Trim any damaged, frayed or long roots to a few inches to encourage feeder root growth
  • Spread lime (if needed, soil test is helpful) and bone meal (for roots) over total area of mature tree crown. Dwarf — 7-10' diameter, Semi-dwarf — 12-20', and Standard — 18-35'.
  • Dig a good size hole in the center of this area; put back some of the loose top soil in the bottom of the hole.
  • Spread the roots over the soil adjusting the amount so that the trunk will stand above the soil about 2" taller than the old soil mark or graft union.
  • Point the lowest branch (if it has one) toward the southwest to help shade the trunk later as it grows from possible sunscald.
  • Fill in with well balanced friable soil (may need adjusting depending on your area and soil conditions); settle the roots with a little jiggle now and then as you add soil. No need to add fertilizer when you plant.
  • Build a raised ridge around the tree (about 2' diameter) to catch and hold water.
  • Add compost over the basin around the tree then add final layer of mulch, this will help to add some nutrients slowly and keep the weeds down.
  • Water thoroughly to settle the tree in its new home.
  • Water faithfully the first year weekly during dry periods.

How to Prune Fruit Trees

  • If the newly planted tree has branches, choose three or four starting about 2 feet from the soil level. Cut them back to 2-4" at a bud pointing in the direction you want the branch to grow (outward). Make the cut about ¼" from the bud in a slight angle.
  • Cut off the un-chosen branches at the trunk and top the tree just above the highest chosen branch at a slight angle.
  • If the tree is a branchless whip, just cut it at about 3 feet.

Learn how to prune trees.

Staking Fruit Trees

  • Some dwarf fruit trees do well with staking as they tend to bear fruit at a younger age and produce large fruit even though they are small trees. Drive a 10' stake two feet into the ground when trees are planted. Loosely tie to the central leader (trunk) every two feet to help support tree.

Fruit Trees Products

  • Shovels
  • Soil Amendments — compost, peat moss, potting soil, bone meal
  • Garden gloves, hats, boots
  • Hoses
  • Water wand
  • Watering can
  • Buckets