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One of the most rewarding features of any garden are fruit trees. Sweet smelling blossoms in the spring give way to luscious fruits in the summer and fall. Imagine bounties of plump cherries and juicy apples ready for pies and jellies. The health benefits of eating fresh fruit daily are too numerous to count. Plus, you save tons of money by forgoing the expensive fruit aisles in favor of plucking fruit from your own backyard.
The creation of dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees make it possible for anyone to grow fruit even if their yard is no bigger than a postage stamp. If you have the space, consider getting several fruit trees of the same species for better pollination. While most fruit trees can self-pollinate, the bounties will be bigger if you plant several varieties. For example, a “Granny Smith” apple tree produces more fruit if a “Macintosh” apple tree is planted nearby.
Cold hardy fruit trees can be planted in the spring or fall. They are usually available at a nursery as bare root or potted. Either choice is fine, although the bare root tends to be cheaper. It’s best to plant the tree right when you get home so the plant can acclimate faster. Try to choose a day that is overcast when planting. Dig a hole that is twice as deep and wide as the root ball. Add several shovelfuls of organic compost into the hole and then add the tree. Shovel the dirt back around the tree and pack it lightly. Water thoroughly and then pack the soil down again.
Add a nice layer of mulch around the base to stifle pesky weeds and to keep the soil at an even temperature. You may even want to place a small barrier (like chicken wire) around the tree to protect it from curious critters like deer or mice.
Now is the time to practice the fine art of patience. Wait for the tree to establish for a month before adding a well-balanced organic fertilizer (like a 5-5-5 granular or fish emulsion). If you plant in the spring, feed the tree one more time in the fall.
Don’t expect a bounty of fruits in the first year. Most trees from the nursery will bear fruit in the second or third year. If you see blossoms on the tree in the first year, don’t jump for joy just yet. You will need pinch the flowers off so your tree can develop a strong root system in the first growing season.
Nature will come calling as your tree matures. Expect droves of butterflies and bees to congregate as the blooms appear. However, pests of a nefarious nature will try to suck your tree of precious nutrients. At the sign of any infestation, spray with an organic pesticide. One of the best non-toxic insecticides on the market is Kaolin Clay.
Make sure to prune your tree each year in the dormant time. Cut away any dead or diseased branches. The best practice for pruning is to cut away one branch from every fork and space each horizontal branch at least 5 inches apart. Your tree will love the “haircut”, and it will reward your palate with delectable fruits!