By April 14, 2012 Read More →

How to Plant Fruit Trees

If you have a yard and are looking into beautifying it with some trees, why not plant fruit trees?  They provide shade, look pretty (apple and cherry trees have wonderful blossoms on them every spring) and they give something back to you each summer or fall.  When we decided to put in fruit trees, my friends asked why?  Their main concern was that I would then ‘have to do something’ with the fruit every fall.  This is how lazy we have become, when people avoid putting in fruit trees because they don’t want to ‘have’ to do anything with the fruit!


Bare root tree that has been pruned, 3 weeks later

Even if you do nothing with those fruit trees, they are a small insurance policy.  If we are ever faced with a long term emergency or hard times, those trees will be there giving you food when maybe nothing else is.  You can always put an ad on Craig’s List and give your tree’s fruit away.  There are plenty of people who would be willing to come and pick it, that way you won’t have to ‘do anything’ with the fruit but you would still have the trees just in case.  There are also gleaning clubs that you can contact, that will come and clear off all the fruit when it is ready, some clubs even donate to local food banks.  Of course, ideally you would want to learn how to preserve your fruit and not let it go to waste.  This can be done through canning, freezing, drying, wine making, and through jams and jellies (click here for a recipe and instructions on making easy jams and jellies).  But first, you have to start with the tree!

When to Plant
Fruit trees can be planted in early spring as soon as the frost in the ground has thawed.  If your soil is waterlogged, wait until it drains to plant.  You can also plant in the fall, but winter temperatures may damage young stock if you live in colder climates.

Bare-Root or Potted
Bare-root nursery stock is usually less expensive but it will still establish and grow well, if planted in April or early May.  If you must store the trees a short time before planting, keep them in a cool, shady place where they will be out of the sun and wind.  Pack the roots in moist sawdust or moss to prevent them from drying out. Potted or ball-and-burlap trees are preferable for planting dates in late May or early June, and are usually more expensive than bare root trees.

Potted Tree

Choosing a Site
Pick a site with direct sunlight, preferable with southern exposer.  It’s also important to read the tag and do a little research to find out just how big your tree will get.  Allow enough room for future growth between your tree and other buildings, avoid power lines and give other future trees space if you are planting more than one or want to plant additional trees in the future. 

Site Prep
Set your tree in a bucket of water to soak while you dig the hole. Cut through the sod with a shovel and make a hole big enough for the root ball so the roots don’t touch the edge of the hole anywhere. If you are planting your fruit trees in your lawn, set the chunks of sod aside so you can reapply them to the surface around the tree when you are done.  Next, water the hole so the ground is nice and damp for the tree if your soil is on the dry side. 

Trim off any broken or dead sections of the tree’s roots, also take this opportunity to prune your little tree, this may seem harsh as you haven’t even planted it yet but it will often shock the tree into growing more aggressively, increasing it’s chances of surviving the transplant.

When planting the tree, if you are concerned about poor soil, you can mix in some compost or peat moss at this time, but avoid fertilizer as it may damage the roots which are already in shock.  If your tree has a ‘graph union’ (a point where they joined a branch to the rootstock – this will look like slight to sharp bend in the trunk, see above graphic) bury it so that the soil line is 2-3 inches below the union.  If you have a dwarf or semi-dwarf trees and you bury the union, the tree will become a full sized tree.  Position your tree in the hole so that one higher branch is facing south, this branch will give your tree shade during long hot days.  Fill the hole with your soil of choice and compact it by gently stamping your feet around the base of the tree, reapply your sod if desired then water your tree with 2 full 5 gallon buckets of water pouring slowly so that it does not run off.  Also consider staking or caging your new tree not only for support but also for protection against animals and for visibility.

Fertilizer and Water
After several weeks it should be okay to apply some fertilizer, although in some areas it is recommended you wait till the next growing season, check with your local county extension office for their advice on your area (click here for a general fact sheet on fertilizing fruit trees).  Watering your new tree is also important to help get it started, especially in the first few weeks after planting.  Try to apply five gallons of water around the base of the tree every week of the growing season in which there is less than an inch of rainfall.

Be patient and keep in mind, depending on the size of your newly planted tree, it may take several years for it to start producing fruit.


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About the Author:

Stephanie is a writer for the American Preppers Network, a small local paper and for her blog, The Home Front and was featured in Marie Claire UK in the October 2012 issue that featured women preppers. She is also the credited writer of "Emergency Bag Essentials (Swatchbook): Everything You Need to Bug Out" released in August 2014 and available on "I write articles based on my own experience with emergency preparedness, self-sufficiency, homesteading, food preservation and life around the farmstead. I grew up in a very rural area where I learned to garden, the art of canning, to hunt and fish, and to raise my own animals for food. I also spent 6 years volunteering for the local county Search and Rescue group where I learned a variety of survival skills and a little bit about law enforcement protocol. " "As a general rule of principle I do not write articles about information that I have only read - if I am writing about something it's because I have done it myself and gone to great lengths to provide you with the facts meshed with personal experience. My alter egos are as an full time mom, amateur photographer, and backpacker." Stephanie's past APN articles are featured below on several pages. To connect with her --> click on one of the many little square social media buttons below!

10 Comments on "How to Plant Fruit Trees"

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  1. Chris Watson says:

    Good article and nice pics. I started some apple trees last year with a 2/3 attrition rate. Hopefully we will do better this year. I plan to espalier them.

  2. Keith Simkins says:

    We have found out by accident i might add that putting a hand full of rusty nails in the hole when you plant fruit trees that they will really take off and grow. Just thought I would put this out there.

  3. Congress Works For Us says:

    A note on grafted trees if you have the union only 2-3 inches above the soil line. Make sure you strip out any grass & weeds within a couple of feet radius around the tree and MULCH WELL. If you don’t, over time the grass & weeks will decay and/or create thatch high enough that will eventually cause the tree above the union to root which will change the tree (dwarf tree will become full sized). Make sure the mulch doesn’t actually touch the trunk (same issue!).

    Otherwise, great piece. Can’t recommend fruit trees (and small fruit vines) enough. Not to mention that the fruit is far better for you (and cheaper!) than anything you can buy in a store.

  4. Good note! My first photo is a poor example (its a great example of me being too lazy to weed eat around the tree) but you are correct. Though the first picture is of a full size tree with no graph – its good to trim up around them either way.

  5. Thomas Kemmett says:

    The problem I have is choosing which tree to plant.

  6. We have lots of hazlenuts, oak, birch, popple, chokecherries, I would like some apple trees. Not many grow well in northern Minnesota, only the smaller apples and crab apples.

  7. Lisa, I planted Honeycrisp and Sweet Sixteen, they’re doing really well. I’m on the edge of zone 3 and 4. I’m hoping they’re big enough to fruit this year :)

  8. Oh, that is so awesome. I will try a couple this year to see how they do. Flowering friut trees are so beautiful.

  9. Oh, that is so awesome. I will try a couple this year to see how they do. Flowering friut trees are so beautiful.

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