How and when to plant fruit trees

Consider location, access and also the rate of growth of intended fruit tree (Photo: WTML / Judith Parry)
Consider location, access and also the rate of growth of intended fruit tree (Photo: WTML / Judith Parry)

There are many different types of fruit tree that you can grow in your garden, coming in many different shapes and sizes and producing a variety of fruits including apples, pears and plums. It is important to choose one that is best for you and your garden. When choosing the right fruit tree, you may want to consider the following: how much shade the tree will provide, what wildlife it may bring to your garden, how fast growing it is, and what you will do with all the fruit!

Choosing which tree

Apple trees are a popular choice and there are a range of varieties to choose from. Most apple trees will require you to plant more than one tree so that they can cross-pollinate. However, if you are short on space there are some self-fertile varieties, such as the crab apple and Red Falstaff that don't need another tree.

The native crab apple produces a good crop and can attract wildlife to your garden. The leaves provide a source of food for caterpillars and the flowers attract insects and bees, for their pollen and nectar. Birds, such as blackbirds and thrushes, and mammals including voles, foxes and badgers, eat the fruit.

Another native fruit tree is the blackthorn, which produces sloes. These bluish-black berries will attract birds into your garden looking for a tasty snack. Blackthorn is a hardy plant which copes well in exposed sites making it a good windbreak.

Most apple trees require a partnering tree, to aid cross-pollination (Photo: WTML / Nature Photographers Ltd)
Most apple trees require a partnering tree, to aid cross-pollination (Photo: WTML / Nature Photographers Ltd)

When to plant fruit trees

Once you have chosen a fruit tree, it is important to consider the best time of year to plant. Generally, this is December to March; however it can be done up until May. It is best to plant after leaf fall for deciduous trees. The right moment to plant within this time period will depend on the weather and soil conditions. For example it is best to plant blackthorn in March/April and crab apple in spring/summer as neither will do well in waterlogged soil.

Where to plant your fruit trees

When choosing a location it is important to think about the amount of sunlight, how exposed the area is, the type of soil and how dry or wet it is, and the size and shape of the tree when it is fully grown. Crab apple trees are adaptable but do best in full sun and well-draining soil. Blackthorn can be grown as a bush or a hedge and copes well in exposed areas.

More advice on tree planting and care.

Choosing, location and aftercare tips

Ensure the trunk is protected from inquisitive rabbits, cats and dogs (Photo: WTML / Katherine Jaiteh)
Ensure the trunk is protected from inquisitive rabbits, cats and dogs (Photo: WTML / Katherine Jaiteh)

How to plant a blackthorn hedge

  1. Prepare the soil. This is done by removing all weeds and by digging over a strip 60-90cm (23-35in) wide and roughly a spade blade deep.
  2. Trim any damaged roots.
  3. Place plants in a row at a spacing of around 20cm (8in) – although this varies with the size of the plant at the time of planting.
  4. Ensure that the planting depth is correct by spreading the roots and checking that the point where they flare out from the stem is level with the soil.
  5. Fill with soil and gently firm down, ensuring that there is soil between the roots and water if soil is dry.

How to protect and look after your fruit trees

Newly planted trees should have a guard to protect the trunk from rabbits, cats and dogs. It is also important to water the tree during dry spells throughout the growing season (April to mid-September) but make sure that the soil does not become waterlogged. During this growing season note the colour of the leaves on the tree. If they are a dark green colour then the tree is doing well.

So, if you fancy having some homegrown fruit, you now know how to go about it! Head over to the Woodland Trust shop where you can find crab apple, blackthorn and many other trees.

More advice on tree planting and care.

Choosing, location and aftercare tips