How and when to plant fruit trees
You can grow many types of fruit tree in your garden, with different shapes and sizes and a variety of fruits including apples, pears and plums. It's important to choose what's best for you and your garden. Here are some tips.
Choosing which tree
When choosing your fruit tree, you may want to consider:
- how much shade the tree will provide
- what wildlife it may bring to your garden
- how fast growing it is
- what you will do with all the fruit!
Apple trees are a popular choice and there are a range of varieties to pick from. Most apple trees will require you to plant more than one tree so that they can cross-pollinate. If you're short on space though, there are some self-fertile varieties that don't need another tree, such as the crab apple and Red Falstaff .
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 to their pollen and nectar. Birds and mammals eat the fruit, including blackbirds, thrushes, voles, foxes and badgers.
Another native fruit tree is the blackthorn, which produces sloes. These bluish-black berries will attract birds to your garden looking for a tasty snack. Blackthorn is a hardy plant which copes well in exposed sites making it a good windbreak.
Credit: WTML / Judith Parry
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, but can be done until May.
It's best to plant after leaf fall for deciduous trees. The right moment to plant in this time period will depend on the weather and soil conditions. For example, it's best to plant blackthorn in March or April, and crab apple in spring or summer as neither will do well in waterlogged soil.
Where to plant your fruit trees
When choosing a location it's important to think about:
- the amount of sunlight
- how exposed the area is
- soil type and how dry or wet it is
- 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.
Credit: Ben Lee/WTML
How to plant a blackthorn hedge
- Prepare the soil by removing all weeds and digging over a strip 60-90cm (23-35in) wide and roughly a spade blade deep.
- Trim any damaged roots.
- 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.
- Make sure 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.
- Fill with soil and gently firm down, ensuring 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's also important to water the tree during dry spells throughout the growing season (April to mid-September), but make sure that the soil doesn't 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.
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