Here’s what every gardener needs to know before taking on the task of planting and caring for your own fruit trees.

Tips to grow fruit trees at home

Tally Up Your Space

Useful Tips for Growing Fruit Trees at Home
Photo: The Spruce

First, you'll need to figure out how much space you have. If you have a large yard, you can go with classic orchard trees -- like apples, peaches, and pears (plan to plant these at least 8 feet apart). If you don't have a big property, then think about dwarf trees -- like the citrus ones in this picture -- which take up less space in your yard and can thrive in pots (or consider berry bushes to provide a homegrown fruit fix).

Pollination

Unless you are growing fruit trees strictly for their pretty flowers, you will want to plant your garden while keeping in mind the need to draw in as many birds, bees, and other pollinators as possible for success. You could choose a few fruit trees that self-pollinate, but that is really going to limit your selections. Self-pollinating fruit trees include peach, citrus, and nectarine trees. Trees that need a buddy or two in order to produce fruit include apples, pears, and plums.

Planting time for fruit trees

No matter which fruit trees you are planning to cultivate, knowing the proper planting time is essential. If you plant certain fruit trees too close to the winter time, you risk a frost killing it before it has a chance to establish itself. If you plant certain fruit trees too close to the summer, you chance that the developing roots may not have a chance to soak up enough water that is critical to their growth and development.

Mulch & fertilize – carefully

Like pruning, mulching and feeding your fruit trees will keep them healthy and productive. Mulch your trees after planting and every spring and fall thereafter, taking care to leave room right around the base of the trunk. (Mulch piled high around the base of the tree can lead to rot). Feed your trees with a high-quality fertilizer throughout the growing season to encourage strong roots, a lush canopy and an abundant harvest.

Prune correctly

Useful Tips for Growing Fruit Trees at Home
Photo: Storey Publishing

Proper pruning is a must for a productive, happy fruit tree. Pruning your trees can give their leaves better access to light, keep messy growth to a minimum and help them set bigger, juicier fruit. Remove dead wood, and thin out branches that cross each other. Every species of tree is different, so read up on when and how to prune your tree for best results.

Give young trees extra TLC

The day you bring your tree home and plant it in your garden is the most critical time in the tree’s life, and it’s important to provide proper care until it becomes fully established. “Proper care from the start is really important,” said Dinslage. “The care you give your tree during its first few years will affect its shape, strength, yield and even lifespan.” To give your tree the best possible start, keep it well-watered, and offer extra protection from pests and inclement weather.

Additional care for each type of fruit tree

Every variety of fruit tree comes along with its own care needs and instructions. You will need to pay attention to your tree throughout its lifespan by watering, fertilizing, trimming, pruning, protecting it from pests and disease, and performing other maintenance tasks. Pay close attention to the specific needs of each type of tree (or plant) that you decide to grow. If you give each tree in your garden a lot of love, you will get a lot of love back in return—in the form of a harvest of delicious fruit to keep your fridge and fruit bowl stocked all year long.

Apples

Useful Tips for Growing Fruit Trees at Home
Photo: Longan Tree Experts

Crisp, juicy apples may just be the best fruit the northern climates have going for them: Because the plants need a dormant season in order to thrive, consider apple trees your reward for rainy and snowy winters. Though apples will grow from seed as Mother Nature intended, there isn't a reliable way to know exactly what kind you'll end up with after the cross-pollination. If you want to grow a certain type, you'll need to buy a starter plant that is grafted or budded from an established version.

Pears

Juicy, fleshy pears have a lot in common with apples -- a core of small seeds, a four-year waiting period before new trees will create fruit -- so if your climate is good for apples, your pears should thrive, too. According to How Stuff Works, a pear tree that's 25 years old could give you up to 2,250 pounds of fruit each year -- so you'll want to have a good recipe at the ready.

Oranges

Sweet orange sunbursts explode in your yard against glossy dark green foliage when you plant oranges, one of the prettiest fruit trees you can grow. Like all the other citrus fruit favorites, oranges love warm climates, lots of sunlight exposure, and climates that experience no frosts. Citrus trees can be grown in a slightly cooler climate as long as you have the room to move them indoors or to a greenhouse during the winter so they don’t have to endure the frost outdoors. Considering the beautiful contrast of colors that orange trees provide and their ability to produce blooms all year long, making the move isn’t too much of an imposition for gardeners who love them.

Cherries

Useful Tips for Growing Fruit Trees at Home
Photo: The Home Depot

Even Cherry trees that aren't pollinated produce some of spring's most beautiful blooms -- but if you want to harvest your own sweet red cherries, you'll need to plant two varieties near each other. (Sour cherries can self-pollinate, so if you're a piemaker, you're in luck.) Cherries thrive in the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s zones 5-8 (think of a band that starts in Washington state, curves down and across the U.S. through Iowa, and rises up into Pennsylvania while encompassing the Southern states) but you'll need abundant sunshine and soil that drains well.

Plums

When it comes to versatility, plums give apples a run for their money. For a fruit tree, they’re surprisingly hardy. They’re less prone to diseases than others, they don’t grow as rampantly as peaches, and they need less water than many other fruit trees.

Choose from a Japanese plum, such as the well-known Santa Rosa, for USDA zones 4 through 9; a European plum, such as Stanley, especially if you live in an area with late and rainy springs or in zones 3 through 9; or a hardy hybrid for the coldest climates. Japanese plums may also need a second tree for pollinating.

Plums may be relatively easy, but they still need some care. This includes fertilizing, pruning and dealing with birds’ stealing the crops. They also can take up to five years before they start producing fruit.

Tips

No matter what kind of tree you decide to plant, there are a few more things to keep in mind: Check with your local nursery to find out the best time to plant them in your region (too close to winter and you risk a frost killing it; too close to the summer and some plants won't be able to soak up enough water). And remember that you most likely won't get store-bought quality fruit without paying attention to fertilization, watering your plants, and protecting them from bugs. But in the end, you'll have bushels of delicious, homegrown fruit.

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