Jarrod E. Stephens
The Ashland Beacon
Farming isn’t all about planting annuals, plants that live and bear during only one gardening season. Growing can also incorporate the planting of fruit trees which can bear for many years once they are well-established. If you’ve been to any farm stores or home improvement stores you have likely seen a plethora of fruit trees for sale. Before you buy any fruit trees, there are a few details that you should consider after you decide which types of fruit you hope to grow.
The first detail lies in knowing how much space you are willing or able to devote to the trees. Yes, I said trees. Most fruit trees, not all, require a pollinator which means you have to plant more than one. Tree nurseries that provide the trees have made much of the work easier for the buyer by putting most of the pertinent information on the tree’s tags. Read the tags carefully to determine the mature height and recommended spacing for the trees before you make the purchase. It’s equally important to determine the correct pollinator for each tree so that fruit production can be optimal once the trees mature.
There are dozens of varieties of trees that can make an impact on food supply in as little as 7-9 years. Dwarf varieties of apple trees reach a height of 8-10 feet. Semi-dwarf varieties grow up to 12-15 feet in height and typically begin producing fruit a few years later than dwarf varieties.
It’s important to plant fruit trees where they can receive full sun and have plenty of room for the development of the crown of the tree. Of course, if you live in an area that may have underground utility lines you should call 811 to have the area inspected so that you can avoid any issues. The diameter of the hole should be about two times the size of the root wad in the container and deep enough so that the base of the tree is not below the surface. A good practice is to dig the hole a few inches deeper than necessary and then backfill the hole with loose soil or compost so that the roots can spread freely. Backfill the hole completely, but don’t tamp the soil tightly.
After planting the tree, you should establish a plan to keep it well-watered for the first several weeks. A trick that I use each time I plant a new tree is to place some large gravels in the hole, just above the root ball, and place a piece of 1” waterline on top of the gravel and fill the dirt around it. The waterline should be above ground level when you completely fill the hole. When you pour water into the waterline it will go directly into the roots and the gravels will keep the pipe from being clogged with soil. Put mulch over the fresh soil to keep it moist, but don’t pile the mulch around the tree’s trunk.
If you already have established fruit trees on your property you can enhance their production by applying fertilize around the tree. Scattering granular fertilized around the tree in early spring will allow the roots to absorb it as it soaks into the soil after a rain. Do be aware that the fertilize is going to affect the growth of all the plants in the area, including your grass. If sprouts emerge near the base or along the trunk, they should be clipped so that they don’t rob the tree of its nutrients.
The entire season of spring is a prime time to plant fruit trees in our region. Choose trees that are green and vibrant and that are uniform in shape. Don’t expect fruit from your trees during the first season of growth. In fact, production can take several. Once you are able to pick fruit from your own trees to enjoy, you’ll agree that the wait is well worth it. So, if you are wanting to make some long-term and tasty improvements to your landscape, adding fruit trees is a great way to begin.