Everyone loves a crunch apple or fresh plum, but the taste of fresh fruit is so much better when you know it comes from your own backyard.
However, it can often be difficult, frustrating, and ultimately, time consuming to actually get those fruit trees to grow after planting! Here are 10 tips for planting fruit trees in cold climate and getting you fruit as soon as possible!
Depending on the trees you put in, a safe bet is between 10 and 20 feet between pears, 8 to 10 feet between apples, and 6 to 8 feet between plums. This spacing allows enough space for them to grow without their roots interfering with each other.
Some fruit trees are self-pollinating while others require a mix of bees, butterflies, wind, and spores to start producing fruits. Check out our store selection to learn about what plants work best in cold weather areas so you can get the most fruit possible from your garden! Most people I talk to don't even know we can grow plums like mad here in Maine. Picking the right variety is one of the most important parts.
Some fruit trees grow best at specific times of the year, whether that be early spring, late summer, or somewhere in between. In northern climates, planting in the spring is optimal. Warmer growing zones do just fine putting their trees in during the fall; however, our falls can drag on until December, like 2015, or they can blow in early (like October 2014) and kill any chance of your tree growing. Our article, 4 Secrets to Growing Peaches in Cold Climates, has specifics on this tree killer issue.
#4 Dig the Hole
It sounds easy, dig a hole, right? But planting trees involves more than just digging a hole in the ground. You must ensure that the hole is wide enough so the roots don’t get bent and tall enough to cover the entire root system. On a fruit tree that is grafted, you don't want to cover the graft union, either. A hole must be wide enough, too, for all the roots to expand and reach for water and nutrients..
#5 Plant it
Gently place your tree roots into the hold and spread them out evenly. Hold the tree straight. It never hurts to have a second set of hands and eyes to help you get the tree in correctly. Cover with soil to fill the hole and cover the roots. Step firmly on the soil around the tree to ensure a good hold on the roots, but don't damage them or tamp down heavily.
#6 Fertilizer and Soil
To grow the strongest and healthiest tree in your area, don't use fertilizers. If you start with them, your trees will come to depend on them. BUT, we do recommend kelp meal and your own compost in the tree hole. These are slow release and help create healthy soil by feeding the soil biology versus the man-made petroleum based fertilizers which become a crutch needed by your tree.
#7 Mulch the tree
After back filling the dirt you dug for the hole, feeding it with compost and kelp meal, mulch your tree. We highly recommend wood chip mulching as it suppresses weeds, feeds soil biology and maintains the water levels in the ground.
If you live in a windy area, are planting dwarf trees, or have had issues with trees not rooting deeply, stake your newly planted tree. This is the best time to stake so you don't disturb essential roots and the earth is loose as well. Keep the stakes at a reasonable distance and make sure the pressure is evenly applied across the trunk so it doesn’t get bent.
Avoid overwatering! I'll say that again! Avoid overwatering! Unless you are in a drought area, avoid watering your trees. If you plant in the spring, there should be enough natural water in the soils within cold climate growing zones to feed your tree. The only time we water our trees is the day we plant them. After planting, soak well. We want to thoroughly soak the mulch and dirt to get the tree started. When you water, trees keep their roots shallow and tend to be more susceptible to drought and uprooting. Just to note that if you are in a long term drought, water no more than once a week for the first year only. Water with a 5 gallon bucket and drench soils well. This is only necessary if the soils are very dry, very deep.
#10 Pests and Disease
To prevent pest and disease problems, pick hardy varieties for your area. Seek out varieties with good resistance, most nurseries will post this on their trees or share this information with you. If you live in a cold climate, avoid big box store trees. They are usually buying them from Tennessee and warmer zones, really. It's the tree growing capital of the US, but their diseases and pests are different there. There are some very good nurseries that grow in zone 5 or colder, providing you with healthy and resistant trees that will live for many years.
With these 10 Must Know Tips to Planting Fruit Trees in Cold Climates, you have the basic knowledge to put your trees in the ground, this spring! How many trees are you planning on planting this spring?