How to Plant a Fruit Tree

This tutorial will teach you how to plant a fruit tree.

Spring is almost here, so now’s the time to head to a reputable nursery. My trees cost $40-$50 each. The health of the tree and the reputation of the nursery takes precedence over hunting for a bargain. You won’t want to invest time, money, and effort into a tree that is not healthy.

You may choose to buy from a local nursery rather than ordering online. The trees are not necessarily better at local nurseries but I like to support local businesses if I can. I also like to buy from local nurseries rather than a big box store chain.  

February is a good month to purchase and plant fruit trees.

Nectarine branch with buds in front of hand
February is a good time to plant fruit trees. This tree is waking up!

The best time to plant a fruit tree is while it is dormant. A dormant tree won’t look like much is happening but that’s good: it’s “sleeping”. If you can transplant it while it’s dormant, then when it “wakes up”, it will resume what it was doing before it went to sleep. This nectarine tree is a good example of what a tree looks like during an ideal time to transplant. But, first, you will need to think about the bed your will give it for its new home!

The bed must be in a friendly place that is suitable for the type of tree you are planting.

Do your research and follow the suggestions. Some questions you may ask as you plan the perfect location for your tree.

  1. Is it cold hardy? Shield a tender tree by planting it near a wind block or the south side of your home.
  2. Does it need full sun? Check the nearby trees. Shade will affect the amount of fruit the tree will bear.
  3. What is the best soil ph level for this type of tree? You will want to purchase amendments before planting.
  4. How deep should you plant the tree? Too deep can cause rot, too shallow will cause shock to the roots and they will dry out.
  5. Can you easily water and maintain the tree in this location?
  6. Check for nearby septic lines and drain fields. Your tree will love them and so will that septic tank guy when he hands you the bill!  In other words, plant far from the septic!
  7. Think about the fruit tree’s future. Can you protect it from pests, animals, disease? Plant in a location where you can be mindful of this for the life of the tree.

I recently purchased a mango tree, a  fig tree, and an avocado tree. All three of these trees are considered tropical trees. They are not cold hardy, so they will need to be protected from potential freezing temperatures. My home has a  southeast corner that is warm, gets full sun most of the day, is near the air conditioner/heat pump which gives off heat, is close to a water source, and can be easily maintained as it will be at the end of our porch. The home itself shields that corner from the wind. It’s the most “tropical” spot on our property.

Three years ago, I purchased three nectarine trees, one plum tree, an orange tree, and a grapefruit tree. The nectarine and plum trees like cold weather and reward the chilly winter nights with fruit by late Spring. They are planted in the open, however, one of the nectarine trees gets shade for a few hours. Last year, the first time I had fruit on the trees, the shaded tree had very few nectarines compared to its nearby sisters. Time will tell if the shade is what is holding this tree back from bearing fruit!

The citrus trees are not as cold hardy, but I planted them in the open anyway. A hard freeze could kill them. But, the location warms up quickly with the morning sun comes up.

How to Plant Your Young Fruit Tree

You will want to block out 30-45 minutes for each tree for your planting project. I hope you also purchased an organically approved fertilizer too.

  1. Dig a hole a few inches deeper than the depth of the root ball.
  2. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole.
  3. Add a few inches of well-rotted compost.
  4. Stir in the appropriate fertilizer for your type of tree. Follow instructions. More is NOT better.
  5. Use a hand rake to gently break some of the root system free from the tight ball it may have formed in the pot. Try to free the roots without breaking them. It’s not necessary to free all of them, just the outermost layer.
  6. Set down into the amended soil.
  7. If you purchased soil for the tree, this is when to use it. OR
  8. Mix compost with the soil that was already there.
  9. Fill in the “new” soil around the roots, piling up a couple inches higher than the surrounding soil. It will settle down in a few days.
  10. Water thoroughly.
  11. Set your calendar to remind you to water at least every other day for two weeks.
  12. After the initial 2 weeks, water at least 2 inches per week. If your soil is sandy, water more frequently.
  13. Fertilize in 4 weeks.
  14. Follow the frequency instructions for your particular fertilizer and put those dates on a calendar reminder.

If you are planning on using harvested fertilizer, please take time to research to see if that type of compost will need to be balanced with another element for good fruit production. I have to research too, but I have to admit that I often go by observation before purchasing the amendment. I use a rotation of fertilizers and products with good bacteria for both the leaves and branches as well as the soil. When it’s time, I’ll remind you to spray your trees.

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