Adapt Your Fruit Tree to Your Home Garden

Adapt Your Fruit Tree to Your Home Garden

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The desire to grow fruit right in your own backyard has never been more popular than today! From food sustainability and accessibility reasons to organic lifestyle needs, and from expanding your fruit variety access to micro-homesteading trends, the ability to grow your very own food - and control what goes into, and onto your food - has become paramount!

And the access to an amazingly diverse array of Fruit Tree types has never been better!

Here are some of the best ways to incorporate fruit trees into your home landscape!

The internet makes the possibility of what you can grow seem limitless! It has also expanded our ability to access an incredible array of new and unusual fruit varieties!

But there are two major limiting factors that all who desire to be successful at producing homegrown fruit should consider in their pursuit… and that is adaptation and space.

Some common adaptation considerations include:

  • Incorrect plants for your Hardiness Zone
  • Inadequate sunlight
  • Poor draining soil conditions
  • Susceptibility to local diseases
  • Incorrect placement/poor placement
  • Size control

Finding trees that can adapt to every yard's individual situation and still produce tasty fruit without all the hassle can make it feel like it's not worthwhile. But Nature Hills has solutions for you!


The Right Spot For A Fruit Tree In Your Yard

Depending on where you live, your selection of what fruit to grow may often require special needs to keep it healthy and productive.

Some things to keep in mind when choosing what you would like to grow are:

1. Is this plant recommended in my USDA climate zone?

If not, seek out information on other home gardeners or contact your local County Extension Office to find trees that have been successful with your desired selection. See what plants others are growing in your area and have achieved success in your area.


If you are willing to put in the extra effort, go for it! If not, seek out the similarities of your desired selection by descriptions and try something new for your Hardiness Zone.

Another concern for gardeners in cold climates is the shorter growing season, so choose plants that will be ready to harvest within your area's limited time frame. Gardeners and backyard orchard growers in hot growing zones also need to be aware of their Fruit Trees' chill hour requirements.

2. Inadequate light access

Light is essential when growing plants outdoors or bringing plants indoors for winter protection. And Fruit Trees need the sun! At least 6 hours of direct sun a day to achieve enough flowering and therefore fruiting to produce a favorable crop. Select a location with 6-8 hours of sunlight, preferably with access to the morning sun as it is the drying/warming sun.

Nature Hills has a few fruiting varieties that can handle partial sun but just be prepared to not have as large a harvest as you would if you had full sun.

3. Poor drainage is the #1 reason people lose plants!

This is a common issue that arises. Roots die because the ground has soggy soils that deplete oxygen and suffocate plant roots. Either because you have clay or compacted soil that doesn’t allow good drainage. Secondly, because you are overwatering your plants.

Overwatering allows too much water to collect around the roots or in the bottom of the container where root-damaging bacteria and diseases get started and challenge the plant’s rooting ability. This is also a common concern for container-grown Fruit Trees as well. Always be careful not to overwater your container plants, and ensure the drainage holes are present and not blocked. Especially after bringing them indoors for the winter, which many northern growers can do. This is a very common problem with Citrus trees.

Study your outdoor drainage in the locations where you intend to plant. If you dig a hole and see water pooling in the bottom, or you can fill the hole with water and it doesn’t absorb into the soil well, either choose a different location or create a raised bed. Mound 18-24 inches of soil over the site and create a berm or a tall mound over the poor draining location. Another option is to grow your Fruit Tree in a container if poor drainage is prevalent in your yard.

The Right Way to Water Your Plants >>

4. Plant diseases can be very disappointing and costly.

For your plant selection, research or contact your Extension Office to learn about what pests or diseases might be prevalent in your area. Consult local Master Gardeners to find the varieties that do well in your area. It’s heartbreaking to spend all growing season watching your harvest grow, and then end up with wormy apples, or seeing your harvest rot before it’s ripe because of some pest or disease.

plant d

Check to see which selections of fruit trees show more resistance to typical problems in your area. If there are no resistant varieties available, research and decide whether or not you are willing to take on a spraying program to enjoy the fruit of choice. Luckily there are both natural and organic alternatives to the chemicals.

Again, this is where crowd-sourcing comes in handy; find what others are having success with and what to avoid by networking with local growers online or in person!

5. Planting trees in the wrong location.

Site selection is important! You may not realize you are making your fruit tree struggle from day one by planting it where it will be subjected to freezing winds, pooling cold air pockets, or too near trees that are young now, but will eventually grow to overshadow them. Air Circulation is important as well because overcrowding or dead air pockets can lead to disease and mildew issues later on.

planting tree

Situate your tree in a protected location that shields them from harsh winter winds or prevailing summer storms. Choose an area that isn’t in a low area of your yard where cold air can pool. And lastly, look around at the rest of your landscaping and ensure there will be no competition for sunlight - not just this year, but 10 years from now too.

Other considerations to consider are salt from coastal conditions, and potential deer pressure in your area.

How to Plant Your Fruit Trees >>

6. Choosing the wrong size Fruit Tree for your yard.

Smaller modern properties cannot handle some of the heirloom trees that can grow 20-30 feet wide, or grow tall and interfere with power lines. Even larger properties will want diversity instead of one enormous tree that overshadows everything else you are growing. Many Fruit Trees need a pollinator tree species planted nearby as well! It just may not be feasible for you to squeeze two trees into a small area.

Nature Hills likes to grow our fruit trees on standard-size rootstocks for full-sized mature plants that are able to produce plenty of fruit where you have the room to grow them. For those of us that have city lots, there are Fruit Trees grown on semi-dwarfing rootstock which allows the plants to mature at a smaller size while allowing for a plentiful harvest. Some offer true dwarfing rootstocks that will keep the plants very small or container-sized but will need staking or trellising. We do very few of these because of the needed staking.

Pruning is the only true means of size control of any Fruit Tree. Be sure to familiarize yourself with basic pruning techniques.


How to Prune Your Fruit Trees >>

You can easily keep your Fruit Trees smaller by pruning them as needed:

  • Late winter dormant pruning to thin or remove damaged or crossing branches.
  • Summer prune to reduce some of the newest longer growth to keep your plants smaller and easier to harvest.

Remember too that you can keep your Fruit Trees lower branched and grown more like shrubs for easier harvesting, and use the plants to screen out the neighbors as well! Linear orchards are a great way to divide your property lines, grow fruit, create hedgerows for privacy, and still enjoy a section of your backyard as just… yard!

Luckily there is not only a wide array of semi-dwarf and dwarf trees, but also columnar trees that work in smaller yards plus containers and planter-sized Fruit Trees as well! Trees that are self-pollinating save you space, and high-density or Espalier pruning techniques abound to help you squeeze every ounce of fruit from every inch of space in your yard!

Rootstocks Explained

Fruit trees have been grafted onto different rootstocks since before the mid-1800s. Different rootstocks are used to improve the anchoring of trees, eliminate diseases, and reduce the natural mature size of the tree itself. While there are many different types of rootstock, they are all labeled as being either Dwarf, Semi-Dwarf, or Standard.

Flowering, pollination, and other characteristics are the same whether the plant is grown on a standard rootstock or some varying dwarfing rootstock. The overall size can vary by climate and soil but the understock used is ultimately what affects the mature size.

There will be some variation in sizes but as a guide, we are suggesting the overall mature size:

Standard Trees

  • Height 18 - 25 feet
  • Spread: 15 - 18 feet

Semi-Dwarf Trees

  • Height: 12-18 feet
  • Spread: 10 - 15 feet

Dwarf Trees

  • Height: Under 10 feet
  • Spread: Varies but usually under 10 feet

Success With Homegrown Fruit Trees

The desire for edible landscaping has never been greater! Incorporating landscaping into your yard as both curb appeal and food makes your landscape work for you!

There are so many varieties of Fruit Tree to enjoy that with a little planning, research, and understanding of the responsibility, your successful Fruit Tree installation will be a sure thing.

As always, Nature Hills Nusery’s expert staff is here to help you make the best selection for your individual needs by contacting us online or checking out our #ProPlantTips Garden Blog!

Happy Planting!

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