Grow Fruit in Your Backyard

Gardening, Home & Family, Outdoors
on April 7, 2002

Growing your own fruit is truly satisfying, not only because its so fresh, but because you can grow varieties youll rarely find in a store. These may not ship or store well but have a taste beyond compare.

All you need is a sunny spot (6-8 hours of full sun a day) and well-drained soil.

If your tree arrived by mail with bare roots, soak the roots immediately for several hours. Then cut back any roots more than a foot long, along with any root tips that seem rotted or damaged. In selecting a nursery tree with a root ball, look for one 4 to 5 feet tall. These cost less than larger trees, and will grow faster.

Select three to five healthy branches to become the main limbs. Each should face in a different direction, with good vertical spacing between them. Cut each one back by a third its length, so it ends at an outward facing bud (to help the limb grow out, not up, for greater strength). Cut any weak branches off at the trunk, and cut off the top of the trunk just above the highest branch.

A simple soil test kit available at most garden centers will show the pH

and other characteristics of your soil. Fruit trees like a pH of 6 to 8. A little bone meal or rock phosphate aids root development, so add a bit to soil in the hole and around the planting site.

Dig a hole large enough to space out the roots (or accommodate the root ball), while keeping the bud union (that swelling where trunk and rootstock join) at least two inches above ground. To allow for settling, plant the tree an inch or two higher than surrounding ground.

Trees with a burlap root ball can be placed in the hole, with spaces filled in on the sides with water and dirt, leaving no air pockets. With bare root trees, make a mound of soil in the hole bottom, spread the roots out around that, and fill in with soil and water.

Once the hole is filled, spread compost or well-rotted manure atop the bare soil to provide nutrients. Then mulch the planting site with straw or leaves to keep weeds down (wood chips look nice, but in decaying they rob the soil of nitrogen.)

Now just wait a year or so, until the fruit arrives. Youll be glad.