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Planting Fruit Trees and How to Prune Fruit Trees - with Pictures

Planting Fruit Trees? Learn how to grow fruit trees and see how to prune fruit trees for the first 4 years to get maximum fruit. We tell you where and how to plant your trees and the ideal growing conditions. See our other sections on pests and diseases of fruit trees , and garden pests and photos for identification.

What would summer be without those delicious summer-kissed fruits? The apples, pears, peaches, plums and cherries are all deciduous fruits that make delicious ciders, wines, moonshine, jams, chutneys and preserves. So how do we plant these fruit trees to ensure success?

First of all you need to have the right climate, soil and plant fruit trees in the right position. Deciduous fruit trees do well in cool temperate climates that should not be gown in late frost areas, as frosts in the spring can kill your saplings quicker than you can imagine. If you live on the coast, your fruit trees could be susceptible to fruit flies which are deadly for your crop. It would be best here to make sure that you plant early-maturing varieties to help avoid this problem.

Planting Fruit Trees: Where to Plant

When planting your saplings out make sure that they are in a spot where they get full sun and have good drainage. Don't plant them too close to each other or to other trees so that they get good air-circulation. Fruit trees aren't that fussy when it comes to soil. However, if you prepare the holes first with some well-rotted compost and farmyard manure and a handful of blood and bone, your plants will thank you later on.

Planting Fruit Trees: When to Plant

Plant your deciduous fruit trees in winter, when they are in their dormant stage. The trees can either be bought bare-rooted or as potted plants. If you buy bare-rooted trees just make sure that you keep the sacking wet and don't allow the roots to dry out.

Dig a hole large enough to take the roots comfortably. I once got my husband to dig a hole for an oak tree sapling 1m x 1m x 1m, which was we discovered afterwards, was far in excess of the space that it needed. But I tell you! That little oak tree never looked back!

When you place the tree into the hole spread the roots out in a natural way. Make sure that the hole isn't too deep so that the tree disappears into the abyss. The soil line should come just below that of the nursery soil line, keeping the bud union well above the soil line.

Back-fill the hole and firm the tree in by firmly pressing the soil down around the tree with your foot. Fill up with some more topsoil and water in well. To keep the moisture in the soil mulch around the tree with either some bark, or some compost. Do not place this against the trunk, but a couple of inches away, so as not to encourage disease.

Planting Fruit Trees: Ideal Growing Conditions

Fruit trees are great nitrogen feeders and is the element most needed by your trees. I don't like using chemical fertilizers. I usually apply either diluted nettle tea (1:10), which has been steeped in a bucket for about a month, commercial seaweed applications or diluted urine (1:10).

The nitrogen can be applied when needed and annually in late winter and early spring. A surface mulch of compost, old grass clippings and rotten animal manure will also help.

Pruning your Fruit Trees: Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Prune

Image showing where to pruning a fruit tree in year 1 Planting Fruit Trees: How to Prune a One Year Old Fruit Tree

After planting, you need to know how to prune your fruit trees. Cut back the young tree to about 80 cm high to encourage the development of three main limbs. A vase shape is best for most deciduous trees. Prune trees hard for the first few years to make a sturdy framework and to shape the tree.

A one year old tree with no side shoots tree should be pruned to a bud with two buds below it at about 80 cm from the ground immediately after planting to produce primary branches during the first growing season.

A one year old tree with several side branches should have its main stem pruned back to three or four strong shoots at 80 cm from the ground. Side shoots should be shortened by two thirds of their length to an upward or outward facing bud. Lower shoots should be removed flush with the stem.

During winter remove the shoots that are growing inward. This allows for the sunlight to enter the center of the tree and helps to encourage flowers and fruit. 

Image showing where to pruning a fruit tree in year 2
Planting Fruit Trees: How to Prune a Two Year Old Fruit Tree

When planting fruit trees that have grown for 2 years, remove any lower shoots and prune between three and five of the best placed shoots by half to an upwards or outwards facing bud to form what will become the tree's main structural branches.

Remove any inwards facing shoots.

Image showing where to pruning a fruit tree in year 3

Planting Fruit Trees: How to Prune a Three Year Old Fruit Tree

When planting fruit trees that have grown for 3 years you will need to prune the leading shoots of branches selected to extend the framework by half to a bud facing in the desired direction. 

Select four good laterals to fill the framework and shorten these by a half. Prune any remaining laterals to four buds to form fruiting spurs.
Image showing where to pruning a fruit tree in year 4

Planting Fruit Trees: How to Prune a Four Year Old Fruit Tree

The tree will have begun to fruit and only limited formative pruning is now required. Shorten leaders by one third and prune laterals not required to extend the framework to four buds.

When the fruit trees are fully grown it is important to remove all dead and diseased wood. Prune all deciduous fruit trees, except for cherries, in winter. Cherries, on the other hand, should only be pruned in spring just before they start getting their first leaves.

I don't have time to go into details here, but different kinds of fruit trees bear their fruit in different ways. Therefore it is important to know this before you go pruning your trees.

Distances Apart to Plant Fruit Trees

Different fruit trees have different shapes and spreading capabilities, and therefore you will need to take this into consideration when planning your fruit orchards.

You will also have take into consideration certain varieties and whether you are planting dwarf fruit trees or standard fruit trees.

Fruit Tree Distance in Feet
Apple, Standard 35 - 40
Apple, Dwarf on Doucin Stock 15-25
Apple, Dwarf on Paradise Stock 10-12
Apricot 4x6, 6x8
Cherry Duke 25-30
Cherry Sour 15-20
Cherry Sweet 30-40
Fig 20-25
Grapefruit 25-30
Lemon 25-30
Loquat 15-25
Mulberry 25-35
Nectarine 20
Orange, Dwarf 10-15
Orange , Standard 25-30
Peach 20
Pear, Dwarf 10-15
Pear, Standard 25-30
Persimmon, Japanese 20-25
Persimmon, American 25-30
Plum 20
Quince 10-15

Recommended Fruit Tree Varieties

Fruit Tree Variety
Apples Benoni, Blenheim, Chenango, Cortland, Delicious, Early Harvest, Early Mackintosh, Esopus Spitzenberg, Fall Pippen, Fameuse, Golden Delicious, Golden Russet, Gravenstein, Grimes Golden, Hubbardston, Jonathan, Mackintosh, Northern Spy, Peck Pleasant, Porter, Primate, Rambo, Roxbury Russet, St. Lawrence, Shiawassee, Williams, Winesap.
Apricots Alexander, Alexis, Blenheim, Budd, Early Golden, Harris, Montgamet, Moorpark, Peach, Royal, St. Ambroise.
Cherry, Duke Late Duke, Louis Philippe, Magnifique, May Duke, Olivet, Royal Duke, Reine Hortense.
Cherry, Sour Dyehouse, Early Richmond, English Morello, Large Montmorency, Ostheim, Wragg.
Cherry, Sweet Bing, Black Tartarian, Burbank, Napoleon, Lambert, Govenor Wood, Schmidt, Windsor, Yellow Spanish.
Crab Apple Excelsior, General Grant, Hyslop, Martha, Transcendent, Whitney.
Nectarine Boston, Downton, Early Newington, Early Rivers, Early Violet, Elruge, Hardwicke, Humboldt, Hunter, Newton, Pitmaston Orange, Stanwick, Victoria.
Peach Belle, Carman, Chairs, Champion, Early Crawford, Fitzgerald, Foster, Frances, Greensboro, Hiley, Late Crawford, Morris White, Niagara, Oldmixon Cling, Oldmixon Free, Ray, Rochester, Salwey, Stock, Stump, Waddell, Yellow St. John.
Pear Anjou, Beurre Superfine, Clapp, Comice, Madeline, Josephine de Malines, Osband, Pound, Tyson, White Doyenne.
Plum, American Desoto, Downing, Hammer, Hawkeye, Miner, Stoddard, Surprise, Terry Wayland, Weaver.
Plum, European Bavay, Golden Drop, Imperial Gage, Italian Prune, Jefferson, Middleburg, Mirabelle, Pearl, Peters, Reine Claude, Shropshire, Tragedy, Washington, Yellow Egg.


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How to Prune and Feed Neglected Pear Trees 
Just moved into new home and found we have an old pear tree. It looks awful. How do we care for it? It also looks as if it has never been pruned. …

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This information is very helpful for cultivating and pruning apples.

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I have and apricot growing proble. I have an apricot tree, which blossomes at summer time(not spring) , then i see a few apricots. It is about min. 5 ys. …

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