Fruit Trees, Choose Bearing Over Bare

Asian Pear flowers

With that little bit of sun and warmer weather did you notice the flowering trees bursting into bloom?  The daffodils, hyacinths, heathers and rock cress showing off their colours?   We’re not the only ones itching to get spring into gear!  Not far behind will be the fruit trees sending out subtle signals with their blossoms for the bees to come gather their pollen.

Speaking of fruit trees now is a great time to plant them.  Apples, pears, plums and cherries, not to mention what we call the small fruits, blueberries, raspberries and grapes, planted now will reward you with a crop this summer or fall.

At Cultivate we believe in container grown trees as opposed to bare root.  I’ve found with bare root there is always a chance that the roots will dry out, especially the fine, fragile roots that are essential in bringing water and nutrients to the tree and there is always a tree or two that ends up failing.  You never know how long a bare root tree has been unprotected, left to dry out, between when it was dug, stored at the growers, shipped in a truck and then at the garden centre, especially since we’re still getting a light frost here and there.

Apple Honeycrisp in AugustContainer grown trees are already established taking less time to settle in to their new home when planted in the garden.   Most of the trees we’re carrying this year are rooted in (grown in a pot for at least a year and fully rooted) and will likely produce fruit this year, unlike skinny ‘whips’ (really young trees).

The bigger the better, I say!  Let’s face it, would you like to reap what you sow the year you sow it or would you rather wait a year or two or more before you can eat but, hey, you saved enough to buy a dozen donuts.  Personally, I’d rather eat apples. Sea Soil OriginalSea Soil Original

All fruit trees thrive in full sun (6-8 hours) so find a sunny spot, Sea Soil Originaldig a hole twice the size of the root ball, adding a few bags of Sea Soil (a great organic amendment that will give them a head start on healthy eating and help retain moisture through the summer) then water in well.  I use Sea Soil when planting pretty much anything except succulents or lavender which prefers a poorer, drier soil.

The first summer is critical in establishing a strong root system, especially if we experience those long, dry spells that we’ve had the past couple of years.  Water deeply and less often, encouraging the roots to grow down and away from the top few inches of soil where they’re more likely to dry out quicker.

Keep your pruners to yourself the first year unless absolutely necessary so that the tree can settle in quietly without the stress of getting its limbs chopped off.   You might have to cull a few fruit if the tree overproduces otherwise you run the risk of the weight breaking the branches.  Culling also allows the remaining fruit to grow to a nice size instead of a lot of little ones that really don’t mature.

As there are rules that pertain to specific fruit trees it’s best to check before buying.  Some are self-fruitful, like the Italian Prune Plum, which means you only need the one tree to produce fruit but more fruiting may happen from Fruit peaches...having two.  Some you will need two different cultivars, such as apples.  To take the confusion out of it there are multi-grafted trees available meaning there is more than one cultivar grafted onto a root stock.  If you’re really limited on space try your hand at espaliered trees, ones that you train to grow horizontally along a support.  We have espaliered trees in stock to take the guesswork out of it.

I don’t know about you but my taste buds are waking up thinking about the Honeycrisp apples I’m going to pick this fall and my favourite, Asian pears.  Not only do you get fruit but you’ll benefit from pretty spring blossoms, too.

Shirley Eppler

April 2014