Skip to content

Achieving fruit tree perfection

Brrrr…’s cold outside! The inside scoop on what it takes a fruit tree to fruit. Just for a moment think of a warm summer day, reaching up to pick a...

Brrrr…’s cold outside!

The inside scoop on what it takes a fruit tree to fruit.

Just for a moment think of a warm summer day, reaching up to pick a ripe nectarine then sinking your teeth into it. The flavor bursts in your mouth tickling your taste buds with that familiar essence slightly releasing the sweetness to your senses while juices are trickling from the fruit down the sides of your chin. You look at that bite to inspect it and strategize your next one knowing it’ll be better than the first. 


If nectarines aren’t your thing maybe it’s peaches, cherries or apricots. Maybe you’re a nut! I mean, maybe you’d rather grow nuts. For expedience sake we are going to refer to fruit and nut trees as fruit trees. You’d think it’d be simple to just plop a fruit tree in the ground and reap the benefits thereof. I wish it were true but fruit trees are actually simply complicated. They have an internal system that makes an Apple computer easy to use (I’m a PC guy, ha!). Fruit trees understand when they’ve been pruned too hard or not enough. They know when it’s cold and when it’s too hot. And, let’s not forget about watering, fertilizing and pollination requirements. Today we’ll discover tips and tricks the pros don’t like to share in achieving fruit tree perfection. 

Chill Out!

I’m not a big fan of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map because it’s not accurate. I’m a micro-climate kind of guy. For instance, in my neighborhood we get heavy frost but a couple blocks away they don’t. You’d think an avocado would do great in my hood but they don’t! But, four blocks away every house has one. On the other hand I can grow cherries and they can’t. Plant varieties are important because they are hybridized based on the number of chill hours they collect over a period of time. Don’t confuse chill hours with freezing temps. Chill hours are a collective amount of cold temps a plant collects normally between fall and late winter. When temperatures get between 45 degrees down to 35 degrees the plant starts counting and collecting those hours. In southern California chill hour, fruit trees can be as low as 200 while in Virginia a peach tree may need 1000 chill hours. If a tree doesn’t get enough chill hours then the tree won’t produce. Therefore, you have to do some homework to make certain you have a tree that compliments the number of chill hours it’ll receive. Typically a fruit tree label will have the number of chill hours it needs. 

You Want Me To Plant Sticks?

Autumn through late Winter is the best time to buy sticks. I mean, buy fruit trees.  I say sticks because they are bare root during that time. It means they are in a state of slumber called deciduous, and won’t have leaves on the them. They look like sticks! After you plant it properly it’ll take between 3-5 years to get a reasonable size crop.  Any fruit trees purchased with leaves on them during the rest of the year doesn’t mean they are lessor plants it just means they did sell. In fact, you might be able to buy one in a container that’s got a couple of extra years on it which means it’ll fruit faster for you. 


Keep in mind that some fruit trees, like many plums, need another plum to cross pollinate. You might not have room to grow two trees. However. If your neighbor has a pollinating plum and you plant near it you might be okay. 


Cut It Out!

Pruning is not for the faint of heart. Making the right cut is important.  If you cut off too much, it won’t fruit. If you cut off too little, it won’t fruit. The rule of thumb is branches bear fruit on the second years growth. Second years growth kind of has stretch marks where first years are smooth. This is only a guideline, not a rule. In fact, if you’re totally clueless I teach the 1/3rd rule. Prune off only 1/3rd of the branch, remove 1/3rd of the inside branches and trim the canopy down 1/3rd of the way

Exception to the rule?  You betcha!

And there’s one that really messes with the mind, figs. Figs are divided up into two categories: white/brown (Thompson, Brown Turkey, White Pacific, Kadota, Adriatic, etc.) and black (San Pedro, Mission, etc.). White/Browns produce on the current years branches which means you nub off all the branches to the trunk.  Black figs you treat like fruit trees as discussed above as they produce on the second years growth. 

I'm Thirsty!

Watering for a fruit tree is crucial especially for the first year it gets established.  Too much you can drown it, too little and it’ll dehydrate. Up to 24 hours ahead of planting soak the bare roots in a bucket of water to hydrate them. If you want to spike the water with some fish hydrolosate that’ll be fine. As with all plantings we dig a $100 hole for a $10 plant. Since you’re probably going to go with a dormant tree dig your hole roughly 20” wide and equally as deep. 

Mix 50% compost with the dirt you excavated because that’s what you’ll back-fill the hole with and build a basin around to hold water in for the first watering. Use that bucket of water for the plant’s first watering. Fast-track the irrigation process simply by installing a Root Quencher in at the time of planting to the inside edge of the hole you dug. Make sure you open it up to its full 20+ inches. Because the top is removable simple point your hose inside, fill it up and the tree has been watered without losing a drop of it to evaporation. When you are ready to hook up drip irrigation or tap off from your existing sprinkler system you’ll have a Root Quencher in place to water and feed the tree.   

Feed Me!

As a plant goes into dormancy and throughout winter you don’t have to feed the fruit tree at all. If you do it can prematurely wake up and guess what? You got it…no fruit. Begin the feeding process as soon as the plant starts to bud. Don’t go all crazy by dumping all kinds of food around the plant as that might hurt it.  Simply use my fish hydrolysate (not emulsion) and flow it right into your Root Quencher. It makes sense to do it this way because the Root Quencher feeds the plant where it needs it, at the roots. Follow up every 6 weeks with a feeding and you should be fine! 


Help, I'm Being Attached!

A plant that is well watered and fed will never get insects. But, if you happen to get insects use organic controls like Neem Oil, spinsad, horticultural oil or any other sort of organic concoction that won’t harm the tree, pets and family. The last thing we want to happen is have a body part fall off from using something toxic. Just remember to properly identify the problem before spraying. 



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published..


Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options