Lawn & Garden
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Whether is a juicy peach or a sweet apple, there are many fruit trees that make a perfect addition to the back yard. In order for them to grow and produce fruit, growers must properly plant and care for the trees. When done correctly, the tree’s bounty is a wonderful reward at the end of the process.
The first step to growing fruit trees is selecting the correct variety for the area in which the tree will be planted. Dani Carroll, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said buying trees from a local nursery that specializes in fruit trees will greatly assist homeowners in this process.
“Local nurseries will have the varieties that grow well in that area,” Carroll said. “Before buying, research the number of chill hours in the area, so you buy a compatible fruit tree. Also check the pollination requirements as some fruits will need a pollinator planted.”
There are many different fruits that can be grown in Alabama. Carroll said some of the easiest (less input required) are blueberries, muscadines, figs, Asian persimmons, hard pears and blackberries. There are even some tropical or citrus fruit trees, including: loquats, lemons, mandarins and satsumas. However, the main contributing factor for these is location.
According to Carroll, now is the time of year for growers to get busy planting their trees.
“A lot of the fruit trees grown in Alabama are planted in the dormant season (now), but can be planted in spring as well,” Carroll said. “However, I recommend planting them before flowering so the trees can start the training process.”
Carroll said the most important step before planting is to choose the right location.
“The site needs to have good soil drainage and the proper amount of sunlight for that fruit,” she said. “A large number of the backyard fruits grown in the state require full sun to produce a crop that growers would be happy with, but this is not the case for all fruits.”
Make sure the hole for the tree is large enough in diameter to lay the roots out without circling them. Also, because the soil will settle, trees should be planted one or two inches shallower than they were planted in the nursery. One of the biggest mistakes Carroll sees is people planting the tree way too deep.
Selecting and planting is just the beginning of this journey; proper management is extremely important when growing fruit trees. To allow the tree to successfully grow, it is essential to reduce the amount of competition the tree has for water and sun.
“Before planting, remove any grass and broad-leaved plants that may compete for water and sunlight,” Carroll said. “Once planted, use a two to three-inch layer of mulch to help conserve water and reduce weeds, keeping the mulch a couple of inches away from the trunk. This will keep weed eaters and lawn mowers away from the tree trunk, which are common fruit tree killers.”
Just like with all plants, fruit trees all have different needs when it comes to management. Insects and diseases can wreak havoc on fruit trees, but management options vary—depending on the fruit and variety. Below are some resources to help growers make some of these management decisions.
- Deciding Which Blueberry Cultivars to Plant
- Fig Production Guide
- Home Orchards Disease and Insect Control Recommendations