Right now it is pretty common to drive by feed stores or garden centers and see various fruit trees outside. A fruit orchard may be desired for home use while some plant fruit trees to market their fruit crop. Getting the fruit trees started off correctly is important to a successful venture.
One of the first things when deciding on planting fruit trees is to make sure you have enough space to plant the desired trees. Most fruit trees require an area 25 feet by 25 feet while dwarf varieties may require a 12 feet by 12 feet space. Most are planted in full sun and require a well-drained soil.
Fruit trees are best planted in mid-winter to allow time for root development prior to spring growth. Depending on the variety and size of the tree you purchase, some pruning and training may be necessary to give the root system time to get growing. Most trees sold at feed stores and garden centers were grown in nurseries where they are dug and shipped to these stores. In digging these trees, some of the root system is
Select mid-size trees when possible. Larger trees are available as well but realize it is far easier to cut 3-4 foot trees back to 18-24 inches tall than to cut 5-6 foot trees to 18-24 inches. Many people have a hard time cutting these larger trees back. Such strong cutback on these trees is necessary to remove apical dominance. Apical dominance is putting the top of the tree in balance with the reduced root system.
When planting the tree, replace the soil around the tree up to the same depth that the tree grew in at the nursery. Be sure the tree does not settle too deep as well. It may require removing competition such as grass and weeds near the base of the tree to insure the root system get all the nutrients needed get off to a good start. Grass and weeds can rob our trees of much needed nutrients.
Determine which training system you will need for the tree species planted. The open center pruning system is best suited for stone fruit trees. Since most fruit trees bear fruit on wood that grew the previous year, this wood is regrown from year to year. New growth needs full light or it will shade out and die with all the production occurring on the outer perimeter of the tree. Light pruning can be done any time of the year. However, perform major pruning only during the dormant season or late winter just before budbreak. Examples of open center pruning systems are peaches and plums to name a few.
The central leader system resembles a Christmas tree shape with a dominant central trunk and an array of scaffold limbs every four to five feet. As with any fruit training system, the goal is to minimize shade and effectively intercept sunlight to manage vigor, minimize disease pressure and produce high quality fruit. Scaffold limbs are strongest when they are trained to a 90ºangle. Examples of a central leader pruning system include apples and pears.
For specific information on various varieties of fruit tree, contact our office at (903) 590-2980. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has a number of variety specific publications that can help get you off to the right start when deciding on a fruit tree variety for your orchard. These publications discuss site selection, varieties, fertilization, pruning and training, and more. For those interested, we also can provide a list of recommended fruit trees for our area.
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